Upbeat memoir of a dog lover who shares her insights about homeless dogs and animal shelters.
For years, Boston Globe columnist Sutherland (What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers, 2008, etc.) has been a volunteer at Boston’s Animal Rescue League, walking, training, and fostering dogs and matching them with prospective new owners. The titular dog was a fearful, undersocialized dog the author and her husband adopted and struggled mightily (and successfully) to turn into a lovable pet. Sutherland’s account of Penny Jane is just one thread in a narrative that includes anecdotes about dozens of dogs, observations about the practices of various animal shelters, and interviews with their operators and with animal behaviorists. Her understanding of shelter dogs—she writes that they are not so much homeless as humanless—shines through on every page. Readers will relish her account of her mastery of Brody, a “jumpy-mouthy” she fostered, and will learn how a puppy can accidentally be turned into an overexcitable, scary, even dangerous dog by life in a shelter. Sutherland is troubled by the transport of shelter dogs across the country, especially of unwanted Chihuahuas from the West to New England, and she has her reservations about spay and neuter programs, which may reduce numbers of strays but don’t help dogs currently in shelters. Further, she voices her concerns about people who abandon their pets and about prospective owners with unrealistic expectations about their adoptees. Nonetheless, this is still essentially an optimistic book, filled with stories about amazing volunteers at caring shelters and positively generous depictions of quirky, often damaged dogs. An appealing close-up photograph of a shelter dog opens each chapter, enticing readers to head for the nearest animal shelter and bring one home.
An inside look at the experiences of shelter dogs that is sure to appeal to dog and animal lovers.