I’ve heard that actors, when required to cry during a scene, often call upon the memory of a pet’s death to open the waterworks. Not only is the pain of this loss acute and deep, it retains an immediacy and power for many of us. Like in the Mr. Bo Jangles song (“The dog up and died, he up and died . . . after 20 years he still grieved”), the emotions aroused by losing a beloved pet have a curious tenacity.

Without fail, every time I hear that song, I do cry. The reason is twofold: I am feeling the loss of my own pets anew, but I am also identifying with Bo Jangles, whose heart, I imagine is broken. The love we feel for pets is pure and uncomplicated, and it directly touches our universal longing for unconditional love.

We begin life with the innate need to merge with our caretakers. The first three months of life, sometimes…

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