By: Jennifer Talbot Ross
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Publication Date: November 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 13, 2011
A pair of “empty-nester” parents searching for a dog to fill their house and hearts and a big, white, “gentle-giant” in need of love come together in this heart-warming memoir of the Ross family and their Great Pyrenees Moses.
The Story of Moses is really the story of several of the dogs that have wiggled their way into the author’s heart through the years. Indeed, while there are hints of his appearance early on, we don’t actually meet Moses until page 79, more than halfway through this fairly brief memoir. But as the author points out, to understand Moses and the special relationship he had with his family, it is necessary to first meet the dogs that came before him. And so the reader is treated to an array of dog personalities, getting to know each canine, Cleopatra, Odin, Bess, Samantha, and Pax (who comes after Moses), intimately.
After a short introduction where Ross gives us a peek into the life of Moses, she turns her attention to Cleopatra, who came into her life back in 1988. One day, while her young daughter was at her grandmother’s house, they heard some whimpering outside. Going to investigate, they found an adorable black Labrador puppy between the yard and the on-ramp to the busy interstate. Scooping up the bundle of fuzz, the puppy soon found herself going home with the author. From here, the story takes on a puppy paradise feel as Cleo, in all her lovable antics, works her magic.
Of course, what household would be complete with just one dog? Because Cleo came into the author’s life before she married her husband George, he wanted a dog that “…would be more “our” dog” (pg. 21). Enter Odin, a beautiful German shepherd. Next, we meet Bess, another Labrador who joined the household after Cleo’s death, in part to fill the void (but never to replace) left by the loss. Odin was lonely and obviously mourning his dear friend’s parting and Bess helped ease the pain. Samantha, meanwhile, a rescue of Anatolian shepherd breeding, was brought home when Odin began having trouble keeping up with the younger Bess. It was felt a younger playmate would ease the constant strain on Odin.
Moses, the beautiful, strapping, lovable Great Pyrenees joined the family a few years after Odin’s passing. Moses had been found wandering around a ranch and brought to SPIN, a Great Pyrenees rescue group. At just 9 months old, he hadn’t been handled much and would require an experienced handler. Ross and her husband gladly took on the task and were rewarded with an unlimited supply of dog kisses.
When I read the introduction, I was struck by the line, “My intent is for this work to be a testament to the endearing and enduring sprit of dogs.” (pg. ii) It was clear that this book was written by a passionate dog owner and I was looking forward to reading about the lives of her dogs. I wasn’t disappointed as I met each dog, laughed at his/her playful ways and grew a bit somber as each dog grew old and feeble. And while there are hints on the back cover about the author losing Moses at an early age to cancer, and we read of the others’ passings, this is not a book about loss. Rather, this memoir is about the love that is given and received between dogs and those lucky enough to earn their respect and love.
The story of Moses is full of snippets of each dogs’ life, from their favorite games to the silly antics that each dog was known for. Thanks to the author’s down-home style of writing, the reader gets to know each animal intimately, the special quirks and behaviors that makes each dog special. There are many cute anecdotes spread throughout, such as Cleo trying to get through a doggie-door with a huge rawhide bone sticking out well beyond each check, Samantha finding the author’s lost sunglasses, and Moses refusing to have his toes clipped. I really felt that I knew each dog when I finished reading this tale and thoroughly enjoyed meeting each and every one. The author also takes the time to instruct the reader on the AKC guidelines for each breed of dog that they own, and how their new acquisition fit (and didn’t) that description. It added a level of interest that I wasn’t expecting.
It should be noted that while the author has a very easy style of writing, one that makes the reader feel like they are sitting at the kitchen table with her and listening to her tales, she also likes to use ellipses (…). In fact, there is a vast over-abundance of them throughout the text. While this didn’t hamper my reading enjoyment, I did find it rather odd. Regardless, I had a lot of fun getting to know Moses and the other dogs in the Ross household.
Quill says: A heartwarming story of canine love that will leave the reader with a warm and fuzzy feeling.