The true life story of a dog who changed everything for one woman. For the first time in my life, I didn’t need to pretend, I didn’t need to be tough: I only needed to be honest. “I have cerebral palsy. I walk funny and my balance is bad. I fall a lot. My hands shake, too. That means I’m not so good at carrying things. And if I drop stuff, sometimes it’s hard to just bend down and get it.” I waited anxiously for the interviewer’s response. She smiled. “It sounds like a service dog could be great for you.” So began Leigh Brill’s journey toward independence. and confidence, all thanks to a trained companion dog named Slugger. The struggling college student and the Labrador with “a coat like sunshine” and a tail that never stopped wagging became an instant team. Together, they transformed a challenge into a triumph. Together, they inspired and educated everyone they met. Now, Leigh honors her friend with the story of their life, together.
This story was truly amazing! You first meet Leigh when she is a college student who is struggling to deal with the challenges she faces with cerebral palsy. She has physical challenges that she faces on a daily basis as well as emotional scars that were formed from growing up with a disability people did not understand and were not sensitive to. She meets another college student who has a disabilities dog and a spark is lit that throws her into a world she never knew: Service Dogs for Individuals with Disabilities.
Leigh makes contact with a service dog organization and after months of waiting she goes to meet the dog she might be paired with, Slugger. This book is a great memoir of her life with Slugger capturing everything from their first meeting to his retirement and Sluggers struggles with cancer. It is a heart warming story that really captivates the reader to understand the bond these two form and how it plays a major role in Leigh and Slugger’s lives! You feel like you walk through the years of their partnership right beside them and you get a front row seat to such intimate moments. You see how Slugger helps Leigh, not only with her physical challenges, but the emotional scars that have formed over the years. Slugger helps her with courage and self-confidence and he is right beside her through college, finding the love of her life, starting a career and helping others. Slugger should be placed in the dictionary as the definition of loyalty and love!
I learned several new things from this book about the service dog industry that I never knew before. I didn’t realize how much training is placed in the dogs prior to being placed with an individual (2-years) and then how much training the pairs had to go through afterward before they would officially become a partnership. I also really enjoyed the flash backs that Leigh placed throughout the book so we would understand her emotions going into different situations.
The one thing that I did wish she would have talked more about was her family and her husband’s family. She mentions being at her parents house after she first gets Slugger but never makes any comments on her family and if they supported her through this huge and important change in her life. Leigh also marries a man from a completely different culture and she does have one small part about the struggles they faced with others judging their relationship but never mentions how his family or her family reacted to it. I do not feel that this took away from the story but I was curious about it after I had finished the book.
I had several moments while reading this book where tears would well up in my eyes. Tears of joy, sadness, understanding and even tears of learning (I hope that makes sense)! You can’t help but feel that you have bonded with both Leigh and Slugger throughout the book and though the ending is sad, you have so much respect build up for Leigh that you just feel like your heart is going to burst out of your chest!
I would recommend this book to EVERYONE, especially to animal lovers out there. It is a short read and a nice refreshing book, I can’t even explain the feelings that are going through me while writing this review but I hope that you feel them too when you pick this book up!
“Ah, darling meatball, I do crave your flavor, but sadly, your spices I shall never savor!”
“I realized our partnership was changing, initially connected by lead and collar, it was now held together by something much more powerful – our deep and growing bond.”
“Smiling, I whispered what would become my nightly promise: ‘Rest well, my sweet dog. I love you and I’ll see you in the morning.'”
“My boyfriend moved behind me. He wrapped his arms around my body. ‘I mean it. Look,’ he said softly. I lifted my eyes and as I met my own reflection, Pranav whispered, “That’s a warm, sexy, wonderful person. What’s not to love?'”