Dogs and humans are alike in many ways

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney was definitely a change from my normal reading. Seeing the word dog in the title of the book is what initially caught my eye, but once I started reading I soon realized this was not a cute little dog story, but a tender story of broken people and broken dogs and how they help one another. It took a few chapters to get into the book, but I soon discovered that dogs and humans really are very much alike.

The main character is Evie. She is just coming out of a program where she has been dealing with issues of addiction and wants desperately to start a new life and put the details of her past far behind her. She needs a job, but even more, she needs a second chance in a place where she can start over. While searching the internet one day she finds an ad that peaks her interest. The ad says "Would you like to become a dog _____?" The website is for a place called The Sanctuary, an old ski lodge up at the top of a snowy mountain, where they rescue dogs and retrain them. Evie has no clue about dogs or how to care for them, but that doesn't stop her from applying. To her surprise, she gets the job. She arrives at an old inn at the base of the mountain where she meets the innkeeper, Mrs. Auberchon. Evie is given a room in the inn but no instructions on what she is to do next, and Mrs. Auberchon is of no help at all. While she waits for someone to take her to The Sanctuary, Evie turns to the dog books she purchased and the internet to learn about breeds of dogs and dog rescue and how to train abused dogs, hoping her employer won't find out how little she actually knows. And then she meets the dogs. Tasha is the Rottweiler with polka dots above her eyes, Shadow is the odd mix that refuses to bark, and Hank is the dog who is afraid of sticks. And then there is Alfie the racing greyhound who refuses to race, little Josie who wants to fight the world, and Dora, the queen, who wants everything her way. The story is generally told by Evie, and the reader is pulled into Evie's head as she thinks about her past, her present, and her future. At other times, we see the world through the eyes of the dogs at The Sanctuary, and how the simplest act of kindness can heal scars from the past.

Reading The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances made me realize that dogs and humans are alike in many ways. To heal and right the wrongs we may have done, we both need to have a conscience and make amends for those wrongs. We both must understand forgiveness, obedience, rehabilitation, rejection and relapses. Many times, humans are in some stage of being rescued - just like dogs - and sometimes they work to rescue each other. This would be a great discussion choice for book clubs, and I would also recommend it for teens.




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