The Last Walk

03 Nov
November 3, 2012

Sometimes a book comes along just at the right moment. ‘The Last Walk’ by Jessica Pierce definitely came at the right time for me. A few weeks ago, while reeling from the news that my beloved dog, Molly, has cancer and might not see this Christmas, my editor – who knew about the Molly situation and was going through something similar with his cat – sent me a copy of the book and asked me to review it for New Scientist’s Culture Lab blog.

At first I wasn’t convinced that a book about making ‘end of life’ decisions for pets was what I really needed, nor did I feel like I needed to rub salt into the wound by learning how a dog experiences ageing, pain and death. But I soon changed my mind. The book is partly a touching journal chronicling the last few year Pierce’s dog Ody’s life, and partly the results of her investigations (as a bioethicist) into whether and when it is right to put an animal out of its misery. What does misery look like to a dog anyway, she asks. And how are we supposed to know when enough is enough? Unfortunately, there are no clear answers. There is much controversy in scientific circles about how animals experience pain and clearly there is no way to ask them how they feel. This much I knew, but ‘The Last Walk’ reassured me that science can’t give me the answer any more than my own gut instinct, and that is quite comforting. While Molly is still wagging her tail and having a go at chasing squirrels I can put that decision off for a little bit longer.  And when it comes I will feel just a little bit more prepared. Maybe…

Read my review for Culture Lab here.

Me and my girl

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