So, without a doubt, I would have to say that the best book I read in January would have to be A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill. Here's the product description from Amazon.com:
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 "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.
Amazing, right? Not only did the product description and the picture of the adorable lab gracing the front cover compel me to pick up this book, but as soon as I started reading I knew I had found something special. Because it was with this this book, with it's author and it's four-legged sidekick that I felt an instant connection.
Why? Well, not a lot of people online know this about me but I too have Cerebral Palsy and a service dog. So, as you can imagine, I felt an instant kinship with Leigh and Slugger as soon as I began reading their story that only intensified the more I read. Almost from page 1 I started to cry and have cried multiple times during the reading of this book (which, I'll admit, I haven't actually finished reading yet, only because I have a feeling that I'm going to be crying buckets by the end, so I'm avoiding it for as long as possible). Leigh talks of her C.P. and the daily struggles she faces with such honesty and humor that I instantly felt more understood and less alone then I have before, because as much as my friends and family know of my own daily struggles with C.P., it takes a person like Leigh to fully understand what I go through on a daily basis. As Leigh says, "C.P. sucks". :)
But, as much as C.P. sucks, I know that it has been a blessing in disguise for both Leigh and myself in the form of a furry best friend. One of the other reasons why I connected so deeply with Leigh and her story was because of her unwavering bond with her service dog, Slugger. I know exactly what it feels like to love a dog as much as Leigh loves hers, because when I was a freshman in high school I received my first service dog, Ingram. We were together for 9 years and in that time I've never realized until later how deeply I could love and be loved in return. Like Slugger did for Leigh, Ingram was there for me unconditionally, even when I was mad at him or going through the ups and downs of my teenage years and didn't want to talk to anyone, he was there, steadfast and true.
Now, years later, I have a new service dog, Ginger, who, like Ingram, is never afraid to give love, even to those who seem undeserving, and for that, I am grateful. And I'm also immensely grateful to Leigh for having the courage to share her and Slugger's story with the world. For it's stories like yours Leigh that make me hopeful for the future, that make me feel confident that I will not let my condition get the best of me, that I am deserving of love (from both humans and animals) and that I can do anything if I set my mind to it, C.P. be damned! And to that I say, to both you and Slugger...thank you, so much.
(Note: This post was cross-posted from my critique group blog, The Ink Slingers)