I’ve had my fair share of meeting Assistance Dogs, and Assistance Dogs in training while working in retail the past few years. Seeing a dog in places (other than where they’re allowed such as the pet store or outside at some resturants) always triggers the same response in me…I get the biggest smile on my face and resist the urge to bend down, say “Hello”, and just meet this incredible animal. I’m sure its happened to you too, or if you have kids I’m sure you’ve had to explain to them that a dog in a vest is working and can’t be interrupted while doing their job. It’s hard, I know. I struggle with it myself! Service animals are amazing animals, and every time I see one my heart jumps a beat. I’ve always wanted to learn more about Assistance dogs, and when Bell Bridge Books wanted us to write up a review of the book, I knew this book was going to be the start of something great.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of the heartwarming and lovable story, “A Dog Named Slugger” by Leigh Brill. This book will leave you inspired and fighting back tears of sadness, joy, & understanding. By the end of the prologue, by the end of Chapter 3, and many other times throughout this book I found myself reaching for a tissue, sniffling and wiping my face on my sleeve. A Dog Named Slugger really shows the true side of the working dog, how inspirational they truly are [to their owners and the others around them], and the positive energy that radiates from these dogs simply because they love their work, what they do, and the interaction they have with humans and even other dogs.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t need to pretend, I didn’t need to be tough: I only needed to be honest. “I have cerebral palsy. I walk funny and my balance is bad. I fall a lot. My hands shake, too. That means I’m not so good at carrying things. And if I drop stuff, sometimes it’s hard to just bend down and get it.”
I waited anxiously for the interviewer’s response. She smiled. “It sounds like a service dog could be great for you.”
So began Leigh Brill’s journey toward independence and confidence, all thanks to a trained companion dog named Slugger. The struggling college student and the Labrador with a “a coat like sunshine” and a tail that never stopped wagging became an instant team. Together, they transformed a challenge into a triumph. Together, they inspired and educated everything they met. Now, Leigh honors her friend with the story of their life together.
At the beginning of the book you meet Leigh who has CP, or Cerebral Palsy. You read about her everyday struggles with everyday tasks, and how the simple act of walking is extremely challenging and difficult for her on most days. After years of struggling with her CP, not just physically, but also emotionally, she meets a service dog and handler in college who gets her thinking about her situation and ultimately changes her life forever. You follow her first meeting with the lovable Lab, Slugger, get to know him as she does, follow their training and hard work as they begin to develop their lifelong bond and working relationship. As Leigh & Slugger get to know each other, Leigh develops an obsession with all things Labrador, while Slugger continues his love affair with cheese and struggles with dog treat aisles at the pet store, among other things that dogs love to do (to know what I’m talking about, you’ll just have to pick up a copy of this book!).
You’ll also begin to uncover the bond between Slugger & Leigh, and see how the two of them together touched, changed, and encourage every person they met. The two of them become inseparable as Slugger captures the heart of Leigh, all while providing her with independence, comfort, security, and unconditional love. But not only has Slugger captured the heart of Leigh and taught her how to accept these things and changed her life, he’s also taught me some things about life as well. I’ve pulled a couple of my favorite quotes from the book to show you what I mean.
“He believed in me before I knew how to believe in myself.” -pg. 174
“It’s important to believe in yourself and be your best you.” -pg. 178
I don’t pretend to know everything about dogs, and I’ll be the first one to tell you what I do know and what I dont. From my experience a know a bit, but there is a lot that I don’t and what I don’t know I can’t wait to learn. Like I said in the beginning, so far my only experience with Service Dogs is visual. I’ve seen them and I’ve said ‘hello’, but just like the rest of the public that’s pretty much it. Unless you’re a trainer, an owner of one of these dogs, or friends with an individual who owns one, I find it very difficult to fully understand not only the bond between dog and owner, but also all the mass amounts of resources, training sessions, and money that goes into just ONE of these dogs. It blows my mind. If you remember the video we posted a little while back about Surf Dog Ricochet (yes, the one that made us cry our eyes out), it shows a glimpse of what it takes to train a dog to be a service dog. It’s incredible.
I can’t wait to learn more about Service Dogs, and after reading this book I’m sure you’ll want to too. I’ll be adding a couple resources that Leigh suggested at the end of “A Dog Named Slugger“.
Of course, as with most books that are based on the life of an author’s personal pet, this book has the same tragic ending that is unfortunately inevitable when it comes to pet ownership, but I’m so glad that Leigh has decided to share Slugger’s story. Not only did he touch and change so many lives while he lived, but now he lives on in “A Dog Named Slugger” and has the chance to change the lives of so many more.
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