BOOKS— Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty and Life with Dog
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2013: (Actually published on October 8, 2013)
Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty and Life with Dog by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh National Geographic Society (1145 17th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036), 2013. 160 pages, hardcover. $19.95.
Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty and Life with Dog is as sweet and compelling as any book I have ever reviewed for Animal People about our unique relationship with dogs. Author Rebecca Ascher-Walsh invites us into the lives of 38 outstanding dogs and their people, and describes what makes them special. The stories of Effie and Cheyenne are two examples. Abandoned at a Michigan shelter, full of parasites, cowering around men and growling at children, Effie’s chances of adoption were slim––but Lisa Hulber fell in love with the big brown dog and adopted her anyway. Four months later, Hulber’s routine mammogram produced negative results, but Effie had a differing perspective. Digging her nose into Hulber’s breast, she refused to stop. Concerned, Hulber had a second mammogram, with the same negative results. But Effie persisted, so Hulber went for an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed an aggressive carcinoma not normally detected by mammograms. After surgery a month later, Effie fixated on Hulber’s underarm. “Of the 27 lymph nodes, that was the only node it had spread to,” Hulber recounts, crying from joy because Effie the once unwanted and unloved dog saved her life. David Sharpe returned from overseas military service in 2002 with emotional trauma. He drank and picked fights. A friend suggested that adopting a dog might help Sharpe regain mental stability, so he brought home Cheyenne, a pit bull puppy who already had injuries from fighting with her litter mates. But Sharpe continued to struggle. Two military friends commited suicide. “I couldn’t deal with what was in my head,” Sharpe told Ascher-Walsh. Eventually he put a gun into his mouth. Cheyenne, then about six months old, licked his ear, distracting him. Sharpe put the gun down as Cheyenne rested her head on his thigh. “It was an ultimatum,” he says, “to take my life back.” Sharpe went on to found Pets for Vets, later renamed Companions for Heroes, an organization that pairs veterans, emergency first responders, and their families with rescue dogs––primarily pit bulls, hinting in a 2011 interview that he believes recognizing and restraining the dangerously reactive tendencies of pit bulls may help people who are coping with post-traumatic stress to avoid temperamental explosions. The opposite side of this coin may be that the combination of a post-traumatic stress case with a pit bull, like the combination of a post-traumatic stress case with a gun, may amplify the consequences if an explosion occurs. Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty and Life with Dog contains 36 more stories that entertain, delight, motivate and sometimes bring tears. ––Debra J. White