Debut author Johnson enters the literary scene with a beautifully penned eulogy to the Labrador retriever who taught her to appreciate life in the moment while helping open her fractured heart to the joys of love.
By the time Johnson was ready to bring a puppy into her life, she had shouldered a lion’s share of emotional baggage: she lost her mother to cancer at an early age, was abandoned by the father of her unplanned baby (given up for adoption), and had freed herself from an unhappy marriage. Along the way, she became a jet pilot. She had hung up her wings and taken a well-paying job (as an unspecified federal agent) and was about to purchase a new house. “It was time for a black lab.” Even before Barkley was old enough to leave the litter, he picked Johnson out to be his mother. As the other puppies ran around frolicking over new people and smells, Barkley sat quietly and studied her. Then he made his decision, coming over to check out her shoelaces, never leaving her side. This memoir is the story of the 10 years Johnson and Barkley shared. But it is much more. Johnson’s writing borders on the lyrical, her prose meandering gently to and fro through a lifetime of recollections and musings, always coming back to rest in the safe harbor of the love, trust, and protectiveness she and Barkley had for one another. She’s a fan of lengthy, free-flowing sentences, and some readers may occasionally wait a bit impatiently for her to put aside the philosophizing and return to Barkley. He was always there—the inspiration for her thoughts, the validation that life is worth living. And there are plenty of Barkley tales to satisfy. Right up front, readers will know they need a box of tissues: the book opens just after Barkley has died. So buck up for this tender work full of humor and charming misbehavior.
An unusually full-bodied love story that will wrap itself around the heart of anyone who has been fortunate enough to experience life with a dog.