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A DOG WALKS INTO A NURSING HOME by Sue Halpern

A DOG WALKS INTO A NURSING HOME

Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher

By Sue Halpern

Pub Date: May 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59448-720-0
Publisher: Riverhead

Reflections on a rest home for the elderly.

When faced with the beginnings of empty-nest syndrome, Halpern (I Can't Remember What I Forgot, 2008, etc.) decided to invest time in others as a way to fill her day. She and her dog, Pransky, became a certified human–dog therapy team, working at the local nursing home. She expected to meet and "learn something about old people, and about the therapeutic value of animals in a medical setting, and about myself in that setting, which was alien and not a little scary." With Pransky at her side acting as an icebreaker, Halpern experienced the seven virtues of life: "love, hope, faith, prudence, justice, fortitude [and] restraint." Witty and compassionate, the author introduces readers to the lives of many of the residents, providing insight into the last stages of a person's life. These people were farmers, counselors, teachers, museum curators, and they "had lives—rich, rewarding, interesting, challenging, complicated lives." The residents showed Halpern that death is not something to be feared but accepted with dignity despite failing mental and physical health. Over time, the author realized that "hanging out…[was] as satisfying as anything else we could have been doing between ten and noon on Tuesdays, and, most of the time, more so." Through her enlightening observations of this particular nursing home, readers will take away the knowledge that we are each given one life and we had best not squander how we live it.

Endearing thoughts on aging and companionship.