REVIEW: The Dog Lived (And So Will I) by Teresa J. Rhyne

I am on a mailing list for an independent publisher called Sourcebooks, and several months ago I got a newsletter with a contest for The Dog Lived (And So Will I). All I had to do was send an e-mail with my favorite pet story for a chance to win a signed copy. I decided to go with this:

When I was in ninth grade, we moved to a new house to put me in a different school zone. The first day that we all went to work and school, we left our German Shepherd mix dog outside in a little fenced-in area that came with the house. I was daydreaming on the bus ride home from school when I heard someone yell, “Hey, look at the cute dog!” As a dog lover, I hurried to get a glance at the dog. To my surprise (and horror!), it was my dog. He was walking steadfastly, as if he knew exactly where he was going. I yelled at the bus driver to stop and jumped off the bus. My dog and I made the mile+ walk back to the house, and as we were walking I realized that he was heading in the exact direction of our old home. The poor thing thought we had dropped him off at a new house and was coming back to get us! That night, as I was relaying the story to my parents, our cat decided to run up a lit fireplace. Panic ensued. After rescuing her (with no harm done), we decided to spend some time helping the animals get used to their new home. It didn’t take long before everyone was happy and all was well.

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My Jake

I was one of the winners and got my copy of the book shortly after that.

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I was finishing up my summer classes, as well as preparing for a move and a holiday, so I was not able to pick it up immediately. I started reading the book right as I was leaving for my trip to Guam, and I finished it at some point during the fourteen hour flight from Newark to Tokyo.

Before I get into the review, I have a confession I need to make: I am really not a fan of beagles. One of my family members has a beagle, and that dog is the most awful, obstinate, terrible, stinky, stubborn, bullheaded dog I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. After her, I swore off beagles, saying the only one I’d ever love again was the cartoon Snoopy. This book has helped me learn a few things – the biggest of which is that I like beagles a lot better when I am not the one responsible for taking care of them. Looking in on a beagle’s home as an outsider, I find them endearingly amusing. Also, all of his quirks aside, Seamus had been added to my very short list formerly only containing Snoopy of beagles that I have a fondness for.

So, on to the book review! Here is the description of the book from the publisher (here is the link to the book’s page):

Teresa Rhyne vowed to get things right this time around: new boyfriend, new house, new dog, maybe even new job. But shortly after she adopted Seamus, a totally incorrigible beagle, vets told Teresa that he had a malignant tumor and less than a year to live. The diagnosis devastated her, but she decided to fight it, learning everything she could about the best treatment for Seamus. Teresa couldn’t possibly have known then that she was preparing herself for life’s next hurdle — a cancer diagnosis of her own. She forged ahead with survival, battling a deadly disease, fighting for doctors she needed, and baring her heart for a seemingly star–crossed relationship. The Dog Lived (and so Will I) is an uplifting and heartwarming story about how dogs steal our hearts, show us how to live, and teach us how to love.

I genuinely enjoyed this book. I am always a sucker for an animal book, though I constantly have to remind myself that the ones with animals dying will usually turn me into a sniffling, crying mess. I appreciated that the very title of this book ensured me that the dog would indeed live.

Seamus was a joy to read about. I laughed out loud more than once at Seamus’s antics (especially the food-grabbing, which is definitely funnier when it isn’t happening to me). When he got sick, I immediately began to root for him. When his vet didn’t seem to care as much about him as she should, I was angry on his behalf. I knew he would live, but I still breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that his cancer had gone into remission. I also loved the little quirks such as his affinity for toast and the author’s translation of Seamus-speak.

This story was just as much about Teresa as it was about Seamus. Her cancer diagnosis and her relationship with her boyfriend are prominent plots in the book. Though I was expecting the book to be largely about the dog, I was pleasantly surprised at how emotionally invested I found myself with Teresa.

She has a fabulous sense of humor and a way with words that made every aspect of her life fascinating. I enjoyed reading about her relationship, meeting the parents, her adventures with Seamus the beagle, and her journey through cancer treatment. She wrote it all with such a spark that you want desperately for her to succeed at everything from stopping Seamus’s uncontrollable barking to beating breast cancer. Her writing is clean, articulate, captivating, and funny. I loved the blog posts written by both her and her boyfriend Chris (especially those dealing with his hair growth). I actually began laughing uncontrollably when she relayed the story about going in for chemo and seeing the Beanie Babies hanging by their necks from the I.V. stands. Seeing as it was the middle of the night on my fourteen hour flight, I am sure my fellow plane passengers enjoyed my amusement. Oops.

What I appreciate most about this book is that it has heart without being preachy. The author doesn’t rhapsodize about praying or remaining constantly positive and eternally optimistic. She willingly acknowledges the struggles with both her cancer and Seamus’s cancer. There were tears and hopelessness and anger and frustration, but there was also a light at the end of the tunnel.

As soon as I got off the plane and to a computer, I looked up Teresa to see how she was doing. I was glad to see that she is doing well, but I was saddened to learn from her blog that Seamus passed away in March. I still think it is wonderful that he lived for eight years after his cancer diagnosis and that he had such kind and caring owners to see him through it until the end. And though his story has ended, I still highly recommend The Dog Lived (And So Will I) for dog lovers, cancer survivors, and anyone who loves a good, funny, well-written memoir.

“A Return to Normalcy”

I don’t actually have any concept of ‘normalcy’ in my life, but it seemed like a good enough blog title so there you have it.

I have just returned from a nearly two week trip to Guam. The island was lush and beautiful – plus I had the benefit of visiting family members as well as getting a tropical holiday. Two for one! It was absolutely wonderful getting to know the nephews I’ve really only ever spoken with via phone calls and Skype. They are fun and bright and exuberant and adorable, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with them. My brother, sister-in-law, and nephews will be coming to visit us in Virginia for the Christmas holiday, and I cannot wait to show the nephews around my turf.

So, Guam! I could write plenty about it, but here are some pictures since they sum up the beauty better than I ever could:

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Simply gorgeous. My flights to and from Guam were atrocious (mainly because of issues with United Airlines then an illness that I thought was a cold but turned out to be bronchitis well on its way to pneumonia). United will be getting a nice, long e-mail from me about their horrific service and all of the issues I encountered trying to make it through this trip without getting stranded somewhere. I very rarely complain about airline service since I expect it to be poor, but my experiences this time were really abysmal.

But anyway! I am now back in Virginia, moved into a new apartment, and ready to start the first classes of the last half of my MLIS degree – which includes an internship.. I have continued to receive Advance Reader Copies of books, as well as winning a few in contests. I owe several books some reviews (mostly because the books were fantastic and deserve more traffic, even if it is just from my silly little blog). Look forward to future reviews of The Dog Lived (and So Will I) by Teresa Rhynes, Help for the Haunted by John Searles, and Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh.

Tonight, though, I am just going to say that I hope everyone has had a fantastic summer! Mine has been pretty remarkable, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me.