Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant

Grief and healing.  Laughing and crying.  Despair and hope. Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant is a magical book that touches your soul.  Our family was blessed with a loving, gentle dog and she was called to heaven unexpectedly.  My children asked all kinds of questions trying to understand what life would be like for our dog, now that she is in heaven.  I didn’t know what to say.  So, I turned to this book.  This book was as much of a blessing for me, as it was for my children. 
After a dog dies, a dog is able to run through fields all the way to heaven.  Upon their arrival they are able to run and run.  They are able to run past lakes and bark at the geese that are teasing them.  They are able to play with all the angel children in heaven.  If ever the dogs are hungry, there are biscuits shaped like cats, squirrels and ice-cream for as far as they can see.  When they become tired and need a rest, they can fluff up a cloud and get cozy just like they did with their bed on earth.  The most touching part for me was when Rylant describes how the dog holds onto the memories of his life on earth.  When the dog is lonely and misses his family on earth, invisibly, the dog will walk back to earth with an angel to check on his old surroundings.  After the dog feels comfortable again, the angel will return the dog to heaven.  Heaven is a peaceful place where all of their needs are met.  They continue to live a wonderful happy life.  In the end, they are waiting at the door for old friends to show up. 
It has been a year since our dog has passed and this book has been pulled off the shelf many times by my five year old son.  He thinks that one of the dogs in the illustrations is our dog.  He will also make comments at times like, “I think I just saw Kaylee in the backyard.”    I can understand how he feels.  There are times when I look for our dog and almost feel her presence.   It makes me think that my little Kaylee has come back, invisibly, if only for a moment, to be with us again.
Cynthia Rylant provides comfort and healing through her writing and illustrations.  The thought of death brings dark and gloomy images to my head.   Yet, I was feeling warmth, comfort, and life as I read this book.  The acrylic illustrations were bright and colorful.  As we question what life is like for our loved ones, Rylant uses many horizontal lines throughout the book to assure us that there is order and tranquility for our pets.  We are captured into the experience with the full bleed illustrations.  We are able to experience this after life with our pet. I understand that heaven is life without pain and suffering.  All physical and emotional needs are met, yet the pet will never forget his family on earth.  In the end, the dog owner is on the left side of the page, heading toward heaven.   The dog is waiting on the right side, ready and waiting to be reunited again.  One could only be left with the feelings of hope, solace, and peace.


  1. My daughter is getting at that age where she's asking questions about death (from watching television) and we have I know the inevitable. I will go buy this book, it sounds perfect.

    I, too, had dogs growing up. The last one I had lived to be 13 years old. Rocky was a huge part of my life. When she died I swore I wouldn't own another one, because it just hurt too bad to lose her. I know it's just a matter of time before my daughter will want one, too.

    How cute to think that in Heaven dogs have cookies shaped as cats. Perfect. And when I googled this book, I noticed it was a favorite among pet owners and the perfect gift for those who also lost their dog.

  2. I can see how much this book means to you through your review. It is evident that it helped you and your family get through a difficult time--and it is important to have that relief. The only pets I ever owned were fish and so, I haven't experienced the pain that goes along with losing a pet that you've grown up with. I do remember balling my eyes out in the movie Marley and Me and I could have used this book after that!