A Dog's Heart

The dog days of summer ended a few weeks ago. It's been a long, hot time, physically and psychically. Our collective blood pressure could use a bit of lowering; we need some self-soothing. We need books about dogs, with hope and happy endings.

One of my favorite "dog" books is Suspect by Robert Crais (Penguin, paperback). In it, LAPD cop Scott Jenkins is suffering from PTSD after he almost died, and his partner was killed. Maggie is a German shepherd with PTSD who lost her beloved handler in Afghanistan; she was severely wounded herself. They are thrown together for a chance at redemption, although odds are against them. The prologue describing Maggie's last ghastly day in Afghanistan is harrowing, but the respect and love that grows between her and Scott is healing for them and for the reader. There aren't many books I've re-read. This is one.

In From Baghdad, with Love by Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman (Lyons Press, paperback), a puppy and a Marine meet unexpectedly in a war zone. Kopelman's memoir is gritty and black-humored, the chaos and brutality of war front and center. That hard reality becomes tempered when he finds  a puppy while his unit sweeps an abandoned house in Fallujah. "I liked the way he felt in my hands. I liked that he forgave me for scaring him. I liked not caring about getting home or staying alive or feeling warped as a human being--just him wiggling around in my hands, wiping all the grime off my face." They smuggled the pup, Lava, into camp, and Kopelman was determined to ship Lava stateside, an extremely difficult task, but worth it--Lava "unlocked [his] cool," allowing him to fear, which led to dealing with PTSD.

Why do these stories resonate so strongly? Robert Crais said, "That's what I wanted to write about. The purity in Maggie's heart. And by extension, all dogs' hearts. It's why we love dogs, I think, and why dogs love us." --Marilyn Dahl

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