If I were offered an acting role where I needed to cry, I would have absolutely no problem with that. All I would have to do is think about one of the many poor dead animals I have either read about or seen in a movie. It can be fiction or nonfiction. It doesn’t matter.
It began for me at a very young age with “Charlotte’s Web” and moved quickly on to “Bambi” and “Old Yeller.” Most recently, I’ve been reduced to a blithering idiot by “Marley and Me” by John Grogan, “Merle’s Open Door” by Ted Kerasote and the movie “Hatchi.” In “Hatchi,” the dog doesn’t even have to actually die before I start sobbing uncontrollably. He just has to show up at the train station. (I’ll say no more, lest I spoil a much-needed weepfest.)
The mind is a funny thing: When people die in a book or in a movie, my brain filter works just fine. I know it isn’t real. But when an animal dies, I’m all in. My filter fails me, and I grieve uncontrollably, as if the poor creature were expiring in my arms and it’s somehow all my fault. I wonder why that is.
I have experienced unconditional love only a few times in my life: my mother, of course. I was indeed blessed with the finest of mothers. All other times, it was with animals.
Surprisingly, it was cats and not dogs. (I got lucky on that front. I realize that is not the norm.)
Truth be told, I am a little afraid to be entrusted with a dog. If the dog died before me, I might not be able to bear it. With a cat, the intense connection is carefully doled out in smaller portions, which makes it marginally more bearable when they die – but only marginally. I realize that the general public, the publishing world and Hollywood do not concur with this, because I cannot easily recollect any books or movies about dying cats. With nine lives, I guess it would take too long to cover the subject.
As you think about which books to take on your summer vacation, do not take an animal book unless you are absolutely sure that the animal does not die at the end. Good luck finding a book like that. Most of the time, they die and your vacation is ruined. I’m just saying … even a spider can break your heart.
Sharon Lennox-Infante, contributing editor for Book Buzz, is a Los Altos resident.