BOOKS—The Dog Who Danced

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2013: (Actually published on October 8,  2013)

The Dog Who Danced by Susan Wilson St. Martin’s Griffin (175 Fifth Ave.,  New York,  NY  10010),  2013. 328 pages,  paperback.  $14.99.

The Dog Who Danced is not just a novel about a dog,  though it centers on a lovable Sheltie named Mack.  It’s a drama about a woman’s desperation to find her lost dog,  with twists and turns that include family turmoil,  the sting of failed relationships,  a teen’s inability to cope with his mother’s unsettled lifestyle,  and a couple’s tragic loss of their only child. 

Along the way,  though The Dog Who Danced is not about humane work,  it raises many of the ethical and practical issues that adoption counselors encounter when dogs are offered ideal adoptive homes but are claimed by people whose lives and circumstances are unstable.

Mack is the sole source of comfort for Justine Meade,  who is divorced,  and bounces from job to job,  city to city.  Her son has gone to live with his father.  Hoping to visit her own gravely ill father,  Justine pays a trucker $300 for a ride with Mack to the east coast.   The trucker strands Justine in Ohio,  abandoning Mack later.

Almost broke,  Justine hitchhikes,  borrows money,  and does everything possible to find Mack,  helped by other truckers.

But Mack has been found by an older couple,  wandering at the cemetery where their daughter Stacy is buried.  Mack has no identification.  They decide to keep him.  They shower him with affection,  food,  and toys,  and hope to train him for therapy work.

Eventually Justine discovers where Mack is.  And there lies the crux of the plot,  and––though there are no adoption counselors in The Dog Who Danced––the frequent dilemma for adoption counselors. ––Debra J. White

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