Animal Writes
3 May 2001 Issue
The Making of Hospice Hounds

by [email protected] 

When I became a journalist for Animal Writes, I never dreamed it would be the beginning of the end of the rainbow for me. My single most cherished goal in life was always, always to be become a published author. My mother would read to me every night and through these stories I was taken to faraway places with fairy-tale princesses and primates who spoke English and quaint little French convents where little girls learned to be great women. "How wonderful to have that power," I marveled, "to be the
catalyst for people's fantasy!" Later, I learned the unequivocal truth behind the words "The pen is mightier than the sword." My attentions turned to learning about animals and their environment, and it was through the written words of women like Rachel Carson, Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall and Ingrid
Newkirk that my innocence in a kind and caring world turned to concern and outrage mobilizing me to become a nonfiction writer so that I, too, could help spread the message of our responsibility and our covenant with animals. Writers of fiction take us outside our world and our work to a place of delight, mystery and drama. Those of us who write nonfiction simply hold a mirror to the world and invite those around us to take a peek.

Through a series of unusual coincidences and amazing twists, it was an article I wrote for Animal Writes, entitled "Querencia," that led to the publishing of Hospice Hounds. The article provoked a spirited debate between myself and Professor Marc Bekoff, author of "Strolling with our Kin" and "The Smile of a Dolphin", who e-mailed me to share his feelings about the article. We became fast cyber-pals and later met face to face in a small cafe in Coral Springs, Florida. The rest, as they say, is history. Marc wrote the Foreword for Hospice Hounds and for that I am greatly in his debt.

I would like to share with Animal Writes readers the Afterword that appears at the end of Hospice Hounds. I feel that Animal Writes readers will be especially understanding of the point I am trying to make in the writing of the Afterword. It is my hope that the book Hospice Hounds will be read and enjoyed by many, but I most sincerely pray that Animal Writes readers will read it with the spirit that it was written by one of their own, and that it was they, the readers, who accepted my writings in Animal
Writes these past two years and shared with me their comments, both good and bad, that gave me the courage and strength to believe I could actually write a book. So to the readers of Animal Writes, and to the publisher EnglandGal and the editor JJswans, and to all the wonderful staff of Animal Rights Online, I am eternally grateful for the opportunities you have granted me, the constructive criticism and the endless nights working together through difficult research. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Thank you.

The following is an excerpt from the book Hospice Hounds, Animals and Healing at the Borders of Death, by Michelle A. Rivera, published by Lantern Books (

I did not set out to make this a book that served any specific cause. However, there was one theme that recurred over and over again, and to ignore it or dismiss it as coincidence when there is progress to be made would be a disservice to wonderful dogs and cats like Katy and Woody and Kelly and Sable and all the others mentioned in this book.

My research turned up a tragic fact. The number one reason animals are given up at shelters is because the family is moving to a place where "no pets are allowed." For this reason, thousands of animals are killed in our nations shelters every year.

We won't stand by and allow bias against people of color, or religion or age or gender or cultural differences, yet we allow bias against our best friends. Friends who love us unconditionally and who visit the dying, cheer up little children and so much more. They deserve to be protected against unfairness just like anyone does. But it is the guardians who must make it so.

Dogs need to be taken to school and taught good behavior just like children do. Dogs love to do homework! They love to please, they want to be an important part of our world. We must make them good citizens and teach them well. Only then, will they be welcome in the places we live and we won't have to "put them away" or surrender them to shelters or abandon them.

The faces of the people in the rooms that we visited told the story. They love dogs. Most dog owners freely admit to buying presents for their dogs at Christmas and their birthdays, yet we stand mute when told they cannot live with us.

Americans love and rejoice in their companion animals. There are so many ways to celebrate the wonderful relationships we enjoy with our dogs and cats. We must celebrate them all and then write about them! Write their stories. When your mother, father, or grandparents are dying, write their favorite animal stories. They have so many stories to tell. If not animal stories, then write their favorite recipes. Write their favorite songs. Give them a journal and write what they tell you. Use it as therapy for both of you. Write the stories for all time for future generations. And know that when someone is dying, their companion animals feel the pain and isolation too. Talk to them, take them for car rides and long walks. Bring them to the grooming parlor, the vet, the trainer. Then relate in speech and writings
the stories about how their dog reacted to new people and places and things. Do this so that your loved one can die knowing that someone truly does understand their beloved dog or cat almost as much as they do. And loves them, and will always love them, when they no longer can.

Michelle A. Rivera
Jupiter, Florida
December 14, 2000

Hospice Hounds is available online at buying info: Hospice Hounds : Animals and the Care of the Dying
or through the publisher at Hospice Hounds by Michelle Rivera

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