Two local animal lovers pen a charming book about our amazing four-pawed heroes
Old Dogs, New Chapters: Uplifting Stories of Senior Rescue Dogs
By Alison Clary & Jason Pappas
Review by Nick Brandi
Let’s get the full-disclosure thing out of the way right upfront: Alison Clary, coauthor of Old Dogs, New Chapters: Uplifting Stories of Senior Rescue Dogs, is a frequent contributor to Coastal Style. That said, if Adele were your cousin, are you automatically biased because you think she can sing a bit? The same is true of Clary’s book, which shines a heartrending spotlight on those noble yet all-too-often overlooked and underappreciated creatures who grace our lives with love and loyalty yet ask so little in return.
To pull you in with the gravitational force of a Sarah MacLoughlin commercial to an insomniac at 3 a.m., Clary and coauthor Jason Pappas get off to a strong start in the foreword, in which Clary recounts the loving tale of her own rescue dog, Stanley, whom she acquired when he was more than 10 years old. Malnourished and deaf, with half his teeth missing and a large tumor on his leg, Stanley was abandoned and found wandering the streets of Richmond, VA, during a snowstorm. Clary felt a virtually instantaneous connection with Stanley, whose gentle temperament belied the years of abuse he was forced to endure. Taking full stock of the heartbreaking sight before her, Clary vowed to herself that Stanley would never be abandoned again. And, thanks to Alison, he wasn’t.
Then, there is the story of Gus, a cute, little 12-year-old who spent most of his life in a puppy mill, being neglected except when he was needed for breeding. When Gus grew too old to fulfill that role, he was abandoned at a local vet’s office. Gus was severely broken down by that point, so euthanasia was thought to be the most practical option. But, literally moments before the fatal needle was administered, a vet tech named Emily halted the procedure and claimed him for herself. The entire staff rallied around Gus, who was discovered to have a lot more life and energy left in him once he was loved and cared for. They even went so far as to create a bucket list for Gus, which included things like watching a sunset, visiting a dog park and having both his portrait painted and a birthday party thrown in his honor. The poignant object lesson in Gus’ tale is that, as the authors point out, every dog deserves a second chance.
Let’s not forget an unlikely TV star named Bear. Rather cruelly, Bear the black lab was acquired originally only to provide protection for a family that for 15 years never allowed him to place a paw inside their house. Weighed down by a 35-lb chain, Bear was finally liberated from his daily misery by the Guardians of Rescue, who convinced his owners to give him up. One morning, a woman from New York named Kerrie uncharacteristically turned on her television and began watching Good Morning America, which, as fate would have it, was airing a segment on Bear. So charismatic is Bear that he even commanded the attention of actor-comedian Ricky Gervais, who was part of the segment to plug his upcoming movie but who kept pivoting his attention to the black beauty. Though the segment inspired hundreds of requests for Bear, Kerrie was ultimately determined to be the best fit. As you might have expected, Bear has adapted to life as an indoor dog just fine and has discovered, through Kerrie, the salmon treat — a flavor he had never experienced and for which he is over the moon. Suffice it to say, between TV, social media, his patented half-lip-curl “Elvis” smile and irresistible adoration face (marked by one upward-pointed ear and one floppy, downturned ear), Bear is extremely popular and surrounded by warmth and love everywhere he goes.
Ultimately, the measure of our value as people relies not on how much money we make, how high our IQs are or what we can bench at the gym; it’s how we treat that which is weaker and more vulnerable than we are. The fact is, most dogs have the equivalent intelligence of a 2-2.5-year-old human child, and that’s just intellectually. In terms of emotional intelligence — the ability to perceive the emotional states of those around them — dogs are actually significantly more advanced than even adult humans. So ask yourself this: What is the justification for treating a dog worse than a 2-year-old child, when it is at least as smart, just as feeling and perhaps even more selflessly devoted to you? The answer is simple: There is no justification once you remove human ego from the equation, so three cheers to Alison Clary and Jason Pappas for knowing that well enough to write this tender and uplifting book in tribute to one of humankind’s greatest all-time creations: Canis familiaris.