A Dog’s Journey

I just finished reading a book with this title by W. Bruce Cameron. This is the sequel to a book I talked about last month, A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans. If you’re new here or need to refresh your memory, you can read what I had to say about A Dog’s Purpose here.

Like its prequel, A Dog’s Journey is told from the first person point of view of a dog who is reincarnated three times. However, instead of ending up with different people every time, fate leads him to the same owner. When the book opens, Buddy, the black Labrador from the previous novel, is still living on the farm with Ethan’s widow Hannah who is often visited by her children and grandchildren. One such grandchild is a toddler, Clarity, who is staying on the farm with her mother, a self-centered individual with big dreams of being a singer who often neglects her daughter. Her mother doesn’t like dogs so when the child falls into a pond and Buddy saves her, she assumes Buddy pushed her into the water and won’t let Clarity anywhere near him. A year or so later, Buddy becomes ill and is taken to the vet and put down. By that time, Clarity and her mother have moved away, and as Buddy drifts into death, he expresses the hope that Clarity will someday find a dog who will love and take care of her.

When Clarity is a teen-ager, she finds another dog, and it’s Buddy, reincarnated as Molly, a Cocker Spaniel Poodle mix. She adopts Molly, against her mother’s wishes of course, and has other problems. She smokes, skips school quite a bit, and occasionally exhibits bulimic behavior, eating large quantities of food and throwing it up. She eventually falls in with a shady character, Shane, whom she inadvertently helps to rob her high school’s art department. After that incident, she tries to break off the relationship with Shane, but he stalks her. She flees to California to get away from Shane and her mother, but since she’s a minor, she’s found and brought back. Molly is with her through all this, doing her best to protect and comfort Clarity. The dog dies in a car accident while Clarity is trying to get away from Shane who is chasing her.

In the third life, Max, a Chiwawa Poodle mix, meets Clarity in New York where she hopes to become an actress, and she adopts him. She still binges and purges food from time to time. She walks other people’s dogs for a living, but that doesn’t always help her make ends meet, and she has a hard time finding other work. She eventually falls behind on her rent and is threatened with eviction and attempts suicide by taking pills with Antifreeze. Max is by her side most of the time, comforting and protecting her as usual. Her life takes a turn for the better when she is re-acquainted with Trent, a boy she has known since childhood who just happens to be living in New York and working as an investment banker. She and Trent are eventually married, and she becomes a psychologist, working with troubled teens and others. They live happily with Max and a cat named Sneakers until years later when Max dies peacefully with Trent and Clarity at his side.

You’d think that would be the end of the book, but no, the  dog is again reborn, this time as a Beagle into a litter of puppies raised by an order of nuns. One of the nuns calls him Toby and trains him for work with hospice patients. This is where he again meets Clarity, who’s mother is a hospice patient with Alzheimer’s’ Disease. Her mother still won’t have anything to do with dogs, but Toby becomes a constant source of comfort and companionship to Clarity during this time. After her mother dies, Clarity volunteers at the hospice and eventually becomes a patient. Her suicide attempt years ago took its toll on her kidneys, and after over twenty years of dialysis and a transplant, she’s ready to give up. She dies peacefully with Toby  by her side. A year or so later, Toby passes on and is reunited with Clarity, Hannah, Ethan, and others who cared for him through his eight lives.

I realize you probably don’t want to read the book now that I’ve told you pretty much the whole story, but there’s one important sub-plot I didn’t mention. After Clarity and Trent are married, Trent is diagnosed with cancer which is caught early due to a remarkable and perhaps unrealistic phenomenon. To find out what this is, you’ll have to read the book. Also, I’m sure you’ll be curious about Clarity’s grandmother and other relatives who are mentioned at the beginning of the book. You’ll read more about them, too.

This book can be downloaded in recorded format from Audible, read by the same narrator who reads A Dog’s Purpose and does an excellent job with both books. It’s also available in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can learn more about W. Bruce Cameron and his books here. If you’re a dog lover, you’ll love A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s  Journey.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Another Poem Published

“The Day My Husband had a Stroke,” the first poem in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, has been published on Voxpoetica, a Website dedicated to promoting poetry. You can read the poem here. If you’re using a screen reader, when you get to the page, press the heading navigation key several times until you hear the poem title. Enjoy!

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

The Other Woman

People who suffer from strokes often have difficulty controlling their emotions. In the case of my husband Bill, when he hears something sad in a talking book he’s listening to or one of those forwarded e-mail messages he often gets from friends, he sobs uncontrollably. When he hears something funny, he laughs out loud. When he feels amorous, he puts his arm around me or takes my hand and expresses his affection. If I didn’t have a sense of humor, his sudden amorous outburst one day might have gotten him into trouble.

We were hosting my local writing group’s Christmas party several years ago. Bill was stretched out in his recliner, and another woman sat on the couch next to the chair. Because Bill is totally blind, he didn’t see that I wasn’t the one sitting next to him. He extended his hand to the other woman and said, “Hi honey.”

From the other side of the room, I saw and heard everything. “Oh honey, that’s Mary,” I said. “I’m clear across the room.”

Embarrassed, Mary stood up and offered to trade places with me. As I sat down next to Bill and took his hand, I said, “I turn my back for ten seconds, and you’re hitting on another woman.” Everyone laughed, including Bill.

The other woman never returned to our writers’ group meetings after that. A year or so later when I ran into her, I mentioned the incident and told her I hoped it hadn’t scared her away from our group. She assured me it hadn’t, that she’d just been too busy. We’re friends on Facebook and follow each other’s blogs. Now, when Bill and I are at a party, I always sit next to him and make sure he knows where I am at all times. He hasn’t hit on another woman since.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Cold Weather, Anyone?

Now that it’s July, and temperatures are in the nineties and triple digits, it’s time to think cool thoughts, really cool thoughts. The following poem was just published in the 2012 issue of Emerging Voices, a literary journal produced by Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff.

 

Five Ways of Looking at Cold

 

1.

 At a quarter to nine in the morning, it’s seventeen below.

Waiting for a ride, I stand inside the kitchen door.

The sun shimmers on the storm door’s frosted glass.

I rub with gloved hand

but don’t even make a dent in the frost.

I hear the car pull into the driveway—

its tires crunch on the frozen snow.

 2.

 I don’t have the heat on yet,” she says when I get in the car.

“It needs to warm up first.”

I’m not complaining–

walking the half mile to the YMCA

would be a lot worse.

When we arrive, I feel like a popsicle.

In the locker room, my nose runs.

 3.

 The water exercise class is in progress when I get in the pool.

“North to Alaska” plays on the stereo.

Why would I want to go there? I’m cold enough–

but as the water’s warmth surrounds me,

I move across the pool–

my mind unfreezes, opens to a world of possibilities.

 4.

 Driving home isn’t so bad.

The car has absorbed the winter sun’s warmth

after sitting in the parking lot for over an hour.

When I get home, the temperature is four degrees above zero.

 5.

 The groundhog did not see his shadow today–

there will be an early spring.

We’ve never had one of those in Wyoming.

In the late afternoon, the temperature has risen to twelve above—

it feels like twelve below.

Where’s our early spring?

 

What do you remember about cold weather? To keep warm, did you chop wood and dump it in the fireplace, shovel more coal in the furnace, snuggle with the one you love by the fire? Have you ever seen a groundhog? Please share your memories below. If you have terouble with the comment form, you can e-mail me at the address above.

 

 Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

 

Straighten Up and Fly Right

A couple of years ago, I wrote an abecedarian. This type of poem has twenty-six lines, and each line starts with a letter of the alphabet in order from A to Z. You can find an example here. Below is my  abecedarian, but first, click here for the song that inspired it.

  

On Straightening Up and Flying Right

 

  

A buzzard and a monkey wouldn’t fly together

because a monkey wouldn’t be stupid enough to

climb on a buzzard’s  back since a buzzard is a

dirty old bird with no morals.

Everybody knows that monkeys don’t

fly–buzzards do. My

guess is that monkeys prefer to associate with their own kind. 

Heaven knows why the song was written. What an

imagination someone must have to

justify writing it–but

knowledge of values would lead one to believe that there’s a

logical message here. The

monkey makes a point when he tells the buzzard

not to blow his top and to do right.

Of course, not blowing your top and doing right are important.

People who are angry blow their tops, but the

question is do these people not do

right? I’ve blown my top a few times.

Still, I try to do the right thing. I

think that even the best of us,

under certain circumstances, blow our tops.  It’s not

very unusual.  But back to the monkey and the buzzard,

Why would a monkey allow a buzzard to take him for a ride? It doesn’t require

x-ray vision to determine that a buzzard is smaller than the average monkey.

You should realize that a monkey would be safer riding a

zebra. He wouldn’t have as far to fall.

 

 

If you haven’t written an abecedarian, you might want to try it. Pick a topic, and see if you can come up with a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet in order from A to Z to start each line. This can be tricky because there aren’t a lot of words that start with X, U, and other letters. Good luck, and have fun. You can leave your poem as a comment below. If you have trouble with the form, please e-mail me at the address above.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

 

Another Great Book Review

 A month ago, I reviewed Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School, a memoir by Bruce Atchison. Now, Bruce has returned the favor by reviewing my poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver on his blog. You can read his review here.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

What Does Independence Mean?

This morning, as I sat in our back yard on a beautiful eighty-three-degree day, I read a blog post by John that asked this question. As I felt the cool breeze caress my legs and heard my next door neighbor try many times and finally succeed in starting his lawn mower, I pondered this question but couldn’t come up with an answer. 

One thing I’ve learned about independence over the years is that sometimes, in order to be independent, you have to ask for help. When I attended the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson, I was taught what I call the eleventh commandment. “Thou shalt not ask for help.” The twelfth commandment was, “Thou shalt do it yourself.” It took me many years to unlearn these commandments. Now, I own my own house and care for my totally blind partially paralyzed husband at home. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of this if I couldn’t ask for help.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver