My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have to admit, I am skeptical about books about losing your pets. Having been too often subjected to “The Rainbow Bridge,” I know how quickly sentiment about pets can trigger a gag reflex. That the first edition of this book had a pastel collage of animal grave markers on its cover, along with a shockingly red sticker that proclaims it “A Lasting Gift for Anyone Who Loves Animals,” might be enough to scare away the heartiest morbid reader. That has been corrected in this edition.
Inside are 100 Polaroid transfer photographs that document pet cemeteries from London to San Diego. Lanci-Altomare, who has done solo shows of her photographs at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, has an eye for beauty, true emotion, and humor. The Polaroid transfer process gives the photos a light-struck, grainy quality reminiscent of the photo plaques washed by the sun that you find on headstones. The effect serves her subject very well.
A minor quibble is the design of the book. Rather than group the photos by graveyard—so that the reader could get a sense of place—photos of the same graveyards rise again and again, sort of like a refrain. I found it frustrating.
How’s the text? Let me give you some context. When I originally read the book, my companion of 14 years was gravely ill with bladder stones. I dragged him to the vet time and again, each time certain that he wouldn’t survive to be brought home. I passed through all the Kübler-Ross stages in preparation of putting him to sleep when the vet performed a miracle. For all my cynicism, I know how painful it is to face the death of someone with whom you’ve lived so long.
The text is very good. It ranges from historical notes about (too few) graveyards to newspaper articles about the police dogs who located bodies after the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing into explanations from cemetery owners about how and why they do their jobs. I particularly liked the piece from the Humane Society that explains how visits to the pet cemetery keep volunteers sane as they work with abandoned animals. Other highlights were stories about the cat who eased a terminally ill boy into death and the dog who greeted mourners at the pet cemetery where he worked. There’s a smattering of poetry, but it can be easily bypassed.
This is a nice little book on a topic that hasn’t been explored.
You can get your own copy on Amazon.
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