When a New England woman adopts a dog left homeless after Hurricane Katrina, they both start over in this debut novel based on real events.
In September 2005, Elizabeth, despite being a “surly, middle-aged, reticent New Englander with a broken heart,” is settling well into her new home in a small town on the seacoast where Maine and New Hampshire meet. She has her work, running a small art-supply shop, and everything she needs—except for a dog. She wants one that’s faithful, affectionate, athletic, and trainable, and is a Katrina refugee that couldn’t be reunited with its owner. A local rescue operation has a good match, Jersey, a small, black schipperke mix; bred to chase rats, she’s full of energy and can easily keep up with Elizabeth’s daily runs. Elizabeth renames the dog Cray-Kur, with many nicknames to follow, including Crazy Bones. In asides, represented by a different font, Cray-Kur adds her perspective, such as “Why do you people need so many things? All you really need is food, clean water, and a comfortable bed.” Through various experiences—a medical emergency; the discovery of the canine’s original owner; Elizabeth’s father’s death; her marriage to Ernie; moves to Virginia and Florida—dog and caretaker agree: Both are glad to have rescued each other. In her book, Wissink-Tressler focuses on the relationship between pet and owner. Cray-Kur tends to take over the narrative when it gets too personal, so readers see Elizabeth’s courtship with Ernie and the death of her father mainly through the dog’s eyes. This storytelling technique can limit the depth of exploration into Elizabeth’s life, but it can work well as a metaphor for how animals help people to mediate big emotions. Though the novel can become overly sentimental, the emotions often ring true. Appreciation for animal-loving volunteers and the letters between Elizabeth and the canine’s original owner are some of the story’s strongest, most genuinely moving features. The tale is illustrated with family photographs of the author’s dog, the original Crazy Bones, and Scooty, Ernie’s miniature schnauzer.
Canine lovers should appreciate this affectionate account of the difference a beloved pet makes in an owner’s life.