Surprised that I liked this book- honestly I thought it was going to be cheesy. Well, it was a little- towards the end- but for the most part, it was better than I expected. The constant theme of a surly teenager reluctant to have anything to do with her parent, and who rides horses, reminded me much of Riding Lessons and Flying Changes. But this book is about a dog. And a man, a powerful executive from unfortunate beginnings he’d prefer not to remember, pretty much built his life up from nothing and is proud of that. One day in a fit of arrogance and anger he strikes his secretary and gets charged with assault. In the ensuing lawsuit, he looses not only his multiple homes and most of his assets, but his wife and daughter, ending up seeing the latter only once a week. He’s ordered by the court to do community service at a homeless shelter. He finds the work there demeaning and unpleasant to say the least. Resentful and constantly defensive (in a just barely subtle way), until the dog comes into the picture. Then things slowly start to change.
The dog is a pit bull type that was raised in a cellar, trained to fight, and bears the scars, both mentally and physically. When animal cruelty investigators bust the place, he manages to escape and wanders the streets for a while until getting caught again and put in the shelter. Where he’s in the last cage of the row- fated to be euthanized (nobody thinks he can be rehabilitated or adopted out). But the two have an unexpected encounter, and the dog finds himself in this man’s care. Unlikely as it seems- the man lives in a small apartment and has never cared for a pet before- they gradually build a relationship. At first the ex-executive wants to hand the dog off to someone else, or return it to the shelter, but he soon realizes the dog doesn’t have any other options. And then when an opportunity does come to get rid of the dog, he finds he doesn’t want to anymore. He’s surprised to find himself attempting to communicate with Chance (as he eventually gets named), and even more surprised to find his teenage daughter thawing towards him, because of the dog. He starts to chat with some people he sees every day in the neighborhood, even make a few friends (with folks he never would have given more than a nod or glance, before). Chance just might bring more good into his life than anyone ever expected. And give him the ability to become a different person.
This story is really heartwarming. A bit cheesy, but not overwhelmingly so. It helped that things happened at a constrained pace, that seemed more realistic (no sudden overhaul of character, instant flip just because of the dog). Some chapters are told from the dog’s viewpoint, which were my favorite parts. A different type of voice than I’ve encountered in other animal-viewpoint narratives (it was quite reminiscent of Top Dog by Jerry Jay Carroll), but I liked it.