A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher by Halpern is an interesting book about what a woman learns about life by training her dog to be a therapy dog, and then visiting a nursing home with the dog. It is not like many of the other “pet” books that I have read which center on the dog or cat and show us what life must look like through their eyes or how a community is changed by the pet being there. This book centers more on what the woman learns about life in the nursing home than anything to do with the dog. If you are looking for a true pet book about a dog then this is not the book for you. However, if you are looking for a book about one woman’s insights about life that she learns through various encounters with the residents that are housed in a nursing home. Then you should really enjoy this book.
Plot: The author decides that her dog is bored and needs a job. She lands on the idea that her dog should be a therapy dog. She and her dog, Pransky, go through the necessary training and testing to become a certified therapy dog and being visiting a local nursing home twice a week. The author learns a lot about life from the residents of the nursing home who are essentially at the end of their lives. She also learns some important lessons from her dog about how to treat people. The author tells these stories with their embedded lessons in a series of chapters that are not necessarily in chronological order but are organized by which one of the seven virtues that they represent. The book is divided into sections based on these seven virtues, which include Prudence, Justice, Temperance (or Restraint), Courage (or Fortitude), Faith, Hope, and Charity (or Love). Each section tells a story or stories that exemplify the virtue described in that section. I thought this was a very interesting way to organize the book, but could be a bit confusing since we are used to reading events in chronological order.
While I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, I had two criticisms of it. The first is I thought it would be a story that centered more on the dog, Pransky, but it wasn’t. The story was more centered on the nursing home patients and what they taught the author. Secondly, it didn’t really end well; there is no true ending, the book just kind of stops. I would have like a definitive ending of some sort. Otherwise, this is a lovely book that will make one think about life and the lessons that can be observe in a nursing home.
What I did like about the novel was that the author writing style was easy to read and I didn’t find the story boring, although it did lag a little in a couple of places for me. I also liked that the author presented so many fascinating characters for us to read about. I believe all these characters are based on real people with the names changed to protect their privacy, which goes to show you that real life can be interesting. Halpern does a good job writing the characters and presenting them so that they are readable, interesting, and believable.
I did enjoy this novel and Halpern’s insights about life but I did expect this book to be more of a dog book. I wish the dog had been in the center stage more or that they would have titled the book so that you would know its more about life lessons from the nursing home rather than a story about a dog.