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Reviewed by Rosie Malezer for Readers' Favorite
Helium Heart is a heartbreaking tale of the bond between a young boy and his dog, as written by Dan Absalonson. Never before have I read a tale of such sadness, as the boy’s dog, Rusty, which has lived such a full and happy life, now faces the day where he will cross over to the Rainbow Bridge. As told through a child's eyes, he remembers the days when he would play with an ever-energetic Rusty, barely able to keep up with his furry friend’s energy. The child feels a world of fluctuating emotions, while sitting in the back seat of his parents’ car with Rusty lying by his side as they drive to the vet.
Both my eyes and heart were filled with tears, as the boy remembered what it once was like, sitting in the car with an overly-active, happy dog who always wanted to play, and became excited during car rides, before being jolted back into the present tense, knowing that his best friend was making his final trip to the vet. Regardless of the reassurances from his parents and the vet that the procedure was painless, and that it would be just like going to sleep, the weight of the fact that Rusty was about to die was not lost on the boy. He was aware of the finality of what was happening and, as painful as it was to be there, he refused to leave Rusty’s side as the dog's tail stopped moving, his eyes became lifeless, and his tongue hung from his open jaw.
As a former Veterinary Nurse - and as a reader - I have witnessed many animals being euthanized for so many different reasons. As a cat lover and pet owner, I have seen my own animals come and go. But never have I wept as much as when I saw it all through the eyes of a child, whose only way to deal with the pain and loss was to build one final memory of their beloved pet. Children understand so much more than we give them credit for. I cannot applaud Dan Absalonson enough for his incredible writing abilities, which so easily conveyed the very real pain of losing a pet which has seen you through so much of the highs and lows of daily life. I fully recommend this book to readers who grieve for the loss of their pets.