Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Devoted: A book to make your heart grow larger

Angels exist, but they’re less likely to flap their wings than wag their tails.

Dogs are angels. They are the best companions and the most loyal friends. They are our protectors and often our inspiration. Dogs give us more than we could ever hope to give them. If you’re unconvinced, ask yourself this: How many books have dogs written in praise of humans? Now, how many books have humans written about dogs?

Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life with Dogs by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh and published by the National Geographic Society, is one of the finest books by a human to express love and admiration for man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

Keep the tissues handy as you read about dogs that comfort the terminally ill and the abused, perform heroic feats in service to mankind, even rescue their owners from suicide with little more than a look or a brush of a wet nose.

You’ll meet Rosie, a golden retriever “who can’t stand for a kid to be sad, and will go to them to comfort them.” Rosie made history in 2011 when she became the first dog to take the witness stand where she gave support as her teenage owner testified against a rapist. And Effie, a mixed-breed, whose habit of sticking her nose into her owner’s breast was the clue that a large carcinoma, rarely detectable in mammograms, was growing there. K’os, a Neapolitan mastiff, had a nightly habit of visiting the bedroom of a boy whose epilepsy was only diagnosed after the dog’s barking saved him during a seizure.

There are dogs that serve as eyes for the blind, ears for the deaf, and provide friendship to the lonely and brokenhearted.

At other times, the tears may come from laughter as you read about dogs that surf and skydive. Walsh provides informative sidebars throughout explaining the differences between various breeds of dogs, how to care for your dog, as well as dog trivia.

Devoted is a beautiful book on all counts: beautiful stories beautifully written, with beautiful photographs on quality paper. It’s as lovely to look at as it is to read.

“Dogs make our hearts grow larger,” Ascher-Walsh writes. So will this book.

(A modified version of this review was originally published at

Brian W. Fairbanks


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