As we get ready to close the book on 2013 and we all start coming up with grand plans for next year, I'd like to review a book that reminds me of the resolution I always make - be a better person.
Luciano Anastasini comes from a long line of circus performers. He was living up to the family name until he fell 50 feet doing a stunt and needed multiple operations just to put together several of his bones. The only thing he had known in his life was taken away - he could never do acrobatic stunts again. He stayed with the circus doing odd jobs but it just wasn't the same as performing. He needed an act. He had always loved dogs and he began to formulate a plan to incorporate dogs into a circus act. Once he decided that this was his best option he thought about where he would get the dogs and he realized if he was getting a second chance then he should give a second chance to the dogs he would train. So he went to the pound.
I saw this book by chance on a shelf of new books a couple years ago. I don't read much youth non-fiction but I'm a sucker for dogs and the cover intrigued me. I was planning on skimming it but ended up reading every word (it only took about 15 minutes). Michaela Muntean tells the story of Luciano and the dogs in a way that children can understand but that adults can read without feeling silly. Each dog is introduced with a big color photo and a little story about why they hadn't been adopted or worse, had been adopted but were returned for various reasons. The best part of Stay for me was reading how Luciano only used positive reinforcement with the dogs and how he decided early on that he would not have the dogs performing anything that dogs don't naturally do (walking on their front legs for instance). He took the "negatives" that people had noticed about these dogs and saw them as talents. I could try to come up with a clever reason why you should take a few minutes and read this book but instead I'll just say this: Read it. It will make you feel better about the world...and people...and dogs.
For another book about people seeing the good in "bad" dogs you could try Marley & Me by John Grogan available at your Virginia Beach Public Library.