Dogs have been our best friends for millennia; scientists believe that we domesticated them some 14,000 years ago. As pet lovers know, the bond between owner and dog can be incredibly powerful. In DEVOTED: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life with Dogs author Rebecca Ascher-Walsh celebrates the special connection between hound and human and shares heartwarming, true stories of dogs who have enriched and often saved lives.
Each of the 38 dogs profiled in DEVOTED offers an inspiring tale. Some have the ability to calm children who have experienced traumas or have disabilities; another is able to detect cancer; one had the instinct to drag her owner’s mother from the path of an oncoming train; and others have inspired their owners to a new purpose in life. The furry cast of characters includes:
- Cheyenne, an American Staffordshire Terrier. David E. Sharpe, an Air Force veteran overwhelmed by residual trauma from his deployment, nearly took his own life until his puppy Cheyenne helped him reconsider all that he had to live for. Cheyenne inspired Sharpe to create the organization Companions for Heroes, which pairs veterans with rescue dogs.
- Brock, a Doberman Pinscher. When Debi Boies found a perfect new canine companion two states away, she needed a way to get him from Tampa, Fla., to her home in South Carolina. A friend offered to fly Brock on his private plane, inspiring Boies to co-found Pilots N Paws, which has saved hundreds of pets in high-kill shelters by transporting them to new homes.
- Effie, a mixed breed. When Lisa Hulber met Effie, the large stray was ridden with parasites and seemed utterly unadoptable, but Hulber rescued her anyway. When Effie began to persistently push her nose into Hulber’s breast, Hulber visited her doctor. An ultrasound revealed fast-growing breast cancer that didn’t show in a mammogram. A double mastectomy — and Effie’s powerful nose — saved Hulber’s life.
- Chancer, a Golden Retriever. Chancer is a companion and outlet for a young boy living with fetal alcohol syndrome and his family. Iyal Winokur’s mother, Donnie, has observed that Chancer quells Iyal’s frequent rages and provides an outlet for his energy.
- Picasso, a Pit Bull. Picasso helps her paraplegic owner George Gallegos complete endurance races, raising money for his organization Wheels of Progress, which helps young people with disabilities live independently.
- K’os, a Neapolitan Mastiff. When usually placid K’os (pronounced chaos) awoke Jason and Linda Guindon with furious barking, the Guindons were stunned to find their son Hunter having a grand mal seizure. K’os alerted Hunter’s parents to another seizure a few months later. Brain surgery halted the seizures, but K’os still regularly checks in on Hunter at night.
Dogs that surf, serve on search and rescue missions, race in the Iditarod and skydive with their owners also are profiled. Additionally, the book includes facts about various breeds and insight into common dog behaviors and habits. For example, dogs, like their wolf ancestors, lick as a form of communication — when a dog licks a person’s face it’s a sign of respect and of accepting that person’s leadership. And, as humans do, dogs exhibit a “left gaze bias” when looking at a human face. Because the right side of the human face tends to express emotions better than the left, a dog’s gaze will drift left to better decipher a person’s emotions.
Each day in America more than 5,500 dogs are euthanized. October marks Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month, an annual event designed to save canine lives in danger. DEVOTED features several dogs saved through shelter adoption, including Cheyenne, Brock and Lilly, the pit bull