Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Reviews: Dogs and the Women Who Love Them

For Christmas, my wonderful husband got me some dog-themed books for my reading pleasure, and I thought it would be a great idea to keep up the reading and write book reviews when I finish a new book.

First up, Dogs and the Women Who Love Them, by Allen and Linda Anderson.

The Andersons have written many books on both dogs and cats, most notably the Angel Animals series. This book is a compilation of stories written by various women and compiled by the Andersons, giving readers a window into the lives of 22 pairs of women and dogs, with Linda's story being the last of the book.

Because there are so many stories and they are all quite short (each is about 10 pages) this book is a very easy and quick read. It is so inspiring to read not just about one great dog, but of many dogs, each great in his/her own right. While some of the dogs are dedicated service dogs, such as Greta, the seeing-eye dog, Beau, the veteran service dog, or Major, the K-9 police dog, many of the other dogs are therapy dogs that volunteer alongside their owners, as I mentioned in a previous blog post. While all of the dogs (and the women) have led great lives, most of them are just "ordinary" dogs doing extraordinary things.

Each story has a fairly predictable cycle--they usually begin with a rescue or meeting the dog for the first time, transition into the dog's training, work, and bond with the woman, and finally, and sadly, most of the stories end with the death of the dog. One or two of the stories was written about a dog that was still living, but the vast majority of the stories are written after the dog's passing, as the owner looks back on his or her life. Some of the rescue stories in the book are amazing--these dogs grew up to do amazing things to help others, but many began life being very distrustful of humans due to neglect and abuse. 

One story that particularly stood out to me was that of K-9 Major, whose original owners feared him and kept him on a chain outside, never showing him any affection and hardly feeding him. When Marilyn, a police officer, came out to his farm seeking a replacement for her favorite K-9, she found Major not to be wildly aggressive, but just as fearful of people as they were of him. She eventually trained him to be her mostly loyal and most highly skilled K-9 of her career.

Another story that touched my heart was about a Scottish Terrier therapy dog named McDuff. McDuff had an especially unique talent for touching the souls of the outcasts of society--the severely ill, both mentally and physically, and the mentally challenged. McDuff could elicit a smile or a reaction from patients who had remained expressionless for months, or even years, and amazed all the workers at the homes and hospitals he visited.

Other dogs were especially talented with service tasks, one being featured on television, and some were even disabled themselves. There are heroic recovery stories of dogs in wheelchairs defying the odds and continuing to live a life full of fun and mobility when vets suggested they be put down.

This is a fabulously heartwarming book. While it is wonderful to be able to read so many different stories, I found that I wished they were longer. I could have read an entire book about any of these individual dogs. I also found that I did not cry in this book, whereas I cried at the death of a dog in a book that was much longer and solely dedicated to telling that dog's story.

While I may not have shed any tears, I would highly recommend Dogs and the Women Who Love Them to anyone who loves a dog, those who have worked alongside their dogs, or those who may choose to in the future!

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