Former journalist Luttrell had yet to find a replacement for a much-loved dog when a chance encounter with a service dog–in-training in a local supermarket changed her life.
The author describes how she mourned the loss of her dog and anxiously anticipated empty-nest syndrome as her two children approached college age. The young man leading the dog was a weekend volunteer with the National Education for Assistance Dog Services, an organization that places puppies in prisons. Specially selected inmates raise the dogs and train them for a wide range of tasks: turning on lights, pushing elevator buttons, alerting the hearing impaired to alarms, acting as a companion to autistic children and more. During the week, the dogs share a cell with their handlers, but on weekends, they are housed with volunteers who introduce them to more challenging, chaotic environments such as shopping malls and city streets. Luttrell relates her decision to embark on the program with support from her husband and children. Daisy was introduced into the family, and, over the next 16 months, morphed from an adorable Lab puppy who feared loud noises to a trained companion for an autistic young man. At first half hoping that the lovable puppy would fail to make the grade and remain with her, Luttrell gradually became committed to her success. The author explains that learning to anticipate and respond to Daisy's signals helped her become “a better, more patient mother,” and her desire to see Daisy succeed helped her deal with her separation anxiety. Each weekend, the author would pick up and then return Daisy to the prison, and she and her inmate training partner would share experiences. Her growing realization of the importance of the program in the prisoner’s life provides another thread to the narrative.
A deceptively simple but powerful account of family bonds, friendship and the special relationship we share with dogs.