Last week was a bad week for animal lovers. First the Houston SPCA found a German Shepherd north of Greenspoint with her muzzle taped shut, punctured tumors and a crushed skull. Then BBC News circulated the X-ray of a dog buried alive with an enormous nail through its head.
So when a good news story about dogs crosses our desk, we're ready for the respite. Unlikely Friendships: Dogs: 37 Stories of Canine Compassion and Courage is the latest from New York Times bestselling author Jennifer S. Holland.
She's the National Geographic writer who traveled the world looking for stories about animal connections, channeling her passion into books about friendships, loves and heroes. It's a formula that works: feel-good stories paired with amazing photography, arranged into short chapters that don't take much time to read but which really give a boost when you need the lift.
Fans will be happy to hear that there are 28 new stories, plus a handful of classics, in this latest book. Like the story of Lilo the Siberian husky, who struggled with primitive “inner wolf” urges, originally confusing smaller animals with prey. Over time she softened, especially when her owners (three sisters) kept rescuing all those feral kittens in the neighborhood. One particular little one – Rosie, only about two or three weeks old – wouldn't eat or lift her head until Lilo turned maternal and nursed her back to health; they've remained fast friends ever since.
Or the story of little Roo, a two-legged Chihuahua who was adopted by a woman who had recently saved a Silkie (a breed of chicken that originated in China) from a scientific laboratory. The animals instantly took to each other like long-lost siblings from the Island of Misfits: the fluffy, white bird with soft plumage wearing a diaper and the cute-as-a-button Roo racing around in his own special wagon.
Holland has a knack for finding the most unusual of friendships: the dogs in the book have become BFFs with a goose, a ferret, a chameleon, a coyote, a tortoise, a monkey and even a pygmy owl. There are heroic stories in which dogs have saved the lives of other dogs, humans and even horses.
Some of the favorite classics that Holland has brought back include the tale of Zoe the Dalmation and her spotted pal Lambie, Naki'o the bionic dog, who lost his four paws to frostbite, and the fox and hound pair who became napping buddies.
Holland will be in Houston November 14 for a school event in association with Blue Willow Bookshop. Circling back to the local story of the German Shepherd found on October 17 at the intersection of Rushcreek Drive and Spears Road, the Houston SPCA was not able to save her and she was humanely euthanized. Changing society's perception that dogs and cats are disposable begins with the next generation, so book events like this are a good start in teaching compassion and empathy.
"The Houston SPCA is seeking justice on behalf of this victim of cruelty. A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the cruel acts against this dog. Information known about the case should be communicated to the Houston SPCA at 713-869-7722 or to Precinct One at 713-755-7628."
To purchase copies of Holland's new book, visit Blue Willow Bookshop, 14532 Memorial Drive, 281-497-8675, bluewillowbookshop.com. $13.95.