• Happy Birthday Valarie Tripp (American Girl series).
  • Publisher Alfred A. Knopf (1892-1984) was born on this day.
  • In 1624 the first submarine was tested on London’s Thames River.
  • Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning on this day in 1846. Read about these poets in Elizabeth Barrett Browning & Robert Browning by Martin Garrett.
  • In 1940 four teens followed their dog down a hole near Lascaux, France, and discovered what are now known as the 17,000-year-old Lascaux Cave Paintings. Read Discovery in the Cave by Mark Dubowski, illustrated by Bryn Barnard, and The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux by Emily Arnold McCully.
  • It’s Chocolate Milkshake Day.

September is World Animal Remembrance Month, and yesterday marked National Pet Memorial Day. One of life’s most heart-wrenching experiences, both for children and adults, is without question the death of a beloved pet. So I’d like to take today to remember and honor a very special dog.

I wasn’t able to have a dog until I was long past childhood. He first arrived as a photo—a small, amazingly beautiful Bernese mountain dog, who in time became my best friend Merlin. As a writer, I was particularly dependent on him. When I worked on projects, he would sit next to my desk, watch me steadily, and turn his head knowingly when I asked myself a question. Although born lame, with the full use of only three legs, he thumped around the house to be with me at all times, monitoring my writing progress and alerting me to important times of the day—such as walks, meals, and bedtime. Even with all his health problems, Merlin lived to be nine and a half, an impressive age for this large breed. And then I had to deal with the absence of my beloved companion.

In my grief, I posted news of his death on Facebook; many of my friends had met him over the years—at local conferences and bookstore signings. Hundreds of messages came back, providing comfort and kindness. But what amazed me the most was how often people gave the same advice—“Have you read Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant?” Rylant both wrote and illustrated this three-tissue tribute to canines. In her vision, dogs don’t have wings in heaven, but fields and fields where they can run. Angel children play with the dogs; God and angels dispense biscuits in all shapes for them; they sleep on fluffy clouds. And, from time to time, the dogs get to visit their old homes, to make sure everything is all right. They will be in heaven “when old friends show up. They will be there at the door. Angel dogs.”

Using simple, poetic language, Rylant creates such a wonderful vision of the next journey for dogs that readers smile and cry along with her. The book provides both joy and comfort in equal measure. It is the perfect gift for anyone struggling with the lost of their own beloved friend.

So if you know someone who is grieving the loss of a dog or cat, by all means get them a copy of Dog Heaven or Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. She truly understands everyone who misses a beloved pet.

Here’s a page from Dog Heaven:


Originally posted September 12, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Death, Dogs
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Dog Heaven


  1. Bookjeannie says:

    Thank you Anita, another great find!

  2. Yes, Anita, I too, have recommended both Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven on repeated occasions. God bless Cynthia Rylant. *tears in my eyes*

  3. Beloved Merlin. I remember his sit-down strikes, his journeys under the porch, his magnificent face, and so much more. The dog of a lifetime and a grief that never goes away. I can’t read Dog Heaven without weeping, needless to say.

    Another book that breaks my doggy heart is Samsara Dog, by Helen Manos/Julie Vivas. Out of print, the horror!

    Cynthia Rylant is such a brilliant creator of books. Her Henry and Mudge books are among the best easy readers ever.

  4. Mrs. D. says:

    I hadn’t heard of either of these books, but will definitely be looking for them. It would have been helpful at my house to have Cat Heaven four years ago when we lost our sweet Angora cat Skeeter to cancer at 13 years of age.


  5. Bigfoot says:

    I love this book. Like Leda, I can’t read it without crying.

    Eric Rohmann’s new picture book, BONE DOG, gets me going, too.

  6. Anita Silvey says:

    Bigfoot: I feel the same way about Bone Dog. It will be featured on Halloween.

  7. G.Perry says:

    I’m not going to read this. I still miss my boarder collie too much, and the vet needs to stop calling me until she finds a boarder collie that lives forever. I’d never lost a living breathing anything, until I lost my four-footed friend.

    Well, I might read it someday. If you don’t love Rylant’s work, they’re something wrong with you.

  8. L. Kelley says:

    I’m happy to say that the beautiful Samsara Dog by Helen Manos, illustrated by Julie Vivas, in in fact still in print and available.

  9. G.Perry says:

    Okay. I read it today.

    It’s really quite lovely. Wonderful bright colors, with much heart warming playfulness.

    Thumbs up.

  10. Anita says:

    Gordon: Glad you picked it up!

  11. Sarah says:

    I turned to Dog Heaven recently when my family lost our chocolate lab. Such a sweet book. I also have enjoyed Bone Dog and look forward to reading your post on Halloween.

  12. Anita says:

    Sarah: Yes, Bone Dog has become my favorite Haloween book.

  13. Fran in Texas says:

    I, too, recommended Dog Heaven to a friend needing consolation when the family dog died; also Up in Heaven, by Emma Chichester Clark. http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=0385746385 And now we have Bone Dog to offer sweet comfort. Gotta love books!


  14. Chauntelle says:

    Wow, great post. One book that I will definitely have to take a look at.

  15. Jane Martyn says:

    Thank you so much for this post. My aunt just lost her beloved dog, and I think it’s especially hard for her, since she lost her husband a year ago. I can’t wait to give this to her.

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