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Lisa is joined by E.B. Bartels, a nonfiction writer, a former Newtonville Booksbookseller, and a GrubStreet instructor, with a BA in Russian from Wellesley College and an MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University to talk about her book, Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter.
Her work has appeared in Salon, Slate, WBUR, Literary Hub, Catapult, Electric Literature, The Believer, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Toast, The Butter, and the anthology The Places We’ve Been: Field Reports from Travelers Under 35, among others. For Fiction Advocate, she writes the monthly columns Non-Fiction by Non-Men, in which she interviews women, trans, and non-binary people who write nonfiction, and Non-Fiction about Non-Humans, in which she interviews people who write nonfiction about animals.
Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter, E.B.’s debut narrative nonfiction book about the world of loving and losing animals, exploring the singular nature of our bonds with our companion animals, and how best to grieve for them once they’ve passed away, was published by Mariner Books (an imprint of HarperCollins) on August 2, 2022.
In addition to writing, E.B. also works as a freelance editor, a manuscript consultant, a writing coach, a tutor, and a senior editorial writer in the communications and public affairs department at Wellesley College. She lives outside Boston with her husband, Richie, and their a chihuahua-pitbull mix (Seymour), a pair of red-footed tortoises (Terrence and Twyla), a small flock of pigeons (Bert, Lieutenant Dan, George, and Lucille), and a dozen fish (all named Milton).
pet , dog , people , animals , death , died , book , live , love , kiki , cat , euthanize , life , hard , interviewed , day , hamster , mom , grief , parents
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Does your dog do Well joining us today to answer this question and to talk about her fantastic book that blew me away is Eb Martel's Good grief on loving pets here and hereafter. EB Martel's the nonfiction writer, a former newtonville books bookseller and a GrubStreet instructor with an MFA from Columbia University. She is the author of good grief on loving pets here and hereafter, a narrative nonfiction book about loving and losing animals and our essays and interviews have appeared in salon slaked WBUR literary hub catapult electric literature, the believer and the rumpus, among others. EB lives in Massachusetts with her husband Ritchie and their many many pets EB Does your dog do?
Well, what Seymour likes to do, who is our little chihuahua pitbull mix is to see will not touch my shoes or Richie, my husband shoes, but whenever we have a visitor, he will grab one of their shoes and carry it around the house. Like he's so excited that they're here. So I don't know why he does that. But he's always been like that.
Okay, first of all, I'm a pitbull fanatic. As a matter of fact, today is my Pity's birthday, blue is eat today. And I'm feeling a lot of sadness, because I don't want him to get any older, I just wanted to can we just stay this way. And in this book, you talk about all the different ways people grieve for pets, as well as the experiences you had growing up with pets. And one of the things that I thought was really interesting in chapter one, and fish and fossils is you share how your mom wasn't resistant to getting a pet because of the allergy she had. But because she was worried about how sad you would be when the pet died. Talk to us about this.
Yeah, so that was something I didn't realize until I was significantly older. And it makes sense. My mom has always been very protective of me, and I'm her only child and you know, she's always worried, doesn't want me to, you know, feel hurt if at all possible, which I understand completely. But having a pet, in my opinion, as someone who's now had many, many pets is such an enriching and special and wonderful experience that it by far outweighs the really sad, awful part at the end, which I think is the reason why like, by far, I mean, I interviewed dozens and dozens of pet owners for this book. And I think maybe two people I spoke with, you know, said I can never have another dog after that loss and actually stuck with it. Most people, including my own husband, who when we first met, he was like, I could never have another dog like he had just had to put down his childhood dog. He was like, I can't ever do it again. And you know, it took them almost 10 years, but now he and Seymour are best friends and you know, he's so happy to have another dog but it takes everyone time to get over that loss. But I think that so many people are what I call repeat offenders you know, who have more than one dog in their life more than one cat more than one any type of pet really because the good really outweighs the hard stuff.
Yeah, that's so true. And you loved this fish. You would sit at the counter for hours and hours and look at the fish. And I can relate. I know a hamster is different. They're more active but my mom would not let us get a dog. And it was a miracle. She let us get a hamster rascal and we foolishly taught him to climb the stairs. So he would escape all the time. Anyway, he lived three and a half years supposed to live a year. There were and a half years this hamster lived. And I was just enamored with him. He wasn't a dog, but it was it was being that I took care of and loved. So talk to us about watching watching your fish.
Yeah, well, I mean, I know you said your hamster wasn't a dog. But a lot of people have often asked me, you know, people grieve differently based on the type of animal or do you feel more sorrow when a dog dies versus a hamster, or you know, a cat over a fish. And in my experience, personally, and also in talking to so many people is that it doesn't matter the type of pet, what matters is the connection you have with that pet. And so for some people, they build up a stronger connection, because the pet lives for like, you know, my grandfather had a Yorkie Samantha, who lived for 17 years, like that's such a long time, you know, decades. So of course, they were really close. But you know, I really love my fish, because they were the first pet that I really could call my own that we had in our home, like I had all these awesome classroom pets at my elementary school. But these fish were of mine, and I was so proud and excited to clean their tank, like they're all these photos of me is like a little kid standing on stools, like washing up the fish tank, like really excited to do like a pretty mundane thing. And, you know, I was really upset when they died. Because, you know, it was my first experience with losing a pet that was really mine. And then there's also the whole added complicated factor with pets that, you know, when a person dies, sometimes, you know, I think a person can feel responsible for another person, especially, you know, a parent, if a child gets sick and dies, or, you know, if you're somebody's medical proxy, maybe you've been caring for somebody for a long time who's sick, you can feel sort of guilty, like maybe you messed up and didn't care for them as best you could. But often, I think people think of other people as more their own autonomous being. So when they die it it's a little bit more, you know, that happened. And I didn't necessarily do something to cause it. But I think because pets, you know, legally pets are our property. You know, people feel a lot of responsibility and pets don't like grow up and go to college, right? You know, they, they're with you, you get them and you care for them until they die. And I think you know, you you feel like you have this contract with a pet when you bring them into your home. That's like, I'm gonna love you and care for you the best I can until you're no longer alive. And even if you know your fish is super old, and it's time like if your hamsters three and that's like incredibly old for a hamster. You still feel I think when the death happens, like you must have messed up somehow.
Yeah, it was really hard because I also knew I was never gonna get another pet. Like it was such a fluke that my mom said yes. And that I don't mean that to sound callous. Like I didn't deeply love rascal. But there was that this is the end of this experience. In this house. Growing up, a psychologist
I spoke to, um, pointed out the fact that because pets live for shorter windows of time, they often Mark really specific areas in our life. So like, you know, there's like an expression that it's like, you know, you live in ate dog life, basically, where it's like you have eat dogs who live for 10 years each. And like, that's the span of your life, approximately. And I think that's really true, right? Because like, when I think back on my childhood, you know, sometimes I'll be like, oh, yeah, the Kiki years when that bird was alive, you know, or, Oh, that was when Das was around, you know, and it's a very specific window of time. And so when a pet dies, I think often you're both mourning the actual animal who you love and had a relationship with, but you're also sort of mourning that part of your life. And I interviewed some parents, you know, who talked about getting dogs for example, because their kids like beg for dogs. And then the kids go off to college. And the dogs usually like like, in my case, too, we got my dog Gus when I was 10. And then he died when I was in college, which is like a pretty standard thing. So then it's like parents are mourning both their kids growing up and leaving the house and also like the end of like, this dog was the last relic from their kids childhood and now the dog has gone to so it's like morning, all these different pieces that have changed.
Yeah, I was so impressed in the book, how many researchers you talked to in the in the first chapter of fish and fossils, we learn a lot about modification. What did you find most fascinating about this in your in the research?
Well, for me, the thing I found most fascinating was just how old so many of these pet Memorial rituals are. When I spoke with people, you know, I mentioned what I was writing my book about. A lot of people were like, Oh, of course, you know, like, more people are having pets instead of having kids like obviously pets fill a larger space in our lives now. Oh, you know, people have more disposable income and more resources to have pets than they did you know, in the Great Depression. So yeah, obviously people would be like baring their pets and pet cemeteries down and stuff. And I was always really quick to say no, I'm reading about so many rituals that are 1000s and 1000s of years old. So the modification is probably the most well known example, that in ancient Egypt, there are different kinds of animal mummies and I write about this in the book, sometimes they were sort of sacrificial offerings to the gods. Often they could be pets and just like animals that people wanted to be part of their life in the afterlife. So they were mummified and put in the you know, the tomb right alongside their body. And they were like, great, my dog will be with me and then next life. And I really also loved reading about like, they're all these ancient dog cemeteries, often, specifically above the Arctic Circle with these indigenous cultures rely really heavily on on dogs like for sled dogs for hunting, that, you know, they literally could not survive without their dogs helping them and, you know, archaeologists have found these beautiful cemeteries and you know, dogs buried with bones in their mouths or with collars and clearly buried with intention and love. Because, you know, these animals were such a big part of people's lives so I always say that pretty much people have been grieving pets or as long as they've had pets.
Yeah, that is so true. Now in Chapter Two birds and bonding, I like this you wrote quote, mom should have known the fish were nice, but they weren't enough so she let you get a burdening Kiki tell us a little about Kiki and what it meant for you to have him.
Oh, well, Kiki was great. He was like a Gloucester. Finch, Gloucester Canary. And so he, you know, he was yellowy brown. And he really had a distinctive personality in a way that no offense to the fish, or it was harder for me to discern with the fish. If you spend a lot of time with fish, and my husband, Richie has kept fish as long as I've known him, you know, their fish, definitely in personalities too. But Kiki was such a character, like he loved broccoli, and we would put like a pizza in his cage, and he would pick all the little, like, for florets, or whatever they're called off, and, you know, leave the staff. And he was also very skittish, like he didn't like to I had this dream that he was gonna, like, sit on my shoulder and walk around the house. And he was like, not not at all. But you know, it was really cool to then have this much more intimate and engaged pet that I felt like he like noticed when I came into the room, sometimes he wasn't when I came into the room, but he was like aware of my presence. And Kiki, also for a bird lived a pretty long time. And so again, like thinking about like the Kiki years, like that was a significant chunk of my childhood. And I remember doing things like you know, throwing birthday parties for him, because, you know, he lived long enough that he could have many birthday parties. And, you know, I grew up knowing okay, my parents love me, and they show love by throwing me a birthday party every year. So I love Kiki, so I'm going to throw him a birthday party every year. So I feel like having a pet as a kid that lives for multiple years, you know, over a longer span of time. You understand, you know better? At least I feel like what a commitment having a pet is to like they're not disposable. They live for know a long time you have to figure out their care. I remember my dad was working with a company that he had to go do business in Paris for six weeks, one summer and so my mom and I got to live with him in Paris, which was really cool. But I remember we had to figure out okay, my grandparents are gonna take Kiki. Kiki's gonna live at their house. You know, it was like, it was my first experience of learning like, okay, it's complicated to have a pet and you have to put a lot of thought into the Care and Keeping of an animal. So I think Kiki's death that hit me even harder because he had been around for such a large portion of my life. I think it was like five years, which, when you're 10 is literally half your life.
Yeah, in chapter three rodents and responsibility. You had to share in class, your dream pet, and you said it would be a ferret, which made me smile because my daughter really wants a ferret. And because of that you made a new friend named Mary and Mary had a hamster named Chucky. And you can share the story or people can get your book, whatever you want, but I thought it was really significant and quite traumatic.
Yeah, I mean, the short version is that I offered to hamster sit for Mary when she and her family went to Disneyworld. And Chucky was already very old when he came into my care and did not make it through the week that I was taking care of him which you know, and reading more about it if an animal was elderly or sick already, then if you change their environment, there might have been one little draft that you know, whatever. Right. But, you know, he, he didn't make it. And I was extremely upset because it's one thing to feel like I mess up the care of my own pet. But, you know, you then are only letting down yourself right? You know, I felt awful when Kiki died because I felt like I must have done something to screw up, you know that he, I don't know, I hadn't fed him well enough for cut his nails well enough or whatever it was. But with someone else's pet like that responsibility is really really intense. And, you know, I dog sat a lot in my early 20s Before I had a dog of my own. And I remember feeling like extreme anxiety walking other people's dogs, way more so than I ever felt walking my own dogs because I was like, this is someone else's, like, you know, baby, basically and Ben's like, I would feel so bad. So what was really special though, about the situation with Chucky is just how understanding Mary was. And I mean, she's now like a medical health professional. So I think she has always had a very practical understanding of life and death, and that it's just part of how things are. And she never held anything against me if anything later she joked, you know, that hamster was like, on the verge of death, like when I dropped him off, you know, but it was a really, you know, dramatic but memorable experience. Because, you know, it's one thing feeling that guilt over losing your own animal. But a whole other thing when you feel like you've let down not only someone else's pet, but you're your friend or you know someone else as well.
Yeah, that is very hard. And I really felt for you. And I was so glad Mary was so understanding. Now in chapter four turtles and taxidermy, your dad, you write that your dad quote, gently tried to explain to me the concept of temporary pets? How did he describe that to you?
Yeah, so I'm in the fourth chapter. I've always really loved turtles and tortoises, I don't really know why I've just always had an affinity for them. And, you know, in the summer in New England, we would always find like painted turtles in the middle of the road, and I would want to take them home and rescue them, and we'd set up a kiddie pool, and I, you know, they'd swim around, and I feed them and make them these elaborate like enclosures, but then, you know, my dad would always try to tell me that these are wild animals, like, we really shouldn't keep them from where they need to be, and we should let them go. So you can, you know, keep a painted turtle as a pet for like, a weekend, but then you should, you know, bring them back to the pond where they were trying to go when you found the middle of the road. And, you know, now that I know a lot more about keeping wild animals too. And I know, you're actually really not supposed to do that at all. But you know, I thought that was an interesting point, though, too, because, you know, thinking about pets, that, like domesticated animals, too, can also be temporary pets, you know, if you are, you know, a hamster in a way, three years is a long time when you're a kid, but it is temporary. It's not your whole life. And honestly, like all pets are temporary pets in a way, right? You know, like, we don't live the whole span of our lives as we wish they would. And so I think, you know, when my dad kind of brought up that idea, he was trying to get me to appreciate like, enjoy the time you have now with this animal because it's not going to last forever. And I think that applies to every type of pet animal that you have a relationship with.
Yeah, my husband will see me getting teared up on cuddling blue. He'll go honey, he's here. There he is right now. Enjoy it. Free grieving
is like a very normal thing. Actually, I kind of written more about it in the book. But, you know, a lot of people I talked to spoke about even having like puppies and getting teared up and thinking like, what am I going to do in 10 years? You know, like, yeah, oh my God. And I have that happen with see Marcus. He, he hates trucks and is always lunging after trucks. And I have these visions of him getting crushed by the FedEx truck. And, you know, I panic. And you know, Richie, my husband does a similar thing. He's like, Well, he didn't get hit by the FedEx truck today. So no, like, don't worry about something that didn't happen, you know, didn't happen yet. But yeah, and it's a normal thing because I think human brains are always trying to prepare and brace yourself for the worst. By crying ahead of time, or like maybe blues death will be less sad if I've already grieved him a bit before but honestly, it's going to just be a sad
one is going to be devastating, which is why I'm going after this interview. I'm gonna go and get some birthday hats because it is his birthday today. And you know, we got to celebrate. I found it so fascinating. When I took Read about the taxidermy and the clones and the freeze dried pets. Just tell us a little bit about this.
Yeah, so I, my goal for this book was to really show like as wide a range of ways to memorialize a pet as possible. And in particular, I was really interested in the ways that are things you can do to memorialize an animal that you cannot do for a person. So there are contemporary groups that will mummify a human body if you want. And obviously, like pet cemeteries are modeled after humans, cemeteries and a lot of people when they're kind of lost and looking for a ritual or a way to grieve, a pet who's died will turn to things that they do for humans. So like I interviewed one couple who the wife is Jewish. And so they sat Shiva for their Yorkie, which is like, you know, great, like you've grown up doing this for family members, your Yorkie is one of your family members. So of course, you will sit Shiva. But I found that it was really interesting to talk to people who did things that I mean, at least as far as I know, you cannot legally like taxidermy your grandmother. But you know, it was interesting, because again, like going back to what I said, like pets are property, so you are allowed to kind of do things with their bodies that you legally cannot do with a human body. And I thought it was really interesting. And I tried to keep a really open mind going into all these interviews, you know, like cloning is super expensive. And so I kind of went into it thinking like, I'm never gonna do this, like, why would that? Why would I ever clone a dog when there's so many dogs and shelters like I found myself doing that kind of judgy thing? After talking to people who work at the cloning company, and then I interviewed one of their clients who he had his dog cloned, I started to get it, you know, I still am like, maybe this isn't for me. But you know, the, the woman I interviewed at the cloning company pointed out that often people choose to clone a dog or cat who either is like a really unusual mixed breed. So they're like, Oh, we could never recreate this distinctive mutt, you know, or they neutered or spayed their pet before they realize maybe they did want to like breed, breed that animal. And then also the, the gentleman John, who I interviewed, you know, he said, he loved the idea of his dog's DNA, like living on, you know, because it made him feel like she was still alive. And another another way. And the to the clones he has of his original dogs are clearly like their own dogs. Like they have different names. You know, he sends me photos, and sometimes they do things that are very similar to his original dog, but like they're their own beings. And someone described it as like having a clone is like having an identical twin, as opposed to you're not like getting the same animal you're having, you know, and so identical twins can have totally different personalities, right? Even if they look like, Yeah, but I just really loved feeling like her genetic material still existed in the world. And I and you know, again, I don't know if I'll ever do that myself. But it was really interesting to talk to people who, who did that. And with taxidermy as well, you know, I thought at first maybe people who taxidermy a pet, have a really hard time letting go of an animal, you know, that they're like, trying to bring the animal back to life. And honestly, everyone taxidermists and people who had had animals taxidermy, who I spoke to, I think, actually were more in touch with like, the realities of death than other people because like, they are seeing their their animal's body every single day. And they know like, Okay, this is not my pet. This is like the shell that was housed my pet. But, you know, when they think about it more like artwork or sculpture, that's a tribute to this animal that they loved. And you know, I was really impressed actually, because I was like, used to look definitely I basically every single day when you look at like the taxidermied, like even just like the paw or like the skeleton of your pet, as opposed to you know, like I interviewed other people who maybe had bury their animals or had been cremated who kind of like compartmentalize and forget that that had happened, you know, but like, you are not forgetting when you like wake up every morning and there's your Boston Terrier eyeglass case.
Just, yeah, I would find that really difficult, but respect people's, you know, choice to do what they want.
I have to say, after doing those interviews, I started to think about I have, I have two pet tortoises and I was like, other shells are so beautiful. I could see wanting to preserve like just the shell, but they also will probably outlive me because, you know, thinking live 20 to 60 years.
If you hear some whining in the background that's blue, so I'm itching his butt at this moment or his wines will become full on loud cries, I want to talk about disenfranchised grief, because I think that happens to so many of us. First of all, for people who don't know what it is, tell us what it is.
Sure. Well, disenfranchised grief is really any type of grief that is not kind of socially recognized. The most common examples that I read about are often the grief that surrounds having a miscarriage or grief of going through a divorce or grief of losing, you know, a neighbor, who you were close to, right? Like, we can have all kinds of relationships with other people that often are hard to articulate, like on paper, it sort of looks like why are you that sad about that? But yeah, you don't really know what people's relationships are like. And, you know, and how, at least in American society, like bereavement leave is set up, you get a certain amount of leave granted, you know, for a parent's death, or a siblings death, maybe or a child's death, God forbid, but like, other types of deaths, like, you know, I know, people whose cousins are their best friend, and but like having a cousin die doesn't count, you know. And so similarly, with pets, like so many people I spoke with, you know, have very special and close bonds with their animals, especially like, young people who are elderly, or people who live alone. And often like their animals or their lifeline into you know, the world and otherwise, they would just be so isolated. And yet, often people have a really hard time talking about their feelings, you know, when a pet dies, because you're not really sure how people are going to react. And sometimes you can have people who are really understanding who, you know, say, oh, my gosh, like, I'm so sorry, you're going through that, you know, when my dog died, I had to miss a week of work, because I was just so devastated, you know? But then you can also have people who say like, oh, like, well, there are lots of pitfalls and shelters, can you just go get another one? You know, who don't really understand like, Well, yeah, you get another Pitbull, but it's not going to be blue. Right? Exactly. And, you know, there are two stories that I learned when I was researching this book, which I just thought kind of sums it up nicely, which is, one person I spoke with, you know, mentioned that she, her parents had to euthanize her childhood cats, she went to her boss and was like, I'd like to skip work tomorrow. So I can go back to be with my parents while we all go and pat down together. And the boss was like, Well, alright, I guess you can use your time off for that, but it's really inappropriate that you asked. And he was like, That is horrible. What was that? Like? She was already upset about her cat, right? And then this is on top of it. You know, and so obviously, I can see why would you want to talk about being sad about your childhood cat dying with anyone get that reaction, you know, just pretend cold, you know, and don't tell somebody while you're, you're missing work. Meanwhile, though, another woman I interviewed who she is, I believe from South Dakota originally, but had gone to college and Boston was living out in Boston. newly graduated like 2122 totally broke found out her parents back at South Dakota had to put down her childhood cat really wanted to fly home to be with them for it but couldn't afford it happened to mention this, and to her boss, and he transferred all his airline miles to her, just like and she said she didn't even think he was like a big pet person. He just like got that this was important. And just like gave her the means to fly home to be with her family for it. That's awesome. So like, it's, it's really hard because you know, you don't really know how people are going to react. And that's what makes that type of grief disenfranchised because it really makes you feel isolated while you're going through it. Because you don't know, you know what people are gonna say or do I mean, honestly, people are often terrible about reacting to death.
Oh, they're horrible. And I don't think I've I may have shared the story. I'm not sure. So I'll keep it brief. But a month after my mom died, he was a 95. And I was in my 20s. There's this guy that I kind of casually knew from the gym. And he saw me and I was really bummed out. He's like, Oh, what's wrong? And I'm like, Oh, well, my mom died. He goes was not like a month ago. I was like, Yeah, and he's like, Well, you should be over it by now. Number one, you don't get over it. You get used to it. I'm still not over it.
Yeah, but like, and it's funny because I would say like, people often have the best reactions to parents dying because that's maybe the most relatable type of death that a lot of people go through. But yeah, I think Americans in general are like we have a very death phobic culture. And so I think often when people say like, should you be over it already, it's it's them expressing their own fears or weird baggage surrounding, you know, anxiety and grief over death. Or they're just parroting back something someone said to them once you know and I think though if you're supposed to get over the death of your mother and a month then people think okay, you get Maybe like 24 hours to get over your dog guy, like, a dog for 15 years. Like, that's a long time, you know? So, um, yeah. And like I would have expected, you know, with if a parent loses a child people to be more understanding of interviewed some therapists who said absolutely not people say like, oh, well, you can just have another one, right, which is like, no awful. But I think, you know, people often ask me, like, what do you do or say when someone has lost a pet? And my advice is, you know, think about what you would do if they lost a person that they love, which I mean, I guess for some people is to say something crass and awful. But, well, I like to think it's like, Okay, send a sympathy note, you know, maybe bring a meal over or send if you don't live nearby, send like a gift card, you know, so they can go get takeout at a restaurant or order delivery. So they don't have to worry about cooking when they're sad, or, you know, some flowers or make a donation in your friend or like the pet's name, which can be a really nice thing to do, like find, you know, if you know, for example, our dog seamark came from the Animal Rescue League of Boston. So like, you can make a donation in Seymour's memory to the Animal Rescue League, you know, and I think those are all really kind things to do. When anybody's grieving any type of loved one, whether it's a person or an animal. I think just sending a card really makes a lot of email, a note a text, even just, you know, makes a big difference. And it makes people feel validated, like they, you know, are not grieving in vain, I guess. You know, and even one of my best friends from growing up, you know, she never really she grew up with a cat, but the cat was very much her sister's cat and she's never really gotten like the whole pet thing. But she said that reading my book, she's like, I understand it. Now. She's like, I don't really like she's like, I don't really get pets. Like I don't really want pets. But she's like, I get that it's the same kind of grief that like, you know, people feel for all kinds of reasons.
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Dr. Judy Morgan Spot -
Does your family include a dog or a cat? Would you like to be better educated on how to advocate for their health naturally, then why not check out all of the amazing resources on naturally healthy pets.com Dr. Judy Morgan is a trusted advisor and a regular guest here on the dog eared podcast. She has over 38 years experience as an integrative veterinarian, acupuncturist chiropractor, food therapist, author, speaker, podcast host and owner of Dr. Judy Morgan's naturally healthy pets. Dr. Judy's goal is to change the lives of pets by educating and empowering pet parents just like you in the use of natural healing therapies and minimizing the use of chemicals, vaccinations and poor quality processed foods. Head on over to naturally healthy pets.com where you'll discover healthy product recommendations, comprehensive courses, the naturally healthy pets podcast, informative blogs, upcoming events and so much more. Again, that's naturally healthy pets.com The place to learn how to give your pet the vibrant life that they deserve for
you just mentioned cats. So tell us a little bit about Clark.
Yeah, so I have to admit I did not grow up with cats. My mom is super allergic to cats. And I've always been a little awkward around cats like I feel like I don't really know how to like pick them up. Well, me too. So Mary, the same friend who had the hamster ended up getting this cat Clark when she was in grad school. And I have to say I despise Clark, when I first met him, he was always biting people's toes, and he scratched and he was just like, kind of aggressive. And he loved Mary, but hated everyone else. And I like dreaded having to interact with Clark, when I would visit her. And what was really fascinating though, was Mary's mom, unfortunately, was diagnosed with cancer and got pretty sick pretty quickly. And so Mary moved home and moved back in with her parents to help care for her mom. And Clark was just transformed from sort of this aggressive household cat, to being extremely affectionate. And, you know, Mary said that she'd always been like, a little bit worried about Clarke, like with other people, because he could scratch and bite, but all of a sudden, around her mom, he was just like this angel and always was like, warming her spot on the bed, and they would watch TV and he would like snuggle up close to her. And it's so amazing to me how animals really like our intuitive when something is wrong, and like, you know, they can definitely smell illnesses that people can't, you know, they've actually trained dogs to detect cancer and COVID, and even Parkinson's. And like the rats, actually who can smell if someone has tuberculosis or not. So it's amazing what animals can sense in that way. But I always am really impressed by then animals reacting in a way that seems affectionate and kind, like they understand, you know, that this person is maybe not doing well and they kind of are protective and caring in a way that maybe they would be for another, you know, cat or kitten who is also struggling. So, I think that is, um, that was a really special thing to see with Clark. And you know, he remains a jerk to everyone else. Really, really affected to marry and her mom and that was going on
chapter eight canines and community you grew up with two blonde Karen terriers, guests and Gwen, October 13 1997, you finally got a dog. Oh, my goodness, tell us about this. And how old were you then?
I was nine, almost 10. And I feel like that's like the most formative age to get a dog. Like, it was just the best day I still remember it so vividly. We got him from his breeder in New Hampshire. And I remember like, the drive up to New Hampshire felt like the longest drive of my life, it was probably like 45 minutes, and I just like, wait to get this dog. And I just remember holding Gus and he had that like puppy smell and he fell asleep like right in my like elbow and I just was like, Oh my God, my wife is never gonna be the same. Like I had that feeling. And you know, I think getting getting a dog or any pet, really around that age like elementary school like Goss. And then our other dog when were really there for me all through those hard middle school years hard high school years applying and getting rejected from colleges, you know, they were there through some pretty big life moments. And, you know, they were sort of this consistent touchstone for me, like, you know, if I had a crappy day in seventh grade, and, you know, I felt like I was my friends were, you know, all interested in boys and I still wanted to play with American Girl dolls. And I was you know, upset about it, I could come home and just like lie on the kitchen floor with godson when, and I would always feel better. And similarly, like, yeah, when I was applying to colleges, and got rejected for my first choice, I remember being so upset, but like, there was Gus and Glen, you know, they're always, you know, they didn't know what's going on. They just like, we're like, Let's go for a walk, you know, and I think, you know, and dogs in particular, often so in the present, you know, they don't worry about the future that they, you know, help, at least me stay more focused on like, Okay, well, this thing didn't work out. But there's no point really dwelling on it. You know, like, what is really good here. And now right now. And I think that animals have a great way to kind of shake us out of our own heads in some way.
Yeah, and I love in the book, you write these two dogs were my most loyal friends constant companions for years. But nothing in life is constant, especially not a pet. And you write when putting guests down. Your dad was sobbing every time and he said, I think it's going to get easier. But every time it's different in awful in its own way.
I think about that all the time. And I tell people that all the time too, because I just My dad had had a lot of dogs by the time that gusta I read and I thought, oh, you know, he's a pro euthanasia must not be that that. And every time though he said it's totally different, and every dog is different, every death is different. You know, you can be attached to different paths in different ways based on your life, you know, phase that you're, you know, like I thinking again, about my grandfather and the Yorkie, he had, you know, when both my mom and aunt went off to college, it was kind of him and his little dog and he sort of bringing her to work with him every day. And that was like, then this whole special relationship they had that was just the two of them, like driving to and from the office, and he she would sit, a grandfather owns an insurance agency, and she would sit in the front window and like bark at customers. And that was like a very special thing that they had together that, you know, if Samantha had been part of his life, 20 years earlier, he may have been too busy working other jobs to have had that with her or if he was older, you know, maybe he would have been retired and it would have been different but I mean, it's actually not true. My grandfather is almost 90 and is still retired.
Oh my goodness. Wow. Oh, yeah.
That's incredible credit dogs keeping him young. But I think that, you know, every death is is different. And you know, I thought for a while when I was younger, it's like a callus you build up that you're like, Okay, I'm, I'm an expert now at grieving pets. And, you know, a lot of people have thought like, oh, because you wrote this book, you must be like, so ready for you know, Seymour's inevitable death. And if anything, like I almost feel like I've gotten more anxious and upset about it, because I have seen so many horrific ways that pets have died, you know. So it's just every time it's hard and different. And I think reminding yourself about that, and giving yourself the space to grieve and reflect and like, yeah, sometimes maybe you'll be able to go back to work or school and feel a bit better, you know, sooner than other times, like when Gwen died, like she was 14, she had cancer if she stopped eating and stopped drinking. And so that felt very much like, she was saying, I'm out like, I'm good. Like, this is the end of my life. And I felt like she was telling us that with Gus, it was a lot harder because he was only nine and terriers can live a lot longer than that. And he had this intestinal disease, which like, he couldn't really process food and wasn't going to the bathroom, but he was still like, often lively and energetic and had these moments of like these bursts of being his himself, so then deciding to euthanize him, then, you know, I was sort of, is this right, you know, so I felt like I had a harder time with that than with when it was a little more. It was sad, but it was like, Okay, I know we did the right thing with one you hated hated thunder and fireworks. And so when we brought her to the vet in the end, it was on July 3, so we felt like our final kindness was letting her avoid 1/4 of July because she hated the Fourth of July.
I know that decision is so hard I recently shared so I'll keep it brief. But my first dog Bailey that I didn't get till I was 33 is my husband, a pit bull Border Terrier mix. He just went in wet and wet and wet. And then one day he just fell over in the yard and two days later, we had to put him down because like everything was failing. He didn't show any signs of slowing down. It was crazy like he was as spunky as ever. And then our our beloved Bobo German Shepherd, Iris setter, oh my gosh, what a what a beautiful sweet dog reminds me a lot of blue personality. He was slowing down. He got to 15 and he was a big dog. But I thought he had more in him. But then one day he fell down the stairs and you know, but then he'd be peppy, right? But my husband's like better, you know, a little too soon and too late. In his eyes. It's so hard though.
No, and by far when I interviewed people who had to euthanize pets, most people I talked to said in retrospect after they realized they dragged it out and wish they had done it sooner than they had. only like two people said they felt like they did it too soon. And usually that was because like one person was telling me about her aunt who just couldn't afford to try this very expensive surgery. And so like, I think sometimes if there's like a cost factor, or it's like you find out later oh, maybe there was this other treatment we could have tried, but I didn't know about it, then people feel like it was too soon. But most people later realized, like I was having a hard time letting go and my animal was suffering and I just could. I couldn't do it. So you know, I a lot of vets I interviewed for the book too, and I spoke to a lot of vets often said, you know, when people were like, I'm ready to euthanize like they looked at this cat and they were like this cat should have been euthanized like four years ago. You know, like no And it's and I think something that really was changing my perspective a lot on euthanasia is, you know, I often felt sort of like, who are we to decide when a dog you know, gets to live or die. But every single vet I spoke with said, you know, euthanasia, like it comes from the Greek meaning a good death, and it's really a gift that we can give, like, you know, if, like, Gwen had all these tumors, and they were on her lungs, and like, if we hadn't put her down, eventually, the tumors would have suffocated her to death. And that is like a horse in full way to die. And the fact that we could, you know, send her peacefully off together, you know, in a way that was painless, is a really a kind thing we can do. And it really blew my mind when a couple different vets I interviewed all said that they've often felt like, when they find out, you know, a pet patient of theirs has died naturally, they often feel like they failed, because they, you know, wish that they had been able to euthanize and given a kind soft landing, when that described it is that, you know, before dying naturally, well, a lot of pet owners often hoped for like, like when one was sick, I kind of hoped like, oh, maybe I'll just wake up in the morning, and she'll have died in the night. So we died. But it's sort of selfish in some ways, I think to to hope your animal suffers and dies on their own the decision but, I mean, it's hard, and it's different for everyone. And some people for religious reasons really are against euthanasia. Because, you know, they feel like it's God will decide when it's time for their pet to go. But no, it was interesting to me to hear that. That's often feel that strongly.
Yeah, that is, yeah, there's so much in the book. I mean, we're just just getting to the tip of the iceberg. It really is so gripping and powerful. And I think it's an absolute must for every pet parent. I love this. In the book you write, quote, there are so many people who love their animals, there are so many people who have felt a connection to their pets that was profound, maybe even more profound in their connections to other people. But the irony is that in order to move through your grief over your pets, you need more than anything else, other humans, other people who get it. Other people who will hold your hand and cry over dog that died 13 years ago, people who will reassure you that every time is different and awful, in its own way. And we touched on that earlier, but I just thought that was so beautiful. And you know, the reaction you get from some people about death, like that's not helpful, but the people who truly love you and know you, I mean, I know when when blue goes, I'm gonna have an avalanche of emails and texts and maybe even called
there's an expression that it's your heart dog where it's like your soul. I call my soulmate dog. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, it's just like, when you think about like, Well, why is one person your best friend? Right? You know, like, Yeah, you really have clicked for some reason, and you hit it off and like, they're just their friends, who are you, you're closer to for some reason, and other people who like you love and have fun hanging out with, but it's maybe not the same bond. And I think that happens with animals too, you know, and, and sometimes I think it can be based on sort of maybe, who brought the dog home from the shelter. Or if you know, my friend, Annie Hartnett, who's a great author who writes about animals a lot in her novels. You know, her dog Harvey was like, her heart dog, and they went everywhere together. And like, you know, she brought him to her office every single day with her and so everyone she worked with loved him too. And she also, you know, is a writer and was working from home and he slept under her desk and like, she lost it when he he died. She had a really, really hard time and ended up you know, adopting another border collie which later she said she felt like it was too soon she felt like she didn't give herself enough time to process Harvey's death before bringing Willie for life. And in a way because of that, because she was still actively grieving Harvey when Willie was a puppy you know, she told me that Willie has really bonded with her husband like she loves loves Willie and they have like a special relationship now but like Willie is much more her husband's dog because you know circumstances made it that way. And so I think those things are all different but also just like SM animals, personalities you connect with in a different way. It's interesting.
I never thought about it. I got Benji only six weeks after Bobo our beloved Shepherd setter mix died. And my husband was like I'm not ready at all. Bobo was his blue. And I was not very respectful because I'm like, Yeah, but you Do you and might, you know our daughter are going to be out of the house, I work from home, I have to have a dog did not respect my husband's wish to wait to get a dog and I do feel bad about that. Yeah,
that's people ask me that all the time to like, is there a perfect amount of time? And I have the terrible answer where it's like, no, it's different for everybody. And it's especially challenging. I think in a family where maybe one family member needs one thing and another need something else like that can be really, really difficult. But you know, like, Richie waited 10 years before he had another dog, my parents waited five years between Gwen's death and honey stuff. You know, other people like yeah, Annie got Willie, I think she said it was like three weeks after four weeks after Harvey died, it was really fast. Yeah, sometimes that works for people. And sometimes it doesn't. So I think just trying to listen to yourself. And I think, try not to rush into things because I did talk to people who told me they felt like they resented like the new pet, because they constantly were comparing them to like, oh, well, you know, Gus, never would have done this, or Gwen always did this. And like the new dog just trying to be themselves. And you're like holding them up to this. So I can recommend, like, if you're not sure if you're ready, yet, I know a lot of people who have volunteered at shelters, so it's a you can go and you can get that fix of like walking dogs and being with animals that maybe if you're not quite ready yet to bring another pet into your life full time, that's a nice thing. You can dogs it you can cat sit for people, you can even just, you know, go for walks with like, you know, my neighbors, two of them, they're really good friends, they always walk their dogs together in the morning. And when one neighbor her dog died, she still went, you know, on the walks each morning, even though her dog wasn't with her anymore. And so I think you know, giving yourself space where you can be with animals, but aren't necessarily like committing yet can help you figure out like if you're ready or not. So there's that need, you know, volunteers to walk dogs.
Oh, yeah, I do want to foster and I think that for me, it would be something great, except she's like the first smushy pity that sits on your lap and won't move, you're gonna be like, Okay, we're gonna keep him and then you'll get like 55 dogs. But that's something that I'm thinking about. Maybe was there anything that you wanted to add? today? I've had such a wonderful time speaking with you. And like I said, people have got to get your book, good grief on loving pets here and hereafter. I mean, the research the study everyday, it's so impressive. And you are an incredible writer, you have a gift. Absolutely beautiful.
Thank you. I think the only other thing I'd want to say is I know sometimes people are hesitant to read my book, because they're worried it's going to just be a real downer. And I've gotten feedback from people saying that they actually were surprised at how funny it is. And I hope, I hope that people can find the humor in it. Because for me, as someone who loves animals so much like it's sort of absurd, right? It's like, no one's putting a gun to your head and saying, like, you have to fall in love with this puppy. And I will ruin your life in 10 to 15 years when it's dog. Like, No one's forcing you to do that. I mean, I will say I interviewed many parents who said basically, they felt like their kids pressured them into getting pets that then they like, lost it when those animals died. But I, you know, to me, it's sort of humorous because it's like, why are we putting ourselves through this totally voluntary thing that ends up being really upsetting, but like, having pets like and they make me laugh? And, you know, like I mentioned this in the book. There was one time where I was writing a really sad part. I think it was about euthanizing Gus and Seymour came running into the room like shaking a squeaky toy like clearly he was sick of me being on the computer and he like spun around and threw it up on my desk and it landed on my laptop. And I was just like, This is so weird. Like, I love it, you know, and that's what I think having animals makes you more present and makes you appreciate like the small things and find humor in situations so I hope people know that like my book isn't just a downer about pets
dogs. Not at all
but it's also about the joy of having pets. Yeah, it's
absolutely fantastic. I couldn't put it down EP tell us all the ways we can find your fantastic book and any other information about
you. Well, if you'd like more information about me you can visit my email@example.com Martel's dot com my book is available wherever books are sold, so you can find it on the Harper Collins website. You can find it on Barnes and Noble bookshop.org Amazon, you can order it from your favorite local independent bookstore which is my favorite way to get books. And you can also follow my good grief Instagram account which is Good grief. Pets book on Instagram. And every Tuesday I post a pet tribute Tuesday so a different animal who's passed away and people have been sending me little obituaries and memories and photos. So if you have a pet Memorial tribute that you'd like to share I've also been posting a Live Pet Thursday's to celebrate animals who are still with us as well. So if you have any pets you'd like to share you know, you can send them to good grief pets book on Instagram.
Oh my gosh. Okay, I love that. That is brilliant art. Will everybody keep coming back to dog eared and while you're here check out health power and be sure to check out my sponsors as well. I use the products I washed Benji the other day with the 100 Body Care Shampoo Bar which was great. Everything's natural and fantastic and I also feed Benji yum woof. I don't feed it to blue because blue is so has so many allergies he's currently eating ground turkey cooked peas and acorn squash and that's it and the funny thing is because it's already all cooked in the fridge I literally every my first meal of the day is a torn squash. Maybe we're a little too connected. Alright everyone, have a great day. Thanks so much for listening.