I have had a hard time sitting down to write about books recently. I’ve been reading a ton, but as you can see from the blog entries—or lack thereof—that I haven’t been writing about anything I’ve read. I know, I know, what’s the point of a book blog if I’m not going to write after I read? Well, part of the problem is that I get so caught up in the books, I don’t always make time to write before I’ve moved on to the next one. And sometimes, the books don’t speak to me enough to write about. This one, though… This one spoke to me.
I picked up the ARC (advanced reader copy) at work a couple months ago. Honestly, I grabbed it because it had a dog on the cover. I admit it (again), I totally judge books by their covers. Well, maybe not judge, but it definitely helps in choosing. So, anyway, if there’s a dog on the cover, there’s a good chance I’ll look it over. I’m a sucker for anything dog, and this one was so cute with its huge head out the car window. It made me think of how much fun it would be when I can finally take Jellybean on a roadtrip!
Back to the book: It sat in my “to be read” stack for a couple months, until the past weekend when I thought, “That’s a shorter book; I’ll read it next because it’ll be quick.” True, but I didn’t really know what I was in for. Obviously, I’d read the synopsis and knew the book was a memoir about the author and her dog. I knew there was a point where the dog got sick. That’s really about all I knew.
The story follows Watt as she gets an English Mastiff (largest breed in the world) puppy during the summer between her first and second years of college. Her mom gets her the dog on a whim, partially as an “I’m sorry” and a “everything’s fine” gift. Gizelle becomes her everything: best friend, partner, rock, confidante…everything Lauren could ever need, her dog is there. They grow up together, through college, family issues, moving to NYC, dating, jobs…together Gizelle and Lauren conquer it all.
And then Gizelle gets sick. Not just sick. Her limp that could be a couple things turns out to be cancer. Not a curable cancer. Gizelle is already 6 at this point. Many giant breed dogs don’t even make it that long. Losing Gizelle has never previously occurred to Lauren. Now, she not only has to deal with the future loss, but realize that it will happen sooner than she’d ever expect.
Lauren does what she’s always done: she makes lists. Specifically, she’s always made bucket lists and marked things off as she accomplished them. So, she begins one for Gizelle. Some of things are simple, like cuddling. Some of them take more work, like a canoe ride. Many are spur of the moment ideas, i.e. the canoe. But many are preplanned: Lauren’s dad visiting from TN or a weekend at the beach.
The constant in this book is the love between Gizelle and Lauren. As Lauren took care of Gizelle, Gizelle took care of Lauren. And through it all, they discover the amazing friends they have and the love they all have for each other. Lauren would not have met nearly as many people in NYC if she hadn’t had Gizelle there with her, and she wouldn’t have had some adventures if Gizelle hadn’t gotten sick. Gizelle had an impact on so many people, whether it was just a “that’s a huge dog” comment in passing, or the dog godparents who kept Gizelle at their one-level home in Maine as she deteriorated.
This book hit home with me because of my own dogs. While neither is sick, Jujubee is old and going downhill. The days that she doesn’t feel like eating or only wants to sleep, I can see her age catching up with her. We adopted her as a senior dog, but seeing her act like a senior dog is different. Up until recently, she still wanted to play a little and go walking. Now, she’d just as soon lay on the couch and couldn’t care less if you have treats for her. Jellybean, on the other hand, is only two and so full of life. She wants all the attention all the time. And she is my baby. Looking at Jelly, I can sympathize with how Lauren must have felt getting the news of Gizelle’s diagnosis. It breaks my heart and makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.
I fully admit that I cried through most of the last two chapters, the epilogue, and even the acknowledgements. I can imagine everything Lauren went through, and I commend her for being able to bring the story to life. I’d like to think that if something happened to Jellybean, I could do the same thing: to make her life meaningful in others’ eyes and touch strangers’ hearts.
Thank you, Lauren Fern Watt for giving us the story of you and Gizelle. And also for reminding me to live in the present and enjoy my dogs while I can, because even though we don’t think of a future without them, we will one day face it.