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Huck by Janet Elder

The full title of Janet Elder’s entrancing little book more or less tells the story in a nutshell, but don’t stop there! From the cover until the end of Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family—and a Whole Town—About Hope and Happy Endings, you’ll be hooked.

Huck begins with a little boy’s dream. The author’s son, Michael, has begged for years for a dog. When he was seven he almost succeeded in wooing his parents to his request by putting together a PowerPoint presentation. That would probably do it for a lot of parents, but Janet was realistic—they lived in a New York City apartment and led busy lives. She and her husband held out, until she got a breast cancer diagnosis.

Concerned about the toll the illness will take on Michael, now 11, and her husband, Rich, Janet, a writer, decides the anticipation and excitement over the arrival of a new puppy will be the perfect antidote to the strain on the family of months of treatments.

They have lots to be thankful for when on Thanksgiving weekend, shortly after Janet’s chemo and radiation treatments have been completed, they bring home a sweet, mischievous, red-haired toy poodle they name Huck. He soon wins everyone’s heart!

A few months later, the family ventures south to attend the Yankees’ spring training and enjoy a much-needed vacation, leaving Huck for the first time with Janet’s sister in Ramsey, N.J. Barely 24 hours into their vacation, Janet receives a phone call that Huck has slipped through the backyard fence and run away. Brokenhearted and frantic, the family cuts their vacation short and hurries back to Ramsey to find Huck who faces the threat of coyotes, raccoons, swamps, rain, freezing temperatures, and fast cars. Moved by the family’s plight, strangers—from schoolchildren to the police lieutenant—join in the search.

While there is a lot to commend this book, it is the search for Huck that brings it all together. Anyone who has ever lost a pet and frantically searched for it will cheer for this family. It’s one thing to lose a pet in your home area; it’s another thing entirely when the animal is lost in strange surroundings. Dogs have strong instincts to find their way home again, but Huck got lost his first day in a strange neighborhood.

As Rich puts up “lost” posters all over the Ramsey area, he talks and talks to strangers . . . about the pup, about his son’s love for the animal, about his wife’s cancer. And he keeps a log of the people he meets and asks assistance from. While he’s doing that, Janet, Michael, and Janet’s family search for Huck and also put up posters and talk to strangers. In short, they do all the things people do when a pet is lost.

As one day leads into another they come close to despair, but never stop looking. Adding to their frustration is that Huck’s been spotted several times but never caught. Then a call at 6:30 on a Sunday morning galvanizes them into action again and they set off to find Huck.

Anyone who’s ever cheered for a little, lost puppy will love this warm and fuzzy story.

Anyone who’s watched a family cope with a serious illness and come out on the other side will love it.

Actually, I think everyone will love it.

~Ginny

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