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Greenleaf Book Group
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The Mutt for Me

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

A memoir of second chances, healing, and how rescuing a dog rescued me Having never had a dog of his own before, Don was not prepared for what it meant to adopt one of the most behaviorally difficult rescues in the shelter. But something about Barbie, a mutt that everyone had given up on and so fearful and unresponsive that she was within days of being put down, convinced Don to open his home and his heart for the first time to a canine companion, changing both of their lives forever. Interspersed with Don’s most poignant memories of volunteering at his local animal shelter, The Mutt for Me follows the many misadventures of Don and Barbie on their mutual journey of growth and healing. You’ll see Barbie transform from the terrified, despondent recluse to the lively and almost always well-behaved dog she is today. As the first-time dog dad of a pup in need of significant behavioral development, Don shows that with enough love, patience, and dedication, anyone can provide a home to a rescue animal. The Mutt for Me is a heartwarming story about how our pets have the capacity to transform and heal us as much as we can do the same for them.
This must-read for dog lovers details the journey Hughes took with a shelter dog named Barbie and her “beautiful” transformation from a frightened and detached animal with behavioral issues to a loving pet and companion. Hughes details how his emotional investment in Barbie proved healing for him as well after the death of his beloved father. Starting from his time as a volunteer at a dog shelter where he meets Barbie for the first time and detailing the ups and downs of bringing her into his life and working to discover the “great dog inside of Barbie just waiting to come out,” Hughes is open and vulnerable about how much he needed Barbie and all the challenges they faced.

Hughes was motivated to adopt Barbie when her behavior deteriorated at the dog shelter. She was not just withdrawn; she shied away from any and all contact, especially from men. This was in stark contrast to most shelter dogs, who are eager for human contact. She was days away from being euthanized when Hughes' friend Jenny, who acts as a sort of Greek chorus in this telling, urges him to adopt. In clear, resonant language, Hughes details everything that he tried with Barbie in order to make her feel comfortable, noting that he made many mistakes along the way.

Some of the difficulties include aggressiveness toward other people, frequent house-training accidents, and Hughes’ own sleep deprivation, before Hughes accepts that he’s out of his depth and turns to trainers to help—and even then learns that not all dog experts are created equal. The result is that after many patient weeks and months, Barbie both bonds with him and is conditioned out of most of her negative behaviors. Hughes has written a touching memoir of the relationship between human and pet that offers an unflinching look at the real doubts that plague adopters of animals. It also offers hope, plus helpful and concrete solutions, for people facing similar challenges.

Takeaway: Touching memoir of adopting, training, and loving a dog with behavioral issues.

Comparable Titles: Amy Sutherland’s Rescuing Penny Jane, Cara Sue Achterberg’s 100 Days and Counting.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A