The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances, by Ellen Cooney. Book Review, Fiction
This unique novel is all about dogs, rescued and in the process of being reoriented to a new life, and the Sanctuary, a mountaintop canine training center. It is also about Evie, a troubled young adult who has lied to get a job there as a trainer, and who continues to fabricate some truths off and on after she arrives. And, it is almost equally about Mrs Auberchon, the Sanctuary gate-keeper who resides downhill at the Inn, where Evie starts out. Evie has to get past Mrs Auberchon in order graduate from novice trainee to the higher mountaintop fraternity of training specialists at the Sanctuary proper.
How does Evie cope? How do the dogs receive her? Does she succeed? Do they?
You’ll have to read the book to find out all the ups and downs, ins and outs of life at (and about) the Sanctuary. But, be prepared, for along the way you’ll pick up a lot of information about Rescue, and Sanctuary, and some charming dogs, and the experiences of abandonment, abuse, capture, training, unfettered love and admiration, and socialization to a new life. And, there’s more here than rescuing dogs…
One of Evie’s coping strategies is to keep notes like a good student, notes of everything happening around her and every concept she must master. Rescue and re-Socialization includes a very wide scope of knowledge. And just as Evie learns and jots it all down, the reader will learn a great deal about the act of abandonment and mistreatment leading to Rescue and a second change, for the dogs and for Evie.
It’s a good book, written in a rather unique but attractive way. The style is smooth and informative, and fun to read. Here’s a passage about peanut butter as a canine training aid. It’s Evie speaking, with her charges in mind – Alfie, Boomer, Josie and Shadow – going to the vet:
“My job was to watch them like their nanny, keep them quiet. I knew they’d be anxious and agitated, so I grabbed a jar of peanut butter from the kitchen. One thing I’d learned was that there’s nothing in the world like peanut butter when it comes to inviting dogs to do what you want them to. I was also using it as a training aid to get Josie to quit snapping. It was sort of starting to work.
“If you want a dog to stop biting your fingers, stick them in peanut butter. This can be called, in the language of dog training, “not biting the hand that’s Skippied”…”
Ellen Cooney’s book is a good read, and will be especially attractive to young adults and to any canine lover and persons especially interested in Rescue Dogs.
The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances, by Ellen Cooney (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). ISBN: 978.0.544.123615.8. 289 pp. Read more about the book and the author, with excerpts and reviews at: http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/The-Mountaintop-School-for-Dogs-and-Other-Second-Chances/9780544236158#.