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Unsaid – A Book Review

April 6, 2015 5 comments

Reading a book on dogs.

I’m a little behind the curve when it comes to my book reading list. I didn’t read Gone Girl when everyone else did (I watched the movie instead). I missed the whole Divergent series when it originally came out. And, all the dog books everyone else has been raving about for months have been sitting on my night stand for months.

However, I did get around to reading one book that was making the rounds last year (at least I think it was last year). The book is “Unsaid,” written by Neil Abramson, and it has been occupying my mind for a while now.

Bare bones, the book is about a dead woman, Helena, and her relationship with those she loves. It’s also a story about coping with life after you lose the love of your life, friendship, and fighting for those who don’t have a voice in our legal system. Woven through the story (and various storylines), there are dogs, cats, horses, a pig, a chimp named Cindy, and a boy named Clifford.

At the beginning of the book we learn that Helena, a veterinarian, has died from cancer. She lingers on in the lives of her husband and beloved animals, unable to move on and unable to help them in their grief. She feels for her animals, for whom she was the prime caregiver, and her husband who is trying to care for them while still dealing with his debilitating grief at losing her.

Reading her words and her feelings in this early part of the book was difficult. I imagined myself in her position and having to watch my own animals struggling to deal losing me. It was painful. I couldn’t help but wonder how they would cope with the loss and with being split up. How scary would it be for them to suddenly be living in a new home or in a rescue? How confused would they be? Would they thrive? Would they struggle? Yeah. Not pleasant thoughts to be thinking.

But soon, the book has you heading in different directions and off on a journey that explores the relationship between her husband, a veterinarian friend, a woman and her son and the pets she leaves behind. Each person is someone you come to care about. Each is struggling with loss and trust and change. Even Helena’s animals become personalities that you root for or worry about.

When Helena’s husband (a lawyer), takes on a case involving a chimpanzee, named Cindy, and the woman who has raised and studied her, the story takes turn. At the center of the court battle is the argument that Cindy, a chimp who communicates using sign language and has been shown to have the capacity to think like a child, should be saved from experimental testing because she is a sentient being. The battle takes many twists and turns but in the end leaves one thinking about the value of an animal life and the value each animal brings to our own lives.

As Helena says near the end of the book:

“I’ve been so foolish, running through the forest searching for some profound and eclipsing life meaning when it is the trees themselves that were bejeweled the whole time: Skippy, Brutus, Arthur, Alice, Chip, Bernie, Smokey, Prince, Collette, Charlie, Cindy, hundreds of cats, dogs and other creatures whom I treated, made better, eased into death, or simply had the privilege to know. Each was worthy in his or her own right for being valued, each was instrumental in connecting us and then moving us onward in our own lives, and each gave more than he or she got in return.”

This is a book worth reading. It leaves you thinking and it makes you appreciate the time you have with the animals in your life. I think I only had two disappointments in reading this book: 1) that I never got to experience Helena being reunited with any of her animals, and 2) that it ended way before I was ready for it to do so.

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My Summer Book Pick – A Stolen Dog (A True Story)

June 17, 2013 9 comments

51NtI68FMELShortly after Cupcake returned home from her 12 day hiatus a friend suggested that maybe I should write a book about our experience. I took it as a very kind suggestion, but shrugged it off. I didn’t think I could ever encompass our experience in mere words. To some degree, I still don’t. It truly was one of the most emotionally charged, inspiring, scary, disturbing and frustrating experience of my life. You just can’t know what a dog owner goes through when they lose their dog unless you have been through it yourself.

That’s why I was surprised when Tricia O’Malley contacted me to offer me the chance to read and review her book The Stolen Dog. Why? Because it was a true story. HER true story about how her Boston Terrier, Briggs, was stolen and how she got him back.

How was she able to write about something that must have been so difficult to go through?

I sat down to read it on Sunday afternoon and didn’t put it down until I was finished. It reads like a suspense novel. When Briggs first goes missing, Tricia and her husband are at a loss of what to do. They run through the streets calling Brigg’s name – thinking maybe he just got out of their yard somehow. But when a neighbor informs them that a man took their dog right off their deck, they are forced to face the new reality – their dog was stolen and he could be anywhere AND he could be in serious danger.

Tricia and her husband comb their city, Milwaukee, looking for Briggs. At every turn in their story, you wonder if the next person is the dognapper or if they will be harmed as they navigate through some of the darkest and most dangerous neighborhoods of Milwaukee. It’s intense and scary. It also captures every emotion, every experience, every frustration and every bit of hope I felt when Cupcake was missing.

I laughed. I cried. I expressed outrage on her behalf. But mostly, I nodded my head as she shared stories about all of the kind people who entered her life to help her find Briggs. Complete strangers. People just motivated to help because they too, loved dogs. Sometimes from the most unexpected corners too.

I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out if Briggs was found. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it was well worth waiting for.

If you are looking for a good summer read while on the beach this summer, I highly recommend Tricia’s book. Trust me. You won’t be able to put it down either. Plus, she shares a lot of great info along the way on how they got Briggs back. There’s also a little surprise that happens along the way. Let’s just say that if he had a long tail he would be wagging it wildly. 🙂

I’m going to be reading it again. Slowly. It is worthy of a second go-around.

I’ll leave you with Tricia’s own words from the last page of her book…

“What I do know is that from now on, I’ll pay more attention to people who ask for help. Why? Because I know what it’s like to feel helpless. Because ultimately, that is what saved Briggs, a community of people who decided to care about a small dog, stolen from a porch, on a sunny day in May.”

I can completely relate.

Book Review: As Bright as the Sun

March 20, 2013 13 comments

As Bright as the SunJust before Christmas, a friend recommended a book to me. Being a sucker for a good book, I immediately checked it out on Amazon. It didn’t take much for me to know that I needed to add it to my Christmas list. I am so glad I did.

The book is called “As Bright as the Sun” by Cynthia Schlichting, and is about a strong but vulnerable victim of the dog fighting world, Bella.

I can hardly explain some of the emotions I felt as Cynthia wove the tale of Bella’s life, as told from her perspective. Some of the details are true and some of them are based on Cynthia’s imaginings of what happened to Bella prior to coming to live with them. It works. I found myself smiling at times and crying at others as I followed Bella on her treacherous journey. If Cynthia wanted to place the reader in Bella’s shoes, then she did a good job.

The book starts out with Bella as a puppy and follows her as she is kidnapped from her loving family and forced into the dark, cruel and sick world of dog fighting. For years, Bella is used and abused by her captors. She is bred over and over again for her puppies – all forced into the dog fighting ring, and she is also forced to fight. It was during her last fight (more of an assassination than a fight) that Bella faces her worst moment. She is tossed into a ring with a fighting dog with her legs tied together, unable to defend herself. Her captors intended for her to die there. Instead, she survived. So they tossed her into a roadside ditch – pregnant, bleeding, skin and ears ripped up, she lay there in that ditch all but giving up on life until a good samaritan comes along and saves her. A guardian angel was looking over Bella that day and the days to come.

By all odds, Bella ends up at the now infamous Chesterfield County Animal Shelter, where employees shot and killed 22 of their dogs and buried them in a landfill. Thank goodness she was pulled by a rescue before she could suffer that fate. The rescue cares for Bella’s wounded body and soul and shares her story on Facebook, where it is passed on by many.

It is there that Cynthia and her husband, Brian, read Bella’s story and decide they are the ones to give her a new home. What follows is their, and Bella’s, journey to bring her home (to Minnesota) and to give her a chance at a new life. She meets her new doggie siblings, Foster and Jane, and learns what being a dog really is when you live in a home where people love you.

It’s a powerful story and one worth reading

If I had but one wish it would have been that Cynthia had shared more about Bella’s life after she was rescued. For those of us with dogs who have suffered a horrible beginning in life, we want to know how she, and her husband, Brian, helped Bella to assimilate into her new world. But, I think I know why Cynthia chose to focus more of her time and attention on Bella’s story. It’s because Bella’s story is not just a story about Bella, it’s a story about every fighting dog still living in that world. It’s the story of those who try to help these dogs and what really happens in that cruel sadistic world that some consider a sport. If you didn’t know much about dog fighting before, you will after reading Bella’s story. You can even follow the work Cynthia continues to do to bring attention to this issue on her Facebook page.

Reading Bella’s story opened my eyes even more to the horrible world Bella lived in for so many years. She is a symbol for those who have come before her, and all those who will, no doubt, come after her. If you get a chance, I would encourage you to read her story. It’s one worth reading.

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