Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant

Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant

Rating: 5 very sweet, very sad stars

This morning a friend of mine and her son came over for a playdate.  Our sons--her first and my third--are about six months apart and play together well.  More importantly, I really like her.  She's wonderfully grounded in the Real Things That Matter, more sure of herself than I ever will be, and a big reader of both children's and adult books.

Plus, she's a dog lover.  In fact, two weeks ago Kiefer and I went to her house to play, and we had the privilege of meeting their family Golden Retriever.  Goldens, in case you didn't know, are the most lovable of all dogs; we had one growing up. My friend's Golden and my childhood Golden both had big goofy grins and big tail wags.  They were sweet, friendly, and looking to give love to and receive love in every set of hands their noses touched.

So I was saddened, to put it lightly, to hear that a few days after we met him, their ten year old Golden simply collapsed during a simple walk in their woodsy backyard.  The next day, she got a call from the vet that every dog lover/owner dreads.  He was gone.  There was no advanced warning, no time to prepare her son, no thought given to hiding away little remembrances of a great dog.  Their family dog--furry playmate, welcome-homer, late night companion--is gone.  I am sad for their family.

I've seen Dog Heaven at the library before, but had no reason to check it out.  Today when I saw it up on display, I grabbed it.  It was a sign, and I believe in signs.

Rather than focus on the inevitable sadness, Cynthia Rylant (an author to remember) focuses on the happy: where dogs go once they leave their Earthly homes.

They will be there when old friends show up.
They will be there at the door.
It is definitely a little religious--in my opinion, in a good, open-armed sort of way--but I love it.  I LOVE it.  It is one of those smile-through-the-tears sort of books.  I really want to type out the whole book here, but here are a few of my favorite passages:
When a dog first arrives in Heaven, he just runs. Dog Heaven has clear, wide lakes filled with geese who honk and flap and tease.  The dogs love this. 
And, oh, the dog biscuits.  Biscuits and biscuits as far as the eye can see.  God has a sense of humor, so He makes His biscuits in funny shapes for His dogs.  There are kitty-cat biscuits and squirrel biscuits.  Ice-cream biscuits and ham-sandwich biscuits.  Every angel who passes by has a biscuit for a dog. 
Every dog becomes a good dog in Dog Heaven.
This is a good book to know about, and to remember.  Because if you're reading this and you're a dog lover and you've got kids, you might need this book.  Actually, this book is proof that children's books are for all ages.  It is a fantastic book to remember even for those tough-seeming but actually tender grown ups whose hearts are going to break when their beloved pup passes away.  Imagining your great dog chasing geese in heaven, getting biscuits in heaven, and hearing that he is, finally (for my dogs) a good dog....it might help put a small smile on your face.

Good dog, Paddington.  Your people miss you greatly.

1 comment:

  1. Oh goodness, Kate!
    I'm afraid I'm only able to check in once or twice a month (and pretty much mark down every book you review for future library check-outs!). So, I didn't see this post until just now. Thank you for your sweet, kind words. We are still mourning the loss of Paddington - I cannot describe how empty our home feels without his ever present company. Arlo misses him tremendously as well, which only further breaks my heart.
    When I got that terrible call I was at school and Mrs. Guy lent me her office for about 20 minutes so I could cry as I needed without startling the children. When she returned she had brought this book from the school library to loan us. I couldn't get through it that first week while we had it home, it was still too raw. But it was lovely and I think that I MIGHT just be ready to give it a crack. I'm glad I saw the reminder here.
    I'm so glad ours paths crossed, I love having such a soulful and kind mama warrior friend in you!
    Swimming next Tuesday?