All Dogs Go to Heaven

Animals at the end of life

Fiona Apple and Her Dying Dog

Singer cancels her concert tour to be with her dying companion

It's 6pm on Friday, and I'm writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet. I'm writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.

Here's the thing.

I have a dog, Janet, and she's been ill for about 2 years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She's almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then — an adult, officially — and she was my kid.

 She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face.


I know that she's not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That's why they are so much more present than people.

But I know she is coming close to the time where she will stop being a dog, and start instead to be part of everything. She'll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.

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I just can't leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I'm afraid she'll die and I won't have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.


These lines are from a four-page handwritten letter from the singer Fiona Apple, telling her fans that she is cancelling part of her concert tour in order to be with her dying dog. The whole letter is worth reading (with tissue handy, if you’ve recently lost or anticipate losing an animal companion). (If you are on Facebook, just go to Fiona Apple’s page. Otherwise you can read the letter here.)

Whatever you think of Fiona Apple and her music, she offers us here a brave and very important message about animals: we owe it to our companions to see them through to the very end, and that the final months, weeks, or days with a dying animal can be powerful, moving, and very life-affirming experience for them and for us. I applaud her decision.

As could be expected, Ms. Apple has attracted a certain amount of snarky criticism on web forums and on her Facebook page. “Only rich people can afford to skip out on their commitments and get away with it”; “It is so sad that her dog is her best friend”; “Get real. We’re talking about a dog here!” These remarks aren’t surprising. What is surprising, I think, is the tremendous outpouring of support for her choice.  Almost 80,000 people have “liked” her post announcing the cancellation. 

Bioethicist and writer Jessica Pierce, Ph.D., is the author of the forthcoming book The Last Walk: Reflecting On Our Pets at Life's End. more...

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