Hollars (Creative Writing/Univ. of Wisconsin, Eau Claire; Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa, 2013, etc.) examines what “humans stand to learn as a result of our close-knit lives with our pets.”
In this collection of essays, the author moves beyond interpretation of the human-animal bond to think about what happens when human beings take the time to “listen” to what animals have to “tell” them. The first five essays detail his experiences with pets—including his own beloved childhood dog—and their human caretakers. In “Sniffing for Hope,” Hollars chronicles his shadowing of a county humane officer, an experience that provided him insight into the nature of animal rescue. In another piece, Hollars tells the story of a family and their bulldog Bruiser, a canine who could not stand up on his front legs. Thanks to a specially designed wheeled orthotic, Bruiser became mobile and showed everyone, including the author, the importance of belief. In the last five essays, Hollars revisits each of the lessons learned in the first section with stories that show him testing his insights. In one story, he follows the last hours of a dog condemned, without evidence, to die for killing a cat. He finds himself drawing disturbing parallels with the human criminal justice system while struggling to maintain hope. In another essay, Hollars follows a second disabled dog, Gretchen, who had back legs that dragged “as if weighed down by an invisible force.” Unlike Bruiser, she could not be made more mobile through the orthotics made for her. Ultimately, the book is about the love we have for our pets. Like the dog for which he grieved more than 20 years after her passing, pets make human life “better” by teaching us humility and compassion.
An honest, heartwarming choice for animal lovers.