Jessica Pierce is very much my kind of dog person. The kind who will happily scatter an odd-looking assortment of rugs around the house to stop her elderly dog from slipping on the wooden floor, and who will – slightly less happily – get up several times each night for a year to let him in and out of the garden. All the while worrying about when and how she will know it’s time to let him go.
There is no shortage of books chronicling the lives of much-loved dogs, but The Last Walk is different in that, as well as being a memoir of the final year of Pierce’s dog Ody, it asks difficult questions about when, if ever, it is right to “put an animal out of its misery”. A bioethicist, Pierce asks what misery truly looks like to an animal. How do they experience pain and suffering? What, if anything, do they know about death? And what constitutes a good death for an animal?