My Bookshelf is Going to the Dogs

Despite the image I lamely attempt to portray, I really do care what other people think of me. I care a lot. And there is nothing I hate more than disappointing people who have invested something, whether it’s their time, money or emotion, in me.

Unfortunately one of my greatest talents (or lack of talent depending on how you look at it) is my inability to be fake, or as I’ve been told many, many, many, many, many times (can we say almost on a daily basis?), I’m extremely blunt.

Combine those two personality traits, and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to any gift-giving occasion.

But here’s the deal. People who know me well enough to give me a gift should also know my quirks. And one of my biggest quirks is an aversion to any book or movie about animals.

Unfortunately, people seem to forget this, because I have enough animal books to fill an entire bookcase. Logically, the gifts make perfect sense.  I am passionate about  animals, particularly dogs, and I also love to read.  So, in a rational world, a book about animals seems ideal.

The problem is I’m not exactly the most rational person in the world, especially when animals are involved.

I think my issues began when I was as a child, and almost every animal story ended with the animal dying. And the movies weren’t any better: Sounder? Where the Red Fern Grows? Old Yeller? The heroes always died in the end. And, simply put, that left me with emotional scars.

My husband has tried for years to get me to watch animal movies. “The animals don’t die anymore,” he’s told me. “They almost always have happy endings now.”

I just can’t bring myself to believe him. I simply don’t trust Hollywood. And for good reason.

While I never read Marley and Me (although I have a hardback copy that was a gift from my mother if anyone ever wants to borrow it), I refused to see the movie because I  was
pretty sure  it would end with tears. I’ve been told that it does. I’ve also been told the book is better than the movie,and I should read it anyway.

But despite that, I don’t care because I’m pretty sure the dog still dies. And I refuse to have to deal with the grief issues.

I’ve had to deal with my own dogs dying. I think that’s enough. I really don’t need to grieve for a dog I’ve never met.

My husband doesn’t understand why I’m so adamant about the whole “animal movie/book” thing.  After all, I read mysteries, and people always die in those books. The same is true with the television shows and the movies I like.

I try to explain to him the difference between animals and people dying, but he just doesn’t get it. He simply fast forwards to his own death and tells me that I probably won’t grieve for him like I’ve grieved for our pets. He even thinks that, at his funeral, I’ll be preoccupied worrying about how I’ll fit walking the dog into the chaos his death has created.

He’s probably got a point there.

But his accusations have got me thinking. Maybe I should address my aversion to the animal movies and books. My concerns are limiting my entertainment options. Also, my behavior reminds me a bit of my former neighbor, Jimmy.

Jimmy absolutely adored my dogs and welcomed them into his home. But Jimmy also refused to get his own dog because he’d had one once, and it died. He simply didn’t want to have to go through that grief again. I was always sad at how much love and joy Jimmy was missing for fear of heartache.

Gusty 1994 – August 2010. I still miss him.

While I completely understand how difficult losing a canine family member is, their deaths are a small  price to  pay for all the pleasure they bring to a home. Maybe the books and movies are the same. Maybe the sad endings are worth it.

So I am now re-considering the whole issue, and I may even pick up one of those many unread books on my bookshelf. Maybe. But it’s going to take some time to get up my nerve.

In the meantime, if you are thinking of sending me a gift, just remember that you can never go wrong with jewelry.

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a daughter and son at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my two dogs and stirring things up.

Posted on July 17, 2011, in Family, My life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Terrific post. I completely understand your feelings on this. What gets me usually is the purity of dogs, and somehow that purity makes their loss and emotions more difficult for me. People, that’s hard too of course, but we all know people are complicated and flawed, and our deaths are often less painful for me because I think about how we all know we are rotten, and death was headed our way eventually, and it kind of just makes sense. Garden of Eden and all that yadda yadda mythology.

    Animals and children, forget it. The loss of innocent life really cuts to the core, and along the lines of the aforementioned myth, grown people are implicated in the deaths of those lives. Maybe not directly, but I always feel the pain of being somehow responsible for creating the kind of world where bad things happen to generous, loyal, devoted spirits.

    All that said, I say get back in the game. I just read a book from the library to my little girl and it about killed me: City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems. Beautiful story of the life cycle, friendship, and moving on. One of my big goals with my daughter is to teach her that life begins and ends for everyone and everything, and that is a normal, natural thing. It can even be a good thing. Sure, it’s hard to do this, but I want her to grow up in comfort about the way of nature, and that grieving is normal too. So is moving forward.

    Thanks again for a lot to think about.

  2. Thanks Elizabeth…and your comments leave a lot to think about, too.

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