Full disclosure. Unlike my previous reviews of Soldier Dogs and Get the Cookie, Paco!, I did not choose this book myself. Just One More Day: A Dog Lover’s Guide to Saying Good-bye was recommended to me by Dogster Community Manager Lori Malm and our Editor-in-Chief Janine Kahn. So while my other book reviews were prompted by my own curiosity or interest in the particular subject matter of the book, this review basically began as an assignment. That is not how it ended, because Just One More Day was not what I expected it to be. It was more –- much more.
I was expecting Just One More Day to be the story of Geoffrey Bain’s final weeks with Abby, his beloved Australian Shepherd. While it does relate Abby’s story very tenderly, the book is really about Geoffrey’s odyssey to deal with his heartache and pain and longing. It’s about a journey to find peace.
The last part of the book’s full title should have tipped me off, that it’s a “guide” to saying goodbye. Abby’s story is certainly an important part of the book, but her story is arguably not the most significant part. We meet Abby in the book’s introduction, and almost as soon as we get to know her sweet spirit, she is gone, not to appear again other than in casual references until Chapter 7, where we find her Dogster Diary. In between, Geoffrey offers a compendium of information related to, preparing for, and dealing with the death of a pet.
The topics encompass valuable information such as quality of life, euthanasia, grieving, and the final farewell. Rather than expecting Abby’s story to provide blanket observations, Geoffrey has solicited dozens of pet owners to share their stories. He also includes the perspective of veterinarians and other experts.
Along the way, Geoffrey shares some compelling, even alarming data: 60 percent of all dogs over age 6 will develop some form of cancer. With more dogs getting seriously ill, it stands to reason that more families are finding themselves facing hard decisions.
I was surprised to learn that a survey by a large pet insurance company showed that accidents accounted for about 5 percent of dogs’ deaths; natural death took another 8 percent, and illness was the cause of death in an additional 35 percent. What surprised me was that for 52 percent of dogs, euthanasia was the cause of death.
I was surprised, too, but once I thought about it, I realized I shouldn’t have been.
This is a very good book, filled with excellent information. That said, it doesn’t strike me as casual reading. It’s not a coffeetable book for your guests to thumb through prior to a dinner party. Just One More Day is part reference, part therapy.
Depending on your circumstances, Geoffrey Bain’s book can prepare you to make the difficult decision none of us wants to be faced with, or counsel you in regard to a decision you are still wrestling with from your past. Some may find the book useful to read from cover to cover, while others might only need a single chapter, such as the one on grieving.
Just One More Day was not what I was expecting. I found myself reading the book out of sequence, jumping from place to place. This is not a fault of the book, but a strength. You will find yourself shedding tears on one page and smiling on another. Most of all, you will find the reassurance which comes from knowing you are not alone.
The dogs of my youth, Pal and Curly Jean, both lived long and happy lives, but I did not have to deal directly with their passing. Pal spent his last years at a bird sanctuary with one of my dad’s friends, and I had long since left home when Curly Jean passed away. Sterling is who I thought of while reading Just One More Day, because I had to deal directly with his quality of life in his final years and then his passing. Reading Just One More Day has been helpful with those memories. In a few years — hopefully more than a few — I suspect I will need Geoffrey’s book again for Jackie the guinea pig.
Alistair Begg put it well when he said, “There is a last time for every journey. And so it is good to make much of our partings. And it is good to make much of our hellos.” Begg was actually referencing people as he lamented our culture’s tendency to take the comings and goings of family too lightly. Dogs don’t have this problem. They don’t like seeing us go when we leave them behind. And when we return, is there anything quite like the joy our dogs greet us with when we walk through the door?
A dog’s unbridled joy and unconditional love makes final partings that much harder on us. Geoffrey Bain’s book can help you cope with the dread of impending loss and the grief we carry for the pets which are no longer with us, yet carried forever in our hearts.
I leave you with the title. Is there not one of us who has not felt the pain and anguish of desperately wanting Just One More Day?