Staff Pick – Buddy by Brian McGrory

In the tradition of “my horrible pet made me a better person” genre populated by books like Marley and Me (M), we find Brian McGrory’s Buddy: how a rooster made me a family man (M). McGrory, editor of The Boston Globe, tells the heartwarming and hilarious tale of how an ornery rooster was his inspiration to open up his life and learn to live, contentedly, within a family.

Brian McGrory was a committed city dweller who, when his first marriage broke down, settled into a routine and very satisfying life with his beloved dog Harry, who is described in the most effusive terms as the most loving, intuitive and intelligent dog there ever was.  Just a word of warning, or perhaps a bit of a spoiler, this is “sainted” dog’s illness and demise is a gut-wrenching ordeal which will bring puppy-loss related distress to anyone with a working heart. (We listened to this book on cd during a long drive, and frankly, had I been driving, I would have had to pull over.) As rough as Harry’s death is, it is tempered by the knowledge that it is this final illness that precipitates the relationship with Pam the vet that is the start of Brian’s new and, for the reader, laugh out loud life.

Photo © Suzanne Kreiter

Brian entered a world, just him and his new dog, which was already populated by a busy woman, two beloved and cossetted young girls, dogs, rabbits, and a chick newly hatched from an egg-hatching kit. Brian, for the first time, leaves the city behind and tries to adjust to life in suburbia where you have to drive to get anywhere, and to two step-daughters who regard him with suspicion, leaving no uncertainty that their mother belongs to them. Enter the hero of the story, Buddy the rooster. Buddy is territorial and fiercely protective of his flock which does not include Brian. Buddy does not seem to understand the purpose of Brian when there is already a rooster on the premises. His sole purpose is to rid his flock of this interloper by any means necessary (pecking, attacking, malevolently glaring). Brian, for his part, schemes for ways to re-home Buddy, hoping that the neighbours will object to him. To his dismay the neighbours adore the rooster making him a bit of a local celebrity. Brian, while defending himself with a rolled up newspaper, comes to terms with the fact that he must learn to accept Buddy and all his quirks in order to forge his own relationship with this family.

Brian learns from Buddy how to love wholeheartedly and selflessly – perhaps an odd lesson to learn from a rooster.

A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: lessons in the good life from an unlikely teacher (M) by Sue Halpern. “At loose ends with her daughter leaving home and her husband on the road, Sue Halpern decided to give herself and Pransky, her under-occupied Labradoodle, a new leash—er, lease—on life by getting the two of them certified as a therapy dog team. Smart, spirited, and instinctively compassionate, Pransky turned out to be not only a terrific therapist but an unerring moral compass. In the unlikely sounding arena of a public nursing home, she led her teammate into a series of encounters with the residents that revealed depths of warmth, humor, and insight Halpern hadn’t expected. And little by little, their adventures expanded and illuminated Halpern’s sense of what virtue is and does—how acts of kindness transform the giver as well as the given-to.” publisher

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