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The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  146 ratings  ·  31 reviews
From the moment when we first open our homes—and our hearts—to a new pet, we know that one day we will have to watch this beloved animal age and die. The pain of that eventual separation is the cruel corollary to the love we share with them, and most of us deal with it by simply ignoring its inevitability.
With The Last Walk, Jessica Pierce makes a forceful case tha
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 27th 2012 by University of Chicago Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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Sep 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People w/ pets
Shelves: science-nature
This time last year (Dec 2011/Jan 2012) was a particularly rough time for me and the Clan. In the space of four months, I lost three of my cats to various medical complications:

Image of Malcolm

Malcolm had advanced kidney disease for the last year of his life, which I spent giving him subcutaneous transfusions and worrying every day that I would come home from work and find him dead (view spoiler) ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book
Pierce follows the last year of life of one of her dogs - Ody - in a journal. Through that experience Pierce explores pet pain, pet death, how and when to end a pet's life, how to dispose of the pet's body and how to grieve for the pet. Difficult to read, very sad when Ody finally is euthanized, but an important book for anyone who has an aging pet. The key seems to be to find a way to assess the pet's quality of life. When the quality falls below some threshold - the book actually presents a de ...more
Feb 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
My husband bought this book to help us go through end-of-life decisions for our dear cat. Rather than finding comfort in the pages of "The Last Walk", I was left in anguish and full of anger for the author's harsh criticisms for those who don't agree with her viewpoints. I wish I had never read it.

My biggest problem with this book is the author casts harsh judgments on those who choose to end an animals suffering before it gets out of hand (unlike the author who let her dog suffer needlessly fo
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pets, death
Exceptional book that addresses the murky uneasy subject of how to determine and address the scope and depth of the needs of our aging and elderly pets--particularly when "it's time" to consider euthanasia. The author weaves together her personal story of her aging Vizsla, Ody, with scientific, moral and practical issues that surround this topic.

Things to remember:
*BrightHaven Holistic Retreat and Hospice for Animals in Santa Rosa.

*The Pawspice Q of L Scale = a shorthand metho
May 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the past year my little Yorkie (13 years old) developed breathing problems. He was already starting to show signs of aging but this started speeding up the process. For months we tried everything and anything to help him. We nursed him 24 hours a day and then were faced with the worst decision in the world when the vet said that there was no more that could be done. His health was bad, he was out of ideas and he was old. We had already tried many other vets previously too & holistic treat ...more
Lacey Louwagie
This book didn't quite give me the clarity I was hoping for when it comes to end-of-life issues for a beloved pet.

It's kind of two books -- part diary/memoir of the author's last year or so with her aging, decrepit dog, and part academic analysis of various issues relating to end-of-life issues for pets, such as whether animals feel pain the way humans do, how they perceive their own lives and suffering, etc. At first I felt that she might be of the "keep your pet alive no matter wha
Nov 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who live with or work with animals
Recommended to Shelley by: Me
Shelves: non-fiction
Jessica Pierce's book was poignant and psychological concerning the passing of her dog, Odie. The structure went back and forth from a diary format about the last day's of Odie's canine life and Pierce's reflections upon her actions and emotions as his keeper. I enjoyed reading Odie's story as many dog owners might since many of us will be faced with that common experience of seeing our dog grow up and old long before we do and when his/her quality of life is in question, what should be done. Th ...more
Cario Lam
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author presents a very detailed look at how do deal with our ageing four legged friends. What makes this book even more credible is that Ms. Pierce includes entries from her own journal about Ody, her vizsla during the last year of his life. Dealing with an ageing four legged friend is anything but straightforward. In writing this book, Ms. Pierce seems to hope that the reader would not necessarily rush straight to euthanasia as a way of dealing with a sick pet. This book should be read by ...more
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book made me roll my eyes... a lot. I like the premise-providing our pets with kind and dignified senior years and ultimately a gentle death. Unfortunately, the author chooses to provide us with tales of her own senior dog, blind and deaf,dying of liver cancer, no longer eating well, in great pain, falling multiple times daily and laying in his own excrement... for an entire year whilst in "pawspice". So basically, she undermines her whole soapbox performance. This dissonance made the book ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not quite what I was looking for, but interesting. Written from an ethics/ bioethics/ scientific perspective with some journal entries thrown in. I can't help but feel like her poor dog suffered but I believe she was in denial and I can't really hold it against her. I fear I may have let mine go too soon. And that's exactly the point of this book. Somewhere towards the ending I found comfort from this quote " I would rather help my best friend one month too early than one day too late " RIP Gret ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pets
I read this two weeks or so after I chose to end my much-loved dog's life at age 13+. I skipped to the part about making that dreaded decision and read the rest of the book from there. I had to read it in two sessions, though, because I was crying nearly all the way through. It's a chronicle of the declining months of one of her dogs while also covering all related matters, it seems, so I think it's reasonable to read just the parts that made you want to read the book unless you're also involved ...more
Brian Keller
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was looking for a sad and touching book about a pet and the end of their life. This was not the book I was looking for. There were a few touching moments, but mostly the book is about the ethics and practical considerations around end of life issues for pets. Instead of having my heartstrings tugged, I found myself frustrated by the author's difficulties. I really need to read reviews more carefully before I start a book, especially when I know what I want.

If you're in the mood to
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
While I marked this one as "read", I haven't been able to finish it. Too many memories that are still too raw to relive with this book. But I can tell you the initial ~70% or so is interesting. I hope one day I can finish it without feeling a punch to my gut.
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A highly recommended read for anyone with a senior dog. An easy quick read but don’t wait til you’ve made a decision as there are many options for caring for your senior dog that are presented.
Eileen Anderson
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
I need to state a partial conflict of interest. I have a book out on dementia in dogs and there is an overlap in material (when to euthanize one's dog) and format (weaving the story of one's own dog through a non-fiction book) with this book. But even so, I would have been delighted to have a book on the subject of euthanasia to recommend on my website and to my own readers. My book has a chapter on euthanasia; this is a whole book about it.

I was thrilled that a bioethicist would tackle this su
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Had this on my list for a while and after loosing my own dog Quinny, it felt like the time to read this.

Honestly, I think this is a really important book on the end of life for pets, and especially important for vets to read.

I was fortunate to have a strong pain control, hospice, and quality of life training as I became a veterinarian but it's good to remember that there are still a lot of vets out there who did not. I think that can be especially helpful for them. She also makes important poi
Marjorie Elwood
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Not at all what I expected, this is written by a bioethicist. As she says: "One of my early ethics professors, Ed Freeman, always started his lectures by saying that ethics is for good people. It isn't for the crooks and liars; it is for those of us who are trying to do right in the world. [....] This book is about the kinds of quandaries that good people find themselves in with regard to their aging or dying animals."

The book explores topics such as: whether and how animals experien
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm so grateful to have had this book as I faced my dog's diagnosis, decline, eventual euthanasia, and bereavement. For me, the book was therapeutic in that I read about the topics as I experienced them. However, I realize this may not be the case for most people. I also particularly like that the author combines data, research, anecdotes, and her own personal experience to present each topic. She explores topics without judgement yet does offer her opinions. All in all, a great help in my time ...more
Ron Brugger
Feb 02, 2013 rated it liked it
A very sad story about a dog's last days and how the human copes. In addition to documenting the last year or so of the dog's life, the author discusses all sorts of options for the human to deal with the dog's demise. The whole point of the book is to suggest that too many people dispose of their pets too soon for all the wrong reasons (such as because the pet has become inconvenient or just no fun anymore). However, I agree with the author that it is the responsibility of the human to act resp ...more
Michael Alexander Henke
So this wasn't exactly what I was looking for. The book is not written by a veterinarian, but by a bioethicist. It's hard to say what I was looking for, but I guess I wanted something a little more clinical. The book ended up being more personal, the author's struggle about when and if to euthanize her dog Ody. Being someone who works in veterinary medicine my views on euthanasia are pretty set and straight forward. Reading the journal of the dog's decline it was very easy for me to see that eut ...more
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Predictably, the inevitable end of the book had me sobbing, but the journey getting there helped clarify a lot of what I am currently going through and will be going through with my dog. I am happy that the author is helping people explore their end of life care options for their pets since the answer has traditionally been to euthanize them if there isn't something that can be done to "cure" them.
Jan de Leeuw
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rather excellent book on end of life for dogs and cats, which the leading role played by Jessica's dog Ody. Since two of my dogs died this year (one naturally and one euthanized) I was obvious involved. It does not solve any problems and it does not make the goodbyes after 13-14 years of companionship any easier. But it illustrates how dogs teach us, among many other things, how to deal with old age and death.
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: _non-fiction_
"...Do our animals really spend their time in the meadow just waiting for us, or might they not have their own, inscrutable business?" (p. 221)

"This is my version of dog heaven: I stand in the Wigwam Meadow and I blow my horn, and Ody comes running, sleek and red, into my arms. From here, we step together into the Open" (p. 223).
Lauren orso
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read2013
unfortunately, this book offered no suggestions on how to die exactly one second after your pets, but did offer a journal on the last year of an old dog's life (to my credit i barely cried until the end, but now i will never stop crying) and some essays about different aspects of end-of-life pet care (which were okay? they were fine? i'm sorry about your dog, get back to work though?).
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nook
A must-read for anyone who loves their dogs and who dread the day when they are no longer with us. The book captures the emotion of caring for a sick and elderly dog, and it's also a very practical, intellectual look behind the process of knowing when "it's time."
Meghan Hunsaker
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
A thought-provoking book that all pet parents should read. A combination of emotional and factual content, this book will force anyone in the care of a pet to take a good, hard look at their position on animals' end of life care...and the care they receive while still young and healthy.
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really like this book! The author takes a very tough subject and looks at it from both a personal view and from a ethics point of view!
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Along with being a very thought-provoking and illuminating book, it hit me in all the feels. Anyone who loves their dog as much as I love mine should keep tissues close at hand.
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, animals, 2013
A worthy exploration of ideas and feelings for preparing for the final days of one's animal companion.
Linden A.
Dec 30, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: dogs
Recommended by Susanna Reichling - Loki
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Bioethicist Jessica Pierce, Ph.D., is the author of the book The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the Ends of Their Lives (University of Chicago, 2012). Some of the questions she explores are: Do animals have death awareness? Why is euthanasia almost always considered the compassionate end point for our animals, but not for our human companions? Is there ever a good reason to euthanize a heal ...more
“With all its eyes the creature sees    the Open. Only our eyes are    as though reversed, and placed all around them    as traps, encircling their free exit.” 0 likes
“No dog has ever said a word, but that doesn’t mean they live outside the world of speech. . . . To choose to live with a dog is to agree to a long process of interpretation—a mutual agreement, though the human being holds most of the cards.” 0 likes
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