Using Music to Heal Pet Loss – Book & Album Giveaway!

We are giving away a copy of For the Sender: Four Letters, Twelve Songs, One Story, a book/album package by Alex Woodard. For the Sender is “a story of how [Woodard] came to accept and understand his life by re-framing the stories of others through songwriting,” accompanied by a CD of the songs that were inspired by letters he received.

Check out this excerpt from the book, and then leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy of this book!

The Letter
An Excerpt from For the Sender, by Alex Woodard

Me and the leaves are barely hanging on when I get the letter. Autumn is painting change everywhere, and I am turn≠ing over a season of my own, although the trees are doing a better job of letting go than I am. Leaves and dreams alike are either dying on the limb or already gone. And so is she.

One night on the road, after a particularly empty gig in Chicago, Iím far away from anything or anyone familiar and standing in the unforgiving bathroom lights of my hotel room when I see it for the first time. I lean over the sink, closer to the mirror to make sure Iím seeing what I think Iím seeing. My eyes are tired with small wrinkles at their seams, and it looks like a few gray hairs are coming in above my right temple. I am older. I stare at myself for a couple of minutes, and after a while itís as if Iím staring at someone else. I turn the lights off and make my way to bed, only to search the ceiling for answers to the questions reflected in the bathroom mirror.

How did I get here?
Do I give up?
Then what?

I remember my dad telling me, ďDonít be an old man in a young manís game,Ē but thatís not the answer Iím looking for. The ceiling holds nothing else for me, and I watch the dancing shadows cast by the blue light of the television until sometime around daylight I finally fall into a broken sleep. I dream of myself as a child on a cold, rocky beach with a gray sky threatening overhead. The child has just come out of the water to find that someone has stolen his clothes, so he stands there holding his privates and shivering. Just shivering.

Shivering, that is, until I fly back to Seattle the next morning and pull into my driveway later that night. Konaís gentle eyes shine like fireflies as my headlights trace across the window, and I can hear her deep bark signaling my arrival. I open the front door, and her tail is wagging so hard that it hits the coat-closet door and bleeds a little, leaving small red brush strokes across the entryway wall. Kona doesnít care, and neither do I. Iím home.

The next morning I paint over the streaks, but itís a futile effort since it happens whenever I leave her and come home; weíre both used to her being my constant companion and the unconditional keeper of my heart. I tell her what Iím scared of and share my little victories with her. She listens without judgment, always with love, and ends most of our conversa≠tions with a thump of her tail and a search for something to play with to help me refocus on the important things. Being present. Living. Playing.

Long after I get home from Chicago, the scenes from my shivering dream continue to flash through my head. Some≠thing has to change, and I wonder if maybe itís my surround≠ings, so I rent my house in Seattle to a mutual friend to cover my bills and move back to Southern California to be closer to the ocean and my family. I find a little house north of San Diego where I spend early mornings rediscovering my love for surfing and the rest of the day knocking on music-industry doors via phone and email.

Some nights I play shows at local coffee shops and bars, but most nights I run with Kona on the beach before making dinner for myself. I rinse my plate, turn off the kitchen light, and head to the couch, where I write and rewrite songs until Konaís soft steps on the hardwood floor follow me to bed. I lay with fading faith that maybe this next song will be ďthe oneĒ and someday this will all make sense.

I still carry someday with me everywhere, but now I hang on to it like a tree hangs on to its last leaf in the early winter wind, sensing that with one strong gust that leaf will fall. And soon enough it does.

Christmases come and go and come again, and I am dis≠connected, ground down by the chase, and sitting in the cold white lights of a veterinarianís office when I hear a faraway voice saying that Konaís bones are starting to disintegrate from cancer and that she probably has a week to ten days to live. I donít want to get in a car wreck on the way home, so I hold back, hold back, hold back until I carry her through the front door and lay her down in the living room. I donít stop crying until I fall asleep on the floor next to her.

Even then, I donít really stop.

When I wake up a few hours later, I lift her over the mess of cables and cheap recording gear littering the room and onto my bed. I sit next to her and stare at our reflection in the window until Iím looking through the glass and down into a well carved deep with memories, with only the edge of a dream peeking out from the brackish water that laps against the side. In the well water I see the past 14 years rushing by like a movie in fast-forward.

The scenes fly by fast, from a puppy picking up a knotted sock in my auntís garage, through those cold, wet nights play≠ing guitar while she slept at my feet, when I wasnít really alone because she was with me. I see almost every moment up to right now, when my eyes come back into focus on the window and settle on our picture framed in the glass.

I quietly shudder and Kona looks up at me and wags her tail once, which she often does at the close of our conversa≠tions. Itís how she says Itís okay, Dad. I put my hand on her shoulder. Itís not okay, Kona. Not at all.


Next: Saying goodbye, and receiving the first letter…


Photo: Kona on Alex’s lap. Photo Credit: Alex Woodard, Hay House

That week I invite anyone who ever knew Kona to a Christmas gathering at my house to say goodbye to her. My new neighbors and some old acquaintances show up, and her vet brings a soft blanket for Kona to lie on. The cancer hurts the worst where it started in her shoulder, so she lays on her less painful side at the top of the stairs where she can see everyone. She thwacks her tail on the hardwood floor as people with wet eyes line up single-file and bend down on their way out to rub her belly, some giving up the fight and crying for what seems like forever with their heads on her disintegrat≠ing shoulder.

The last guests make their way down the stairs, past the lit-up tree, and out into the night, where their worlds keep on turning toward Christmas Day, New Yearís Eve, and the rest of their lives. I lean against the counter and feel my world sputter a little and lurch forward and back until I pick Kona up, lay her in my bed, sit on the edge, and wait for it all to stop.

She slowly deteriorates but surprises everyone with her bright eyes and resilience, and it is midsummer of the fol≠lowing year before she dies in my living room with her head on my lap. A single tear emerges from the corner of her eye, trickles down her gray muzzle, and disappears into the fabric of my shorts. A friend who is there to help says that it might look like she is crying but itís just her body reacting to death, and I say to myself, Itís the same thing. I leave the three folded pages I have written to her earlier that day next to her body and cry my way through our old beach run until I canít see through the tears and sit on the sand with my head in my hands, watching everything I thought would happen by now trickle through my fingers into a pool at my feet.

So, me and the leaves are barely hanging on when I get the letter.

Dear Alex,

Every year around this time, I feel a little nostalgic and sad, because this is the season when I lost someone who meant a great deal to me. You see, I am one of the lucky ones, I have experienced the amazing connection of love with a soul mate. A real kindred spirit. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago, but I still consider myself lucky, not only because I have felt true love, but I have lost it as well and that too can be consid≠ered a gift; for I now know even more than before just how pre≠cious life and love are. Of course, I am not always able to smile through the day, sometimes I still miss him, painfully so. Like in autumn, not only the time of year when he was taken from me, but also the time we loved best. So, every year around this time, when the memories fill me, I write him a letter. I thought Iíd share it with you, not so youíd write a song for he and I, but because I think your songs are gifts. Pieces of yourself used to help other people with their stories. So, here is a piece of myself. It is all I have to share in return for the wonderful thing you are doing with your music and your talent.

Ė† Emily

I donít know Emily or how she has heard any of my songs, but folded behind her letter to me is the one she has written to her partner earlier that autumn. I open the parchment-thin pages, and the auburn-colored leaves included in the envelope fall out onto the table along with a photograph of a man with his arms outstretched, who I assume is Emilyís soul mate. And the air catches in my throat as I begin to read.

I can feel my heart beat faster as I crawl inside Emilyís letters and feel her loss and love and gratitude, different from my own but the same at its source. As I read I realize that Iím allowed into her words because she received me somehow: she heard a song of mine somewhere, connected to it, and let me in. Someone was listening.

Read Emilyís letter to her soulmate and the song it inspired at The Autumn: Emily’s Letter.


Singer-songwriter and Hay House author Alex Woodard has toured nationally behind five critically-acclaimed albums, earning prestigious industry nods and sharing the stage with some of today’s most popular acts. His book and album package, For The Sender, features his story of release and redemption woven through songs written about real-life letters. When he’s not surfing in his beach town north of San Diego, Alex lives with a big dog and bigger horse in the mountains of Idaho.


Excerpted with permission from For the Sender: Four Letters, Twelve Songs, One Story, by Alex Woodard (Hay House, Sept. 2012), a unique book, album, and concert event. Proceeds generated by the songs from each letter go to a cause of the senderís choice. Share your story and read othersí at

WIN THE BOOK! Enter a comment below and you will automatically be entered to win a copy of For the Sender: Four Letters, Twelve Songs, One Story, by Alex Woodard. Winner will be announced on September 18 (winner will be notified via Care2 profile). Good luck!


Hollis G.

Winner: Please email Molly at to claim your new book. Thanks to everyone who entered!



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Cheryl Mallon-Bond

I am reading this article, a year too late; or maybe, at exactly the right time. I sobbed uncontrollably; the story, ripping at my heart, to the core. It brought up the hard losses of many beloved pets & rescues. Each sweet soul, took a piece of my hear along with them when they crossed over "the rainbows bridge". I thought I had somehow moved beyond my grieving of them; as much time had passed; but obviously that is not the case. The wounds seemed so fresh, as if it were just yesterday. Each word in this article, felt so real, so raw, so emotional, that it captivated me and held me; as if suspended in time. It felt so painful, yet at the same time so cathartic, and a release that maybe I didn't even know I needed at the moment. I don't even know, as I am writing this; if this response will reach the author of this article; (Alex Woodard). I hope it will, because your writings have touched my soul in a very real & profound way, and I thank you for that!. There are no coincidences, so this must have been meant for me to read, right now, today. It was a beautiful memorial to your loving fur-baby. It shows the true & loving heart you have, & your sweet & special bond you had with your sweet Kona. Thank you for writing this article for Care2, & thank you, for touching my heart. Blessings, Cheryl

Angelinajullie Angelinaju
Past Member 4 years ago

You are doing the very nice job guys by your efforts people will get much knowledge on the latest things well.
read more

Nancy C.
Nancy C5 years ago

Love is the truth abiding the loss of our amazing family members.

Andrea C.
Andrea Cwynar5 years ago

I can't help shed a tear as I'm learning this story as well. My dog Milo has been battling cancer for 6 months now. I told him if he made it to 14 in December that I would make him a steak cake. its hard to believe how much time has passed. And I haven't even reached the hard part yet. Your story is beautiful, thank you. Andrea

Joy Mcronald
Joy McRonald5 years ago

Thank you for this....

Isabel d.
Isabel d5 years ago

Wonderful true story made my heart weep...
I connected right away with Alex. My sweet Mike, the youngest of the pack, passed away last May because of cancer. So did my best friend in July, dear Buddy Lee... I am inspired now to write about them. I have to be strong for my other doggies... everyday is a gift of love.
Thank you so much for the story... I feel really inspired!!!
If I won the book, I would like to give it to my friend Genoveva who recently lost her beloved dog Lucky. I´m sure it would help her deal with such a big loss. I´m sure many of you know her, she is such an animal advocate!

Carrie Anne Brown

great article, thanks for sharing

Linda Danielson
Linda Danielson5 years ago

Bless you all

Rebecca Bickerstaff

We have lost 3 pets in less than 6 months -- two of them within the past month. Whether they are youngsters or seniors -- they are still a part of our family.

Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan5 years ago

Thank you. Loosing a pet is the same as loosing any other family member.