Learning a lesson under The Sadie Tree

The loss of a family pet can be a traumatic and difficult time for any family. A local woman has written a children’s book she hopes will help guide children and their families through the pain.
The Sadie Tree, by St. Jacobs’s Susan Weber, documents the life and death of Sadie, her father’s Australian Shepherd, and the difficulty of her four-year-old daughter Emily’s attempts to come to grips with the loss of the family farm dog.
“Emily was so upset, I thought it was a good way for her, and all of us, to remember Sadie,” said Susan of why she decided to write the book.
“There is a very special bond between a farmer and his dog, and the role that it plays in the lives of farm families.”

WHERE IT ALL STARTED John, Susan and Emily Weber, standing beneath The Sadie Tree on John’s farm near Conestogo, hope their book will help young and old alike cope with loss.

The book explains Sadie’s death about 16 years ago in January while sleeping in her doghouse, the family’s decision to bury her along with her doghouse in the yard of their farm just west of Conestogo and to plant a maple tree over the grave the following fall – known as the Sadie Tree.
The book was written shortly after Sadie’s death, but was lost for nearly a decade in the family’s basement before Susan’s father, John, discovered it again.
He has spent that time since fine-tuning the story and hiring different artists to help visualize the story with the help of some family portraits of the dog.
He ultimately chose illustrator Brooke Rothshank from Pittsburgh, and presented the finished story to his daughter and granddaughter as a surprise last winter. He has also had help from Graf-Martin Communications Inc. in Elmira to market the book.
“It took a lot of time, and you’re enthused for a while but then you hit a brick wall and get discouraged,” said John of trying to get the book into print, “but then things started to flow again.”
Susan hopes that the book can become a tool to help children and adults cope with a death in their life – be it a pet, or a human – and is trying to get the book into as many local stores as possible.
Brien Thurston of Pet Loss Canada has endorsed the book, which is available at Farmers Plus in Elmira and Creature Comfort Pet Emporium in St. Jacobs, but Susan says she has also experienced some difficulty along the way, saying that one store told her they didn’t want to sell a sad children’s book.
“It’s always been ‘it’s just a dog, get over it’ but it seems that more people are giving more credibility and importance to the feelings that people have for their pets, and how it is a real loss that we have to deal with,” she said.
Emily, now 20 and entering her third year at the University of Guelph, said that she still has certain memories of Sadie, such as the dog walking her down the laneway to the bus then being there to walk back with her at the end of the school day.
Even though Sadie was only about five years old when she died, John said the dog had a major impact on his life.
“The relationship between a farmer and his dog is different than it is in town, because they become a part of the whole fabric of what the farm is all about,” he said.
For more information on The Sadie Tree, visit www.sadietree.com.

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