As a child living with cerebral palsy, Leigh Brill ached with the physical pain of her medical condition and the emotional hurt of not fitting in. She has written her story, A Dog Named Slugger, an easy read for young adults and adults alike.
I hope Brill's story will change people's attitudes towards service dogs and will educate the public about the important role they play. Twenty years after the American with Disabilities Act gave legal rights to people in need of service dogs, it is still necessary to invoke that right to bring a working dog to some workplaces. The author takes on an ignorant employer who failed to recognize her legal rights to have an accommodation for a disability—an accomodation that included fur and four paws. The reader feels her frustration and anger that was triggered by the experience.
Aside from the political and educational element of the story, the story is a touching one of a young woman finding confidence and happiness with a Labrador retriever by her side. Since I first saw the movie of Old Yeller, I have cried when I read about dogs and their relationships with humans. This book is no exception for me. I experienced triumphant moments with the author and also some very sad moments. It is a wonderful treat to read about the training of her dog and the team that results from labor and love. The reader will learn about charitable organizations that help these transformations occur in the lives of people by providing trained dogs for free.
The only shortcoming of this book was that it felt over-edited to me. Perhaps this is necessary because the target audience is young adult and teen readers, but I would have preferred that the author's strong voice resounded more, rather than being muffled in the writing process. What could have been a powerful memoir with vibrant political and emotional content is softened for the YA audience.
A Dog Named Slugger is a beautiful story that is filled with emotion and description of how a service dog and handler grow to depend on each other. I could see this book becoming part of school curriculum that could bring about changes in the way the public understands the role of service dogs as genuine working dogs, not simply a pet, nor as a cane-on-paws, but an intricate combination of heart and instinct that enriches human lives. Read this book to gain a deeper appreciation for the tremendous amount of energy that goes into training a service dog to positively influence the bond between that dog and the human it serves. Read this book to get to know Leigh Brill, a dog's best friend, who told Slugger she would tell his story.
Leigh Brill is a professional counselor, writer and motivational speaker. She serves on the board of directors for Saint Francis Service Dogs. Visit her website.
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