Twin sisters write book to help children deal with loss of pets

Published on December 10, 2015

Twin sisters Debbie Simms, left, and Donna Simms, recently held the official launch for their book, "Amber's Wings - Pets in the Clouds". The story is for "children and the young at heart" and is a true story about their dog, named Amber, and gives comfort at the loss of a pet.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Debbie Simms carried Amber out of the Atlantic Veterinary College animal care facility and into the small open pen out under the dawn sky in the quietness of the morning.

Her twin sister, Donna, wasn't too far behind, as she watched Debbie sit on the grass with Amber's head on her lap.

"Hey, when you leave, send me a sign that you're OK," Donna Simms heard Debbie say.

Amber died there underneath the blue summer sky.

And while it has been five years since that day, Debbie and Donna have kept the memory of their their beloved family dog, Amber, alive and honoured her by incorporating her into a children's book aimed at helping children deal with the death of their pet.

"We wanted to help kids deal with a loss of a pet, and we found there were not a lot of books out there helping kids with death," said Debbie.

"We thought the book could be useful at veterinary clinics and schools, too, because often times kids don't really have a lot to go on when something tragic may happen with their pets."

"Amber's Wings - Pets in the Clouds" is based on the life and death of Amber, showing Amber as a puppy and her aging process until death.

The book is also dedicated to the memory of Sheila Osher, Debbie and Donna's beloved aunt.

"She passed away of pneumonia last May and she was the sweetest and kindest person you would ever meet," said Debbie.

"She had five dogs and took them to the beach all the time and she really cared about animals and family, so Christmas was her favourite holiday."

The book features real photos Debbie and Donna have taken, which they say also inspired the idea of the children's book.

"A few days after Amber died, we were out looking at the clouds and we saw Amber's face as clear as day looking down on us, and we knew it was a sign from her that she was all right," said Donna.

"I grabbed my camera and we started looking for more things we could see in the clouds."

Soon Debbie and Donna saw a horse, dogs and angel's wings up in the sky and decided it would be a great idea for a book that would share Amber with the world.

The idea of "Amber's Wings - Pets in the Clouds" was also incorporated into a scholarship with the same named sponsored by the Atlantic Veterinary School's 2013 graduating class.

"We got so close with those students because Amber had so many health issues at the time and we still keep in contact with them to this day," said Donna.

"We really have to thank them, Dr. Paul Donovan, Dr. Andrea Studzinski and the rest of the doctors that helped us with Amber over the past few years," said Debbie.

"Amber was such a fighter and was so lovable, we really were blessed to have her in our lives."