Some of you may remember that when I started this blog I was very much a dog person as well as a cat person. But last year, we lost our doggy pal after 15 years which I wrote about here.
So when Charmaine Hammond contacted me to ask if I would like to read her books On Toby's Terms and Toby, The Pet Therapy Dog & his hospital friends, I was so excited to receive a book to review with a dog as the main character.
When I received the books, I quickly read the children's version with my nephew. We both loved the character of Toby, and were even more thrilled to know that it was a true story. Toby really is a pet therapy dog, and Miss Charmaine really is his owner and the writer of the book. Mr Nephew was keen to know more, so we read the book and discussed the questions on the last page. He asked lots of questions about Toby, Charmaine and why I was reviewing the book. It was a lovely reading session and we both really enjoyed reading about Toby and Miss Charmaine very much.
As many of you know, I have been struggling with health issues on and off for a while, so this sort of held me up in my reading and reviewing, so sincere apologies to Charmaine Hammond and to those interested in her work.
However, I finally got to read and review On Toby's Terms. I have to say that I love this book. It is one of those stories you want to keep talking about to people, but then I am torn because I don't want to give too much of the story away because I want them to enjoy it for themselves.
This story is very readable, with just the right balance between fun and drama, laughter and tears, anxiety and happiness...and you will feel all of these emotions reading this book. Charmaine's easy narrative style, made me feel like I knew her, Chris and Toby as neighbourhood friends. You could just imagine having friends telling their dinner party stories about their loveable dog who oscillates between exuberance and anxiety, and is so rambunctious he needs a job to keep him occupied.
Charmaine and Chris decided to adopt an older dog. Many of us have thought similar things, that we weren't in a position for another puppy, or that there were so many lovely older dogs waiting for adoption, that it seems wiser and kinder to choose this option. But were they in for a surprise? Toby exhibited all kinds of strange behaviours, from tearing up the house when they were away, to locking himself in the bathroom and proceeding to bang the toilet lid and ruin the cistern cover (so many times that the Hammonds started to buy the replacement covers in bulk).
What happens throughout the story will tug at your emotions and have you re-assessing your own relationships with everyone both four and two legged. Charmaine and Chris never give up on Toby, they keep seeking help, making compromises and finding solutions. Their life is thrown into turmoil, and yet they learn to accept that a little chaos and unpredictability sometimes comes with the joy of loving and being loved. They see Toby's good qualities and try to harness his energies in positive ways.
One of the ways Toby uses his skills to help people is as a pet therapy dog, and I find it fitting that some of the patients he helps have mental health issues just like he does. It's seems he is helping himself by helping others, which is a good message for us all.
On Toby's Terms has so many funny and interesting moments, but one of my favourite parts is where a lady at dog training says that Toby will never be accepted as a pet therapy dog. Like many of us have learned, success is it's own reward - and of course Toby succeeded.
I would be remiss, if I didn't mention Charmaine and Chris' personal campaign to warn dog owners of the dangers of throwing sticks for your dog to fetch. Toby sustained an injury, which you can read about in the book, which serves as a warning. It's much better to use toys designed specifically for dog play.
Keep an eye out this week. I am giving away a copy of both books to one lucky reader, thanks to Charmaine Hammond and Toby. (Update: You can now enter at this link)