A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life From An Unlikely Teacher

With her husband, author Bill McKibben, often traveling and their daughter away at school, Sue Halpern and her Labradoodle, Pransky, had time on their paws. They took on therapy dog training as their mission. Pransky, then seven, a good and smart pet, had spent her life romping off-leash in the Vermont woods, but after months of heeling, stopping, staying and coming, they earned Pransky's red bandanna.

In A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home, Halpern (Four Wings and a Prayer) entertainingly relates the often humorous anecdotes of Pransky's therapy-dog visits. But she also ponders their experiences, and intersperses amid Pransky's tales ancient and modern philosophies, the history of care for the elderly and discussions of the financial, medical and psychological ramifications of end-of-life care.

We get to know the nursing home residents and their relationship to Pransky, who could sense not only whose cabinet held Milkbones, but who needed a cuddle, or whose spasmodic hand longed to lie on her head. Sue was a willing conversationalist at the end of Pransky's leash, but "hope was the thing with wispy, tan tail feathers."

Halpern asks "What makes a good life?" near the book's end. She offers ample anecdotes from Pransky's work, along with religious and scholarly tenets, leaving readers with this inspiration: be charitable, and never underestimate the power of dog love. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

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