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75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a book that will appeal to many but I found myself struggling to finish it. From the description I thought this book would be about the adventures of a therapy dog working in a nursing home. This is actually a very small part of the book. The author, Sue Halpern, writes more about philosophy and religion than she does about her dog and the people they met. I was looking forward to learning the stories of the people that Pransky and Sue met and there was actually very little of that. I'm at the age where I don't care what others "think"... I care only about what they "do". There wasn't so much doing in this book as thinking so for me it was not a pleasure to read. For others it will be more enjoyable.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is not as much a dog story as it is a philosophical book mulling over life, death, and debility. The author, Sue Halpern, had a dog who was a mixed Poodle and Lab named Pransky. When Ms Halpern's husband (author and lecturer Bill McKibbon) was away, their daughter was in college, and Ms Halpern was feeling the "empty nest," she decided to train her middle aged dog as a therapy dog. It was a good fit for her intelligent friendly dog.

Once the dog was certified, they regularly visited the nearby county nursing home in their home state of Vermont. The author describes her learning as well as the dog's. The dog was wonderful. Ms Halpern waxes philosophical in the book about end of life problems. This is no great tome, but a small slice of life. It is a pleasant read, and the dog does not die in the end. (While I don't normally give away the end of books, I need to wait until I am feeling particularly strong before reading a book where the dog dies in the end. So I am inclined to warn people.)
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 12, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Don't be misled by the cover and title, this is a book about serious subject matter.

The author feels somewhat less needed by her 16yo daughter, who appears to be the typical teenager and a husband who is traveling much more on business, so she decides to train her then 6yo female Labradoodle named Pransky, but commonly referred to as Pranny to become a therapy dog to give both the author and her dog more purpose in life.

The first part of the book is primarily about training the dog to be a therapy dog while the latter part is about trying to understand the seven so-called virtues four of which were espoused by Aristotle and Plato being PRUDENCE, JUSTICE, FORTITUDE, AND RESTRAINT to which some time later Saint Augustine later added the final three LOVE, HOPE, and FAITH.

The author wonders at one point if old age isn't much like middle age but only happens later in life, but then decides that there are too many things that are different for that to be accurate.

I liked some of the prose as it was simple by design yet poignant in feeling. Since I am reviewing from a pre-release book the page numbers may vary in the final edition.

1. "It's possible that death released her from a life of pain and that it was welcomed, but it is equally possible that death as a release was one of the stories that we tell ourselves to feel better when the alternative is feeling worse.' [p206] A point well put!
2. "When Fran lived there, Pranny knew it was Franny's room. Once Fran's clothes were emptied from the bureau and her pictures were removed from the wall all Pransky knew was that it wasn't" [p206]
3. In the chapter describing HOPE we learn that the nursing home had its own full time beauty parlor which helped to determine the female resident's mental well being. "[P]eople without hope for today, let alone tomorrow, did not get there hair done." Without any hope, why should they bother?
4. In the chapter on Love and how and why people become attached to their animals, the author says, "{G]rief was a proxy for love...with various theories to explain why people are often more attached to their canine companions than they are to family and friends." [p240] Another statement I found to be true with many people I have talked to about this subject.

This book is really about coming to grips with our own mortality and how the dog let the author find her way. The dog is quite cute and the message worth while. BTW, no foul language, whatsoever, in this book for those who might be concerned about that and no religious groups should be offended by anything the author said.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's probably not the author's fault. The book cover shows an adorable dog wearing a volunteer hat, the kind that was popular a long time ago. The title sounds like the first line of a joke. So I expected light-heared stories about a dog who becomes a therapy dog.

As other reviewers have observed, the book actually is quite serious. The author's style tends to be reflective, which some people will like and some will find a little slow. She begins to tell a story and then reflects on some philosophical point that takes her away.

On pages 112-113 the author realizes she's given up some of her assumptions about old age and about nursing homes. There's a significant difference between old age and middle age, she says. People have acknowledged their dependence before they move in.

Yet on page 171 the author says she has a hard time imagining herself as a resident of County, the home she visits, with all the horrors and indignities: stripped of all but a few possessions, dependent on other people for meals and care, sharing a room with a stranger.." Frankly it sounds like a prison to me, but the author commends the "fortitude" of the residents and drags out the cliche of "Old age is not for sissies."
I'm afraid my reaction was to wish devoutly for legislation broadening the scope of legally assisted suicide.

As other reviewers observed, it's not a dog book; it's a book about the author's response to a world of people struggling more or less successfully to maintain dignity in a place designed to destroy any pretense of respect for the elderly.

When it comes to books on growing older, nobody's done a better job than Susan Jacoby. When it comes to books on dogs, I wish this one had been a stronger addition to the list.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 9, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although I liked this book a lot, it was much different than what I expected from the title. It was a deeply introspective book about much more than a therapy dog, although it IS also about a therapy dog - a labradoodle named Pransky.

Sue Halpern is confronted with an "empty nest" and decides to try to get her beloved dog Pransky qualified to be a therapy dog, and since Pransky had roamed free on the Halpern's property all her life, it took quite a bit of training, but Pransky passes her first test with flying colors. Once certified a therapy dog, the author decides to take Pransky to a nearby nursing home weekly to cheer the residents, most of whom love dogs.

Pransky turns out to be a natural, and a welcome visitor to the nursing home, and there are numerous stories of the residents she visits, but there is much more to this book than that.

The Chapters are titled after the 7 virtues, and the author tries to tie each one to its title. Pransky seems much more comfortable at the nursing home than Ms. Halpern, and the book is filled with the authors ruminations on life, aging, death, nursing homes and how the elderly think as opposed to how we think they think. There are also ideas about how to make nursing homes more like homes, stories of friendships made, the death of residents and much more.

It is a learning experience for the author, and she shares her story very well. I am a dog lover, and could also relate well because my mother-in-law is in a nursing home, and we've occasionally taken one of our dogs (not a therapy dog), to visit. I've seen how she cheers the residents and think it's a great thing for the author to have done with her dog and her spare time. Highly recommended, but don't expect it to be just about a dog.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
While the author is skillful in her prose and in how she approaches deep subject matter, the book wasn't quite what I was looking for. My wife does therapy work with our dog and, by the title and cover shot, we expected a lighter view of this world. From the cover, my wife thought this would be the perfect book for her, but she didn't make it to the halfway point before moving on. Not that it's a bad book, we're just a little bored with the increasingly common dog used as device for philosophy genre. I think a lot of people will love this book, but if you're looking for lighter fare, this one may frustrate you - so just be aware of the audience at which this is aimed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I absolutely could not turn down this book because of the dog on the front. I am a nurse (have been for over 30 years) and a teacher. I also am an animal lover, especially dogs. I really believe in the good that animals do in nursing homes as many of the log term care facilities I take my students into have these lovable animals that bring such joy and comfort to the elderly. This book was a very emotional read for me and the emotions ran the gamut. While I do not always agree with the conclusions of the author about aging (maybe I am a bit more research based in my thinking), but I do agree about the lessons that a loving dog can bring into lives of nurses, residents, and the dog owner who gives of his/her time to make life a bit more comfortable and joyous for others. I also learned a lot from this book about the beginnings of pet therapy that I had no idea about. So this book is a winning in my opinion. It is good for those who are wanting to know more about pet therapy and it is a good read just for those who love dogs or love a good read about animals. I think this book would appeal to a very wide audience. Author Sue Halpern, thanks for sharing!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 11, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having had 4 wonderful dog companions, and 'maybe' thoughts about training our next dog to be a therapy dog, I was very interested in reading this book. I feel the story is 50-50. Half is about the labradoodle Pransky, a natural non judgemental healer. I enjoyed hearing about how Pransky's quiet gentle presence meant so much to the residents of the County Rehab Center. There are some touching notes about residents cheering up upon seeing Pransky, about talking to/about Pransky, making the sometimes extreme effort to pet Pransky - I found it very touching. Of course I believed this - as I feel most dog lovers will, having witnessed the effects of a charming dog in less extreme circumstances.

The other half is about the authors juvenille realizations. I respect the author is a Rhodes Scholar, that's a huge accomplishment - but I wonder if she ever left the ivory tower to actually interact with people? I was so surprised at the base revelations which occurred to her. Say! Older people had lives prior to becomming old! What a thought~! They had jobs! Professions! Families! Traveled! Some female residents still want to get their hair styled! Go Figure!! and so on. All I could imagine was a very intelligent woman who finally got out into the world. There are many references to different philosophers such as Aristotle and the ever popular Herbert Wallace Scyeider (sarcasm)....what these philosophers wrote about hope, resilence, charity, faith, etc. The author seems to put alot of effort comparing her experiences in the County Home with what the various philosophers wrote. At first this was mildly interesting to me, remember my perspective was 'has this woman ever met anyone before???" The author seemed like a character in a science fiction movie, dropped on an alien planet. Someone who is filled with data but no actual experience so every interaction has to be referenced to data " I think I see love" wait , let me run the data banks - what is love, what creates love, how long can love last...does what I see match the data I have learned? Picture R2D2 running data.

There are a few paragraphs on the goofy decisions government makes, such as only paying for nursing home care as opposed to paying for in home care and how this and other changes in Social Security helped create the nursing home business. Also some sad statistics about the number of younger people requiring long term care (1 out of 7 long term residents is 40 or younger) . I appreciated learning those facts.

One premise of the book was what the author learned from the experience and from Pransky. And I hope she expands upon what she learned. Get out of your head and into your heart.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When Sue Halpern and her dog Pransky decided to become a therapy-dog team at the County nursing home--well, Sue decided, but Pransky was all in favor--they embarked upon a course of study and personal growth far beyond what they'd expected. After a long period of training, after getting certified, they started making weekly visits to the home, and were exposed to a side of the human experience they hadn't thought about much--about old age, diminishment, decline, inevitable loss, mortality. Pransky had an intuitive gift for connecting with hurting folks. Author Halpern had a gift for putting the experience into words, drawing on the great thinkers and philosophers of all ages.

This book was not what I expected--not a collection of cute stories about a dog, not the theory and practice of animal therapy teams, and not a wide-eyed accounting of the remarkable abilities of our canine friends. Elements of these things are included, but the meat of the book is philosophy. What is goodness, what is virtue, and how do they lead to happiness.

Author Halpern writes well, avoids sentimentality, and brings together a lot of profound thinking by the great philosophers, going back to Aristotle. I enjoyed the book, but at times I wished she had gone more in depth about the actual day-to-day experiences in the nursing home. Still, the book was thought-provoking and taught me a lot. If you like dogs, or old people, or philosophy, or doing good-- any of these--you will want to read A Dog Walks Into A Nursing Home. I recommend it. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I just a few minutes ago closed the book having read the last page. This is the first time I ever wished a book to just go on and on. This true story is the most inspiring, the most believable, the most loving, the most charitable......I could go on naming every word in the dictionary for wonderful, profound, and inspiring. Pransky is acquainted and loves every resident of the County nursing home. She seems to know just when to be funny and playful as well as when to just sit quietly by perhaps holding her paws gently beside one of her friends even in their dying moments. What a powerful story. Don't miss it!
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