The food bowl has been washed, and tucked away safe in a high cabinet.
No one asks you to roll a ball down the hallway anymore. The squeak of soft toys no longer interrupt your TV shows these days; in fact, it's too quiet now and you hate it. Even worse, there's a reason why these things are so, and in "Lost Companions" by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, you'll read thoughts on the loss of your pet.
What a "miracle" it is that we have pets: here we are, different species that feel "a deep and ancient longing" to be with one another. Such a thing "delights" Masson, perhaps because he's had animal companions his entire life.
The problem, as all animal lovers know, is that pets don't live as long as people do.
We know, the moment we get a new fluff, that we're going to grieve that pet someday; just thinking about it is a grief all on its own. Masson believes that animals are also aware of their mortality, but we can't get inside their minds to know what they think about it and perhaps euthanasia is utilized too hastily.
When a pet dies, "we are simply not prepared for this.... we want our beloved companions to live longer." We may be surprised at the depth of the raw emotion we feel; Masson quotes (and marvels at) several people who say they grieved harder at the loss of a pet than they did for a human. We should, therefore, never "belittle the grief of others" when it comes to pets, which includes when our pets exhibit grief – and they do.
Says Masson, "You could say grieving makes us human, or you could also say, grieving makes us just another animal."
It's awfully hard to determine the exact point of "Lost Companions."
Yes, it's about losing a pet, and the emotions you inevitably feel about it. But author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson also delves deeply into the deaths of wildlife, livestock, and humans, which are not at all the only off-topic topics. He also writes particularly gruesomely about dog-meat markets, and he touches upon veganism, and "companion" versus "owner." To continue, the tedious, already-hashed-over subject of whether or not pets love us is brought forth again, and Masson argues strongly against The Final Kindness, saying he can't imagine it, but admitting that he's never witnessed it.
And yet.... (heavy sigh).
If you've ever lost a pet, you know you need to read this book, the on-point of which arrives with fewer than 100 pages to go. You know you've been there, and you might be there again, and that maybe, possibly, there's another way to ease your grief, some way you haven't yet encountered. It might be here. It might.
This is a three-tissue book but Masson gives you room: it's not a cry-fest until quite a ways in. Keep that in mind, and have your tear-wipes nearby: if you've recently lost a furry loved one, "Lost Companions" may bowl you over.
"Lost Companions: Reflections on the Death of Pets" by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, 247 pages,
c .2020, St. Martin's Press $27.99.
• Terri Schlichenmeyer of The Bookworm Sez is a self-syndicated book review columnist. Schlichenmeyer’s reviews include adult and children books of every genre. You may contact her at bookwormsez@ yahoo.com