The Bookworm Sez:
This may be a difficult book

“When is Buddy Coming Home?” by Gary Kurz c.2017, Citadel Press, $12.95 / $13.95 Canada, 256 pages

Your child needs a hug.

Truthfully, so do you: the family pet has died, and you’re all missing that furry little face and the jingle of collar tags. It breaks your heart and your child needs a hug, as well as some answers to her questions about loss and faith. In “When is Buddy Coming Home?” by Gary Kurz, you may find them.

“When is Buddy Coming Home?” by Gary Kurz c.2017, Citadel Press, $12.95 / $13.95 Canada, 256 pages

Your child’s “best friend” is gone. There’s no furry body at the end of his bed, no click-click-click of nails on the floor and no matter how old your child is, she may be confused over things she can’t quite articulate. Because of television, video games, and movies, she may not, for instance, understand exactly what death is.

And that, says Kurz, offers parents a teaching moment through the pain of loss. It’s a chance to explain how your faith fits in with the death of a beloved pet – but there are also things you should beware, or even avoid.

As adults, we use euphemisms that children probably shouldn’t hear; for example, you may say that God wanted the pet to live with Him. Kurz cautions parents against this kind of talk; instead, be prepared for a child-friendly explanation for why God “let” your pet die. Honesty, he says, is exactly the best policy but know that this gets complicated, even for a grown-up.

Chances are that your child understands exactly where your deceased pet’s body lies, but it may be common for kids to ask about a pet’s whereabouts. Kurz says he believes that God loves animals, that animals go to Heaven, and that it’s okay to say that. Even so, your child may persist in asking if your pet might return someday, and the answer should be a gentle “no.” Again, simply tell the truth but don’t use platitudes. Kids can spot insincerity, and there’s absolutely no place for a “ Rainbow Bridge ” discussion because there is no such thing.

“When is Buddy Coming Home?” is quite unexpected.

Readers may be surprised to find that a good portion – probably a third of this book – is heavily theological. That supports author Gary Kurz’s words, but there are times when Bible verses and Biblical philosophy seem to take things off-topic, away from pets and pet-loss, in favor of faith. When that happens, this book feels too preachy. It can also be overgeneralized, perhaps, more than many people might accept; and harsh words on the Rainbow Bridge may aggrieve some readers even further, especially those who find comfort in it.

This can be, in other words, a difficult book to read if you’re disinclined to (or not ready to) reach for God’s words in the grieving process for yourself or your child.

Keep in mind that none of this makes this a bad book. It’s helpful and can offer succor, but its usefulness absolutely depends on personal parental belief systems.

Be aware that “When is Buddy Coming Home?” may be an answer to your prayers – or it may not completely be what your child needs.

Terri Schlichenmeyer