Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review: Amazing Gracie by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff

This had been sitting on my tbr shelves for years because I am a sucker for a dog story. I didn't pick it up quickly because I know that when there's a dog on the cover, well, it is likely to end in tears and I can't always face that. We have had several dogs over the years and they've all been "very good girls," the best, who have given us more than we could ever have possibly given them. That a couple of them have been medically unusual and we've spent a lot of money to make sure they have a good quality of life for the brief time we get to share with them made me even more interested in Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff's dog memoir, Amazing Gracie, the story of a deaf, partially blind albino dog whose owners opened a dog bakery, Three Dog Bakery, in order to find food she'd eat.

When Dan Dye loses his beloved dog Blue, he descends into a real funk that doesn't entirely lift until a coworker takes him to meet one of her own Great Dane puppy's litter mates. This small (yes, they start out small) pup was shivering in a corner of the breeder's garage and slated to be euthanized because of her disabilities when Dan met her. Despite his misgivings, they immediately chose each other and this is the story of their life together from introducing her to his housemate's two dogs to her love affair with the tiny dog next door, from her dangerous disinterest in dog food that inspired the authors to learn to cook for her and ultimately start their dog bakery to the fame she achieved as the face of Three Dog Bakery, from her gentle acceptance of her successor to the final goodbye. Interspersed with funny and heartwarming stories about Gracie are insights into Dan's life and childhood, the way that it shaped him and the way that he finally learned to accept the past and embrace new definitions.

The beginning of the book, when Gracie is a goofy puppy and Dan is learning to make cookies for her is more relaxed and entertaining than once it focuses more on the formal creation of the bakery. Gracie is certainly still a part of the narrative then but it feels choppier, less focused on her, and more about founding the business and it quickly (at least in terms of the abbreviated timeline in the book) becoming a runaway success that brought them invitations to talk shows and the like. Although it was presented as a connected narrative, in many ways it was more like vignettes from the life of a dog and the man (yes, man rather than men as there's almost nothing about housemate and business partner Mark) who loved her. It was a sweet enough story, simple and quick. Most dog lovers will find this feelgood story of a man who rescues a dog and is rescued in turn resonates with them. Do have tissue ready for the end though because, after all, there is a picture of Gracie on the cover.

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