top of page
  • Writer's pictureLeighAnnGerk

Why I Wrote “Dear Brave Friend”

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Writing and publishing a book like Dear Brave Friend has always been a dream of mine. In fact, it was the very first thing I wrote on my bucket list many years ago. I vividly remember the deep, often unbearable loss I felt during my childhood after losing one of my precious fur babies. I am forever grateful that my mother recognized my broken heart and encouraged me to stay home from school to honor and acknowledge the grief I felt for the animals I loved and lost. I was the little girl who walked barefoot down a dirt path, surrounded by cornfields on each side, looking to find the perfect place to bury my beloved pet and friend. I always searched for a peaceful place next to an array of trees bordering the lake on our farm. With the help of my brothers, I would wrap my friend in a blanket and lay them down to rest for the last time. I was the little girl who hand-picked wildflowers every day and placed them upon their final resting spot(s). I sat there for hours; talking to my friend(s) while the tears just kept falling and falling.

I grew up on a farm that, back in the day, was considered to be out in the “sticks.” Living outside of town was not a convenient place for my friends to pop over and play, nor was it easy for my mom to take me into town to see my friends. It was to my good fortune that because of all the remarkable animals living on the farm, I never lacked someone to play with or talk to. The animals became my best friends. I often sang to the cattle, played hide-n-seek with the dogs, and I could often be found in the boxcar that housed 32 cats, either feeding orphaned kittens with an eye dropper or reading to my large cat family. I will never forget how proud I was when a school bus pulled into our yard early one morning with all of my classmates inside. I could not wait to introduce everyone to my animal friends. We were having a field trip at the place I called home!

I learned firsthand from baby calves, bunnies, horses, cats, and dogs the beauty and value of true friendships. The animals taught me to understand and appreciate trust, loyalty, laughter, adventure, and kindness. Along with these amazing gifts, I was also witness to the inevitable heartache that came along with loving them. Writing Dear Brave Friend took me back to these childhood memories, to the joy and to the sadness, and reminded me of the special connection I had with these amazing animals. At the end of the book, I added a special section to write down feelings and thoughts, draw pictures or save treasured photos. I wanted to create a timeless book that helped others reflect and remember the extraordinary bond they shared with their pet.

Dear Brave Friend allowed me to put the many feelings I experienced as this little girl into words and examples that a child could relate to and comprehend; a place to find comfort when their heart is breaking. I wanted to create a book for parents that will help them maneuver through the difficult and often fragile subject of pet loss, which is often a child’s first significant loss. I wanted families to read Dear Brave Friend together and discover the meaningful conversations that will present themselves and give them the golden opportunity to have important and necessary talks with their children. When it comes to the loss of a treasured pet, age is not a factor in the amount of sorrow felt. Feelings of loneliness, sadness, and confusion are felt by both young and old. Dear Brave Friend was written with children in mind, but, like kids, grownups often need to learn, or be reminded of, healthy ways to process our loss and grief.

Dear Brave Friend was dedicated to my delightful, silly dog, Teddy. Teddy, along with all my childhood pets, changed my life forever. It is because of them I wrote Dear Brave Friend. It is because of them I can reach out to grieving pet families and offer hope, understanding and strength. It is because of them I have found where my passion lies and where my heart continues to lead me.

388 views1 comment

1 Comment

Deanna McLain
Deanna McLain
Apr 18, 2021

Thank you for that beautiful reflection, as you took the reader back to your childhood it gave me vivid and pleasant views in my mind of what your world was like. I too was the kid that brought home stray animals and nursed them back to health. Leigh Ann you are a kind and gentle soul. Deanna

bottom of page