by Lee Juslin
Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.
Sue Halpern and her mixed breed dog, Pransky, started in pet therapy because Sue felt Pranksy needed a job. Knowing what a great people dog Pranksy was made pet therapy a good bet. But, along the way, Sue, like most of us in pet therapy, learned there were lots of lessons for her as well.
Sue’s background is in philosophy/ethics, and she weaves this knowledge throughout the book, relating teachings from Aristotle and other philosophers to her experiences in the nursing home. However, the best parts of the book for me were the interactions between Pransky and the residents of the County Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, where Sue and Pranksy visit every Tuesday morning. For instance, there was Lila, a collie devotee, whose room was decorated in collie items. She enjoyed Pransky’s visits so much she even turned off her beloved, The Price is Right, to pat and play with Pranksy.
Clyde was a World War II veteran who grew Big Boy tomatoes in raised beds on the grounds of the facility and shared them with the other residents. He was also the resident Lothario, though Sue was never sure how much truth there was to that.
Fran had had a rich career in newspaper reporting, public relations and lastly as a drug and alcohol counselor. Her visits were different from the others, because while she was in bed most of the time, she got into reporter mode and asked questions of Sue while she patted Pranksy. She got Sue talking about herself, the Red Sox, and of course, Pransky.
Some of the rooms at County were singles, but many were doubles and in some cases these fostered friendships, and though formed late in life, were none the less firm. Such was the case with Dottie and Iris. Dottie was a big dog lover but hard of hearing. Iris was unsure about Pransky, at least at first, and had trouble speaking. However, together they were each half of a whole. “I don’t know what I’d do without her,” Iris told Sue one day after Dottie had taken a fall. And though they didn’t talk, they just knew and counted on each other. Sue learned as I did on my visits with my therapy dog, Frosty, that old age, especially spent in a nursing home, is a great social leveler.
There are many other delightful residents populating the pages of this book that make it an easy and enjoyable read for anyone who loves dogs and appreciates the human canine bond. For me, the real pleasure was reading the stories of the therapy visits that so closely correlated with the visits my Frosty (Nurse Frosty to her friends and fans) and I had when we visited an assisted living facility also on Tuesday mornings.
I too, learned to deal with the lack of short term memories that meant you might not be remembered week to week, as well as the long term memories that allowed for some wonderful stories of days and events in the past, often a past I was not part of. And, of course, the changes as residents failed and either were transferred somewhere else or died. Like Sue, I too had to learn to deal with the loss of a favored resident, often not knowing exactly what had happened, and like me, Sue learned that was a burden that our therapy dog partners did not and could not share.
This book brought back some wonderful memories for me, especially the cover with Pranksy wearing a nurse’s cap, and I can sincerely recommend it as a thoughtful, yet joyful read.
You can go here to meet Frosty and see some heartwarming photos from her therapy visits: Frosty’s Page.
To enter to win a copy of A Dog Walks Into s Nursing Home, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Dog,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September, 21 2013. U.S. residents only.
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