Sunday, August 14, 2016

Book Review: Pound for Pound (shelter dogs, bulimia)

Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life by Shannon Kopp (William Morrow, 2015, 307 pages, $25.99)

A Second Book of the Year!

And I can still say that because, although Pound for Pound was published last year, it was in October of last year, therefore, less than a year ago, so, in the same year, if you are splitting hairs..

A 24-Hour Book

As our dear readers know, every once in a while there comes along a book so memorable that one of the DogEvals reviewers stays up all night reading it, or, if that is not possible, still manages to read it in 24 hours. Pound is such a book. It may just become your best friend.

Immensely Readable

A book you want to get back to. A book that, in its absence (like when you have to eat lunch), you wonder what has happened in your absence.

At First, . . .

I passed it by. I thought, “OK, a book about a woman who walks a shelter dog and consequently loses weight.” Bor-ing!

Not so. Pound is so much more than that. And I got the plot wrong, too!

Two Ingredients

First you have to have a good story, then you have to tell it well. Kopp succeeds on both counts.

Exceptional Exception

I generally want a dog book to be primarily about the dog, or at least for the dog to have an equal share in the story. Pound is an exception. I managed to remain mesmerized through the stellar then disappointing childhood of the author, her college days, her sexy trip abroad, her cross-country move, her bulimic years (a third of her life) and rehab and meetings, and the loves of her life which include shelter dogs. Through it all, she remains loved by her family, albeit a few thousand miles away.

Sheltering Love ("If you care for them, help us care for them.")

The life of a shelter dog is hard and not every dog survives it. Too hard for many people, as well, to handle for long, if at all. So, the author is to be commended. She worked at a wonderfully funded, innovative shelter for three years which helped cement her sanity, before moving to a poorly funded shelter in a different city - and a volunteer position.

Nevertheless, Shannon Kopp. Is someone you are or someone you know or someone you really want to know, thus compelling you to take this book with you and sneak in a short chapter whenever you can. Pound is simply that enthralling.

And through it all, the lesson. . . .

Bulimia and anorexia are diseases as Kopp explains quite well. We also learn how they start, the justifications made, and the lifelong hardships for those who recover.

By examining her past life and the life of shelter dogs, Kopp comes to realize she is most alive and in the ‘now’ when she is with the dogs, at the beach, looking up at the tree tops or inhaling the breath of the earth (or a dog). Dogs relax her. And her childhood dog has a major role in her life and that of her entire family – quite a feat for such a little white dog named Sugar.

It is hard to grow close to a shelter dog on a walk or a play session or even huggy-time. To do this for several days only to one day find that dog’s kennel empty is to visit the mountains and depths of emotions. Kopp tells us the stories of a few dogs she feels she has failed but, in the end, it is important to her to succeed with one such dog. And she does. That is the end of the book but not the end of the story. The story will stay with you.

But, to be honest, . . .

I just didn’t understand the difficulty a volunteer had in getting a dog out of one shelter and into a home. And, an anecdote on one interesting page (192) was not very clear in relating if a particular dog was a service dog, an emotional support dog, or neither – but trying to be passed off as one (not always housetrained in stores and sometimes subject to uncontrollable barking in public).

Love is all there is. . . .

What is it about dogs that makes them forgive humans, if not the particular human responsible for their being in the shelter and for the conditions there? How can dogs who just love us teach us that love is all there every really is and that even when the body is gone, the spirit can live on and be the impetus for recovery. Dogs are truly man’s and woman’s best friend.

Populated with family photos and professional shelter dog photos, Pound is a book worthy of your time.

Next time, when I see the Mark Bekoff has praised a book, I will look twice at it. For Pound, I’m glad I did.

Famous Last Words

“Because if I know anything at all, it’s that giving saves lives. Especially the giver’s.” (p, 264)

Read More About It: Kopp also includes a short history of the pit bull around the world. Well worth reading.

Caveat: This book may be purchased at your book store or possibly checked out of a public library. 

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