Bookseller Blue Collar’s review: The Rough Patch | Comments

“The best place to bury a good dog is in his master’s heart.”

–Ben Hur Lampman

The wind and cold slap my cheeks and make hard work harder. As my shovel bites into the frozen ground, I stop and wonder if this is the right tool for the job. I don’t know where my choice is, and I don’t know why it’s never been easier to bury a dog. He was a good dog, but I never buried a bad dog.

He loved the fields and the scorching heat of the wood stove. He loved digging up my roses and chasing the neighbor’s cat. It cost me dearly when a car hit it, but I never regretted a penny. He was my buddy, my friend. I never wanted to take that dreaded last trip to the vet, but I didn’t have the heart to see him suffer. I never wanted to bury another dog, and damn it might be the last.

The love and loyalty of a good dog is a special gift, and losing a cherished pet is never easy, but perhaps the hardest part is explaining the death to a child. It’s part of life, and it’s a fact, but it doesn’t make it any easier. It can, however, be done well, and a book that does this is The bad pass written and illustrated by Brian Lies.

In this hardcover children’s book, Farmer Evan and his dog do everything together. They play, read and eat. But above all, you’ll find them tending to Evan’s extraordinary garden, where flowers and other good things bloom and reach for the sky.

But friends don’t always stay forever, and when Evan loses his, he destroys the place that meant the most to them and creates something to suit his mood. Something ugly and twisted, sad and stubborn, ragged and rough – and he likes it that way.

Until one day a twisted pumpkin vine sneaks under the fence. Evan leaves the spiny tendrils alone. As the vine grows, Evan weeds out of his way and waters it, and the pumpkin grows to immense size.

He feels an old and familiar excitement. It’s county fair week. He loads the pumpkin and goes to town. He loves the county fair and meeting friends, although it’s not the same without his dog.

His pumpkin wins third prize and he has a choice of ten bucks or one of the puppies in a box. He demands the money, but when he hears a scratching noise inside the box, he thinks it can’t hurt to look…

It’s dark. I carefully place the stone to mark the grave, though I doubt I can forget. It’s under his favorite tree overlooking the field where he hunted the rabbits he rarely caught. It’s where he was taking a nap in the heat of a summer day and the tree that the neighbor’s cat still climbs. I will miss this dog, but there may still be room in my heart for another faithful friend…

Dogs, cats, hamsters, the best place to bury a pet is in your heart. As long as you have a special memory, it never really has to be a goodbye. A good place doesn’t stay empty for long. Something has to grow.

Kevin Coolidge is currently a full-time factory worker and part-time bookseller at From My Shelf Books & Gifts in Wellsboro, PA. When he is not working, he writes. He is also a children’s author and creator of The Totally Ninja Raccoons, a children’s series aimed at reluctant readers. Visit his author site at

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