Bookworm: Wandering pets and wayward readers

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Where the Lost Dogs Go: A Story of Love, search, and the Power of Reunion”

  • By Susannah Charleson
  • c. 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • $27, $39 Canada; 320 pages

The panic can’t be described. Your dog is missing. How did he get out? Where did she go?  Most importantly, where is he now and how can you ever hope to find him? Do you run outside, call the neighbors, call her name?  That panic is horrible, so be prepared by reading “Where the Lost Dogs Go” by Susannah Charleson.

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The story sounds like a near-ending: because of her work with dogs and rescue groups, Susannah Charleson gets constant pleas to save and foster dogs that are scheduled to die by euthanasia. It’s heartbreaking and she does what she can, but on one hot Texas day, after receiving multiple messages about a filthy, smelly little mixed-something-breed that was doomed, Charleson did a little more.

“Where the Lost Dogs Go: A Story of Love, search, and the Power of Reunion” by Susannah Charleson.

She didn’t need another dog; she already had several, including some that were on hospice care but this little waif seemed different. He wasn’t giving up, and neither was Charleson: she fetched the new “family member” and named him Ace.

For Charleson, this was what she’d done all her life. Her parents had both been fierce animal advocates, and she grew up with pets they’d found and saved. Many of her best memories of childhood were wrapped in animal tales; both her parents seemed delighted that she’d carried on the efforts and in this case, they supported the idea of helping the little guy.

But Ace wasn’t like a lot of other strays. He was loved once, says Charleson. He was well-mannered, happy, housebroken, and enjoyed car rides. Once his health issues were addressed, he got along well with other dogs and with people. What had happened to him that he’d ended up living in a culvert in a sketchy neighborhood?

While looking for Ace’s former owners, Charleson pondered that. Some dogs like to sneak out the door or under a fence for adventure. Others do it in fear. In any case, untold numbers of dogs go missing each year and, though there are ways to recover one that’s lost, some never return home again. It can happen to anyone.

“Where the Lost Dogs Go: A Story of Love, search, and the Power of Reunion” author Susannah Charleson.

Says Charleson: “Dogs don’t wander until they do.”

If you’re a pet lover, you know the panic you feel when your baby goes missing: it’s instant, helpless, urgent, and terrifying, all at once. “Where the Lost Dogs Go” can help make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But lost-dog-proofing advice isn’t all you’ll find here: author Susannah Charleson writes about her parents, who showed her compassion for animals and who couldn’t live with one another, but couldn’t live without one another, either. She includes her dog, Puzzle, in her tales, which will please fans of her other works. It’s kind of like having a book wrapped in a book wrapped in explanations for how rescue groups work and how readers can ensure their pets make it home if they’re ever lost.

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That makes this story a valuable investment, one to read and save-in-case. For dog moms, cat daddies, and pet sibs alike, if you don’t read “Where the Lost Dogs Go,” you’re missing out.

“Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian” author Jill Grunenwald.

“Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian”

  • By Jill Grunenwald
  • c. 2019, Skyhorse Publishing
  • $25.99, $34.99 Canada; 342 pages

Everyone knows you’ll read anywhere. At work, if you can sneak a page. In the park, in your car, on a tractor between wagons, in every room of your house, in the yard. In the bathtub, on a plane, you’re never far from a book. Yep, you’ll read anywhere – even, as in the new book “Reading Behind Bars” by Jill Grunenwald, after the cuffs come off.

Jill Grunenwald didn’t originally aim to become a librarian.

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True, she’d loved working part-time at a library when she was a teen and she “practically lived and breathed books,” but she set her sights on a creative writing degree. Two years later, the light dawned and Grunenwald realized library-as-career was where she needed to be. Her first job: a Library Assistant position at the Lorain Correctional Institution in a small town outside Cleveland, Ohio.

“Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian” by Jill Grunenwald.

“When I pictured my very first day as a professional librarian,” she says, “it did not involve getting handcuffed.”

But that’s what happened, since Grunenwald – or “Ms. G,” as the inmates came to call her – had to complete a staff safety class that included sampling the other side of the bars. She also had to have a constant knowledge of rules that the inmates lived by; lack of knowledge, as she learned quickly, could cost her the job. Befriending inmates was also a risky, even dangerous, endeavor. For her own safety, all personal problems had to be left “at the gate,” which left no room for dealing with them. Trust was a shaky and often rare commodity, and there was ugliness between the stacks.

And yet, the job had its moments of perfection for a book-geek: Grunenwald was buoyed by the thirty-something man who begged to learn about the classics, and by the inmate who dreamed of being a librarian, too, someday.

Overall, it was a great job – until the “little things, adding up over the course of twenty months” began to truly bother Grunenwald. She wanted better hours and a different direction. She’d loved the opportunity she’d been given and she’d learned so much in prison, but it was time to “escape”…

A reminder: you have the right to remain silent. But with “Reading Behind Bars,” you won’t want to.

Nope, you’ll want to share and discuss this book, preferably with another book lover because it speaks to people like you in so many ways, from literary references to insider peeks at the workings of a small community library. It’s a reader’s read inside a lively, funny memoir, and author Jill Grunenwald tells it in a style that feels authentic. It can also be cutesy sometimes, too, and can border on the profane, but it’s got enough of the right information and plenty of great anecdotes to keep readers engaged and to make you forgive such digressions.

Library lovers will want to check this book out. Readers of prison literature will find it arresting. If you’re just curious about behind-the-scenes at a different kind of library, “Reading Behind Bars” will have you under lockdown.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.