Book Review: For Every Dog An Angel, Christine Davis (2004)

November 1st, 2013 11:21 am by Kelly Garbato

For anyone who’s ever loved and lost a canine companion.

five out of five stars

I lost my two oldest dogs, Ralphie and Kaylee, in May of this year. Though I live with five other dogs – nothing to sniff at! – my home feels so unbelievably empty without them here. Ralphie was my first rescue dog; he lived with my husband and me for nearly twelve years before his passing. And Kaylee…well, she was something special. I don’t know if I believe in the idea of one “forever” dog – it’s too depressing to think that I’ll never love another creature the way I did (do!) her – but she was certainly my favorite. Five months later, and not a moment passes in which I don’t miss them both something awful.

Anyway, I was treating myself to a few science fiction books when I stumbled upon For Every Dog An Angel on my Amazon wishlist. It’s been there for years – I think I first heard of author Christine Davis via a Dogs Deserve Better newsletter – but only in my grief did I feel compelled to buy it. I’m so glad I did, too. For such a simple little book, it proved surprisingly cathartic.

For Every Dog An Angel tells of how each puppy is welcomed onto this earth by a guardian angel. From birth to death, this angel follows her dog around, sharing in the dog’s happiness and easing his sorrow. A lucky few dogs find not just a forever home, but a forever human – that one special friendship that just can’t be touched: by time, by space, or by other animals, human or non. When the years grow long and the dog’s time has come, he’ll cross the bridge to be with his angel, who will watch over him until the day when his human joins him. But the boundary between worlds is thin; and on occasion, a dog may cross the bridge to visit his human: “So if you see the blanket rumple softly after you’ve curled up for an afternoon nap, it’s very possible your forever dog has come back to visit and is napping beside you.”

The story is short but beautiful, and lovingly illustrated with Davis’s whimsical artwork. I’ve read it at least a dozen times now, and it still brings tears to my eyes. (The part about a dog’s spirit returning to earth does it to me every time!) For Every Dog An Angel (and the feline version, For Every Cat An Angel) is Davis’s first book; ten years later, she followed up with Forever Paws, which tackles pet loss in a more direct fashion. Yet I found For Every Dog An Angel more helpful in dealing with my grief: in discussing the entirety of a dog’s life, it allows me to focus on the good times as well as the bad. While it’s true that I lost two of my best friends, I also had 12 and 6 ½ wonderful years with them, respectively. This is what I want to hold onto.

As an atheist, I don’t believe in an afterlife; instead, I take comfort in the idea of keeping loved ones alive in memory. Ralphie and Kaylee may be gone, but they live in my heart now; every ache and pain I feel is Kaylee, lawn dancing on my chest or digging her way farther into my heart, in search of tasty grubs to eat. I see pieces of her in Jayne, with whom she was rescued from an abandoned building; in the eyes of O-Ren, who so loved and adored her; and in the face of Mags, her doppelganger. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of Kaylee out of the corner of my eye: dozing in the dog bed I placed in the master bathroom just for her, so she wouldn’t have to be away from me, even when I showered; or catching a sliver of afternoon sun on the couch in the office, cozied up next to good old Ralph. Kaylee visits me often; does it really matter if it’s just in my mind?

The only thing I’d change about For Every Dog An Angel is Davis’s choice of pronouns: she refers to nonhuman animals as “it” while using “they” or “their” for genderless humans, thus subtly (and probably unintentionally) reinforcing the idea that nonhuman animals are somethings rather than someones.

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Kaylee (left) and Ralphie (right), sunbathing circa February 2011.
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(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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