An unexpected, poignant, and personal account of loving and losing pets, exploring the singular bonds we have with our companion animals, and how to grieve them once they’ve passed.
E.B. Bartels has had a lot of pets—dogs, birds, fish, tortoises. As varied a bunch as they are, they’ve taught her one universal truth: to own a pet is to love a pet, and to own a pet is also—with rare exception—to lose that pet in time.
But while we have codified traditions to mark the passing of our fellow humans, most cultures don’t have the same for pets. Bartels takes us from Massachusetts to Japan, from ancient Egypt to the modern era, in search of the good pet death. We meet veterinarians, archaeologists, ministers, and more, offering an idiosyncratic, inspiring array of rituals—from the traditional (scattering ashes, commissioning a portrait), to the grand (funereal processions, mausoleums), to the unexpected (taxidermy, cloning). The central lesson: there is no best practice when it comes to mourning your pet, except to care for them in death as you did in life, and find the space to participate in their end as fully as you can.
Punctuated by wry, bighearted accounts of Bartels’s own pets and their deaths, Good Grief is a cathartic companion through loving and losing our animal family.