Just replace that pet dog you love

The Old Dog coverThe Old Dog

Submitter: If it were up to me, I would put a match to every specimen of this genre.  But I’m only a volunteer, so all I can do is shudder quietly.

Genre: Picture books about the death of an aging pet.
Distinguishing feature: On the last page, the child gets a new pet of the same species, and all is happiness.
Lessons: Animals are fungible and your feelings aren’t real.

Sure, there is a place for these books. It’s in the History of Child Psychology section of academic libraries–not in the picture-book section of a public library. There exist death-of-a-pet books that don’t have the tacked-on happy ending.

WorldCat–which doesn’t seem to know about our local library system, though it knows about several adjacent, still smaller counties–says there are hundreds of copies out there. Hoarders of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your shelf space. Disappointingly, the book was donated by a local hospice organization. They generally have better sense; did they not read the book all the way through?

Holly: I don’t like these casual happy endings either. It’s a great idea to have books for kids about the death of a pet, but maybe they could show how it’s ok to grieve, families sharing stories about their beloved pet, or even making a memorial of some sort. It’s also ok to get a new pet – eventually – and to be happy about that, but maybe show the family still remembering their lost pet so it doesn’t just look like a quick replacement.

Old Dog doesn't open eyes
(Above) Submitter: Incidentally, the “old dog” never does get a name.

Old Dog is dead

No dog to greet him

New puppy

New Puppy

Submitter: Dwell upon that last picture. That, dear reader, is the face of a child who has just lost a beloved pet.


  1. And dalmatians aren’t even a kid-friendly breed of dog. I learned that from all the controversy when Disney brought out the live-action 101 Dalmatians movie.

  2. The answer for why you did not show up in WorldCat, is this…

    You have to subscribe to their product First Search.

    We don’t, and were removed from WorldCat. What I am told, is that if you subscribe to First search, all libraries, whether they pay for first search or not, are in WorldCat.

    There is a work around. I catalog and can search the entire holdings in OCLC Connextions. When the reference staff are in a bind. I help them out.

    I think they tossed all of us out 5 or more years ago. It sucks.

  3. I do believe it’s entirely possible for a child – or anyone – to love a new pet and be happy with it while at the same time still grieving for the pet you lost. I am not certain that this book reflects that very well though.

    The awardwinning Harry and Hopper (by Margaret Wild, with beautiful illustrations by Freya Blackwood) handles the subject very well I thought, though a friend of mine called it awful as it made him cry for an entire night – and reading it again still makes him cry – as it reminds him so much of the loss he felt when his dog died 10 years ago.

    1. If you ever find me in the picture-book section bawling lustily with tears streaming down my face, you’ll know I’ve found another pet book. Doesn’t even have to be about death; I also howl over stories like the cat who rescued her kittens from a fire, or the blind cat saved from Hurricane Katrina. Heck, I’m sniffling now just thinking about it!

  4. i used the excuse that we can’t get a dog because our cat doesn’t like them…now the kids are openly rooting for the cat to die…

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