Dog Crazy: A Novel of Love Lost and Found by Meg Donahue

22573873Just look at the cover and tell me how I could possibly refuse to read this book! For 17 years, my little gray-striped pudgeball of a cat, Gizzy, has rocked my world. So when he goes, I know I’m going to need someone like Maggie Brennan to keep me from spiraling down the rabbit hole of despair. But let’s not think about that right now, okay? I’ll cross that rainbow bridge when I get to it.

You see, Maggie is a pet bereavement counselor. Most people who just don’t get it would laugh her off as some kind of quack. But anyone who has ever poured their heart and soul into one four-legged creature would understand that this is a most noble and important profession indeed.

“Love is love,” I told her, as I tell all of my patients who are ashamed to find themselves shattered by the death of a dog. “Loss is loss.”

She’s a total pro, but yet there’s one little catch. She can’t leave her house. After her beloved dog died, all of her pent-up stress came to a head, resulting in full-fledged agoraphobia. Luckily she’s able to work out of her home office and order all of her worldly needs on Amazon. It also helps that her BFF lives right next door. Everything is under control…that is until a distressed teenage client walks through her door.

Unlike her other clients who fill up their allotted time telling stories about their beloved pets, all this girl wants to do is hit the streets and search for her missing dog. Although the dog, Billy, been gone for over a month, she continues to comb the streets in a disheveled mess screaming out his name like a deranged banshee. When she refuses therapy, Maggie takes it upon herself to help her search for Billy–pro bono.

At first I thought it was a little far-fetched for a therapist to take on a case for free, but then it all made sense when I realized that she was also saving herself hundreds—hell, probably thousands of dollars—in exposure therapy bills for her agoraphobia. By helping Anya look for her dog, she had face her demons and step out into the great outdoors.

Keeping her anxiety disorder under wraps, she uses her BFF’s poodle as a “therapy dog,” while out hunting for Billy. The stakes get even higher when she realizes that she might be falling for Anya’s handsome older brother. Yes, ladies, there’s a touch of romance–and even some mystery–in this heart-warming animal story.

Thanks to Maggie’s dogged (pun intended!) persistence, Anya slowly comes around. She even rekindles her love of photography by taking some marketing photos of a dog in desperate need of a forever home. Oh how I love Seymour, the adorably neurotic basset hound/golden retriever mix. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, but I will say that everything worked out exactly how I wanted in the end. I’ll just leave it at that!

I loved the shelter dog marketing aspect of this book because that’s my side job at Austin Pets Alive. So on many levels, this book really hit close to home. Emily Donahue has a remarkable talent for articulating the complexities of emotions that overtake us when we are hopelessly in love with our animals. Throughout the book, her lyrical, heart-wrenching prose sang to me. At various points, I wanted to shout “hallelujah” from the rooftop! If you, like me, get mushy about animals, get ready to cry your bleeding hearts out!

Yes, this is a book about dogs, but it really made me wax poetic about my Gizzy, who has been by my side through so many chapters in my life. I picked him up off the streets when I was a 19-year-old mess. I kid you not, after I brought that scrawny bat-eared creature into my home, my life changed so much for the better. At that, I’ll leave you with my favorite passage from the book.

“I have a theory that you get the right dog, the dog you need, for a particular stage in your life.”

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