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The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Livesby Jessica Pierce
Synopses & Reviews
From the moment when we first open our homes—and our hearts—to a new pet, we know that one day we will have to watch this beloved animal age and die. The pain of that eventual separation is the cruel corollary to the love we share with them, and most of us deal with it by simply ignoring its inevitability.
With The Last Walk, Jessica Pierce makes a forceful case that our pets, and the love we bear them, deserve better. Drawing on the moving story of the last year of the life of her own treasured dog, Ody, she presents an in-depth exploration of the practical, medical, and moral issues that trouble pet owners confronted with the decline and death of their companion animals. Pierce combines heart-wrenching personal stories, interviews, and scientific research to consider a wide range of questions about animal aging, end-of-life care, and death. She tackles such vexing questions as whether animals are aware of death, whether they're feeling pain, and if and when euthanasia is appropriate. Given what we know and can learn, how should we best honor the lives of our pets, both while they live and after they have left us?
The product of a lifetime of loving pets, studying philosophy, and collaborating with scientists at the forefront of the study of animal behavior and cognition, The Last Walk asks—and answers—the toughest questions pet owners face. The result is informative, moving, and consoling in equal parts; no pet lover should miss it.
"Bioethicist Pierce (coauthor of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals) is well-positioned, both professionally and personally, to examine the way the lives of American pets end. While conceding the limits to our understanding of what animals actually experience as the end nears, Pierce makes a compelling case that the negative phrase, 'to die like an animal,' needs to be turned around, to mean, instead, 'a peaceful, respectful, and meaningful death.' The prism through which Pierce makes her observations is her own family's experience with the end stages of the life of their beloved dog, Ody. Pierce alternates between entries from her journal and broader discussions of issues familiar to those caring for elderly or ill humans, such as hospice and euthanasia; shockingly, the latter is the main cause of death for cats and dogs in the U.S. The author is unflinchingly self-critical, continuing, even after having Ody put to sleep, to struggle with whether fighting harder for him toward the end would have been more for her than for him. This sensitive exploration of a topic that even many pet lovers have likely not thought enough about is likely to generate discussions about what kind of death is owed to beloved animal companions." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Last Walk, Ms. Pierce, tours readers through this intimate landscape, in a journey that is scientific, philosophical, and also deeply personal. There are about 75 million dogs and 85 million cats owned in the US alone; 63 percent of all households have a pet. In a narrative that interweaves the last year of her dog Odys life with thematic chapters ranging from how animals die to pain and palliation, hospice, and the blue needle, readers gain a far more nuanced and wide-ranging perspective on animals, their behaviors, and our own, than can be found in any other work on animal death and dying. The book draws on experiences and studies from animal behavior, including descriptions and studies of animals in the wild, with veterinary medicine, bioethics, and the pet industry. She has interviewed an incredible range of people with associations with animal companions, and these interviews round out the science and ethics beautifully—but at its core, this is a book for the kind of general readers who think about the types of food they are setting out in animal dishes, who try to create a repertoire of signs and gestures to communicate with their pets, even maybe a few who dress their Yorkshires in high fashion or who pay over $200 a day for Hospice.
About the Author
Jessica Pierce is a bioethicist and coauthor of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals.
Table of Contents
1: Final Odyssey
The Ody Journal, September 29, 2009-January 15, 2010
2: Into the Open
The Ody Journal, March 14, 2010-June 3, 2010
The Ody Journal, June 5, 2010-September 4, 2010
The Ody Journal, September 20, 2010-October 24, 2010
5: Animal Hospice
The Ody Journal, October 25, 2010-November 28, 2010
6: Blue Needle
The Ody Journal, November 29, 2010-December 7, 2010
The Ody Journal, November 29, 2011
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