Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lessons from Tara: Life Advice from the World's Most Brilliant Dog, by David Rosenfelt

St. Martin's, ISBN 9781250065766, July 2015

In the early  nineties, David Rosenfelt met Debbie Myers, and her golden retriever, Tara. He didn't know it, but the course of his life was set. Marriage. Dogs. Dog rescue. Eventually, a series of mystery novels in which the protagonist is also a dog rescuer.

This book is a collection of essays about the things he learned, from Tara, that first dog, and from all the others after, living with anywhere from twenty to forty dogs once they were fully involved in rescue.

They didn't plunge into rescue immediately. At first they lived happily with their one, beloved dog. Then Tara, like too many Goldens, developed cancer. After months of treatment, they had to admit defeat and have her euthanized.

For months they were dogless, not ready for another dog. Then, wanting dogs in their lives, but not ready to adopt, they started volunteering at a local shelter--and they discovered how desperate the need for rescue is. It took a while, but the Tara Foundation was born.

Each essay is themed around a particular life lesson--dignity, overcoming fears, empathy--or some particular challenge of pet rescue. But what they're all really about is Rosenfelt's relationship with all the dogs that have come into his life, whether to stay, or just passing through on their way to forever homes. He does briefly cover their move, with more than twenty dogs, from California to Maine, but that experience is discussed more fully in Dogtripping. The primary focus here is their life in Maine, with some sections also discussing their life in California, and the emotional rewards and practical challenges of living with many, mostly senior, mostly very large, dogs. There are successful adoptions, and dogs rescued from terrible shelter conditions too late to save. There are dogs who seem unsaveable, who thrive in the right conditions.

This isn't a book to read if you can't stand books where the dog dies, because many of these dogs are old when they come into the Rosenfelts' lives. There are triumphant stories, too, though, and no graphic descriptions of cruelty.

All in all, I found it an enjoyable, satisfying book, that expresses very well what brings people into pet rescue, and what keeps us involved.


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