The book centers around Todd McCray, a developmentally-challenged young man, who hears about a program at the local animal shelter that aims to give dogs a place to live over the holiday season.
Essentially, there is not enough staff available to care for all the animals at the shelter, so the shelter is asking the public to "bring a dog home just for the holidays." The idea is that families will choose a dog to visit them for a couple of weeks around Christmas and then return the dog after the holidays are over. In reality, many of the dogs are adopted which is the ultimate goal of the shelter - to place animals with loving families.
Todd immediately wants his family to participate in the shelter's program; but his dad (who is a farmer and Vietnam vet) already has dealt with the death of two very special dogs in his life and is not interested in the program.
Eventually, his dad changes his mind. To what extent they become involved and how their involvement changes their lives becomes the focus of the book.
When Tood and his dad visit the shelter, one of the staff members says in response to the question about why some dogs seem excited to see a person and others do not: "That's a good question. Some dogs are still stuck on their old owners. They aren't ready yet to accept a new family or friend. Every dog in here has a perfect human match. There's not a dog in here that won't act excited when the right person comes along."
She explains that some dogs are easier to place in homes than others. There was reference to the "big black dog syndrome." Generally, dogs fitting this description do not get adopted as quickly (or at all) since there is a supply and demand issue (too many big black dogs and not enough families wanting to adopt them).
There was another section in the book that mentioned a tragedy of war that bothered the dad: that thousands of dogs that served in Vietnam and saved countless lives were never given awards or medals.
Few of the dogs survived, since many dogs sacrificed their own lives to help the soldiers. The ones that did survive "...were callously abandoned. It had to be traumatizing for the remaining soliders to evacuate and leave behind a friend that would lay down his life, not just once but every day."
Another part of the book was about the concept of giving and serving, but being unable to accept help in return. The family's neighbor (also a farmer) said to the father, "The problem is...that you've become so comfortable giving to others that you forgot how to let something or someone give back to you."
What was inspiring about this book was that many families came forth to provide homes for the dogs. A person with more financial resources came forth to fund the renovation of the shelter. Truly, an entire community worked together to make a difference in the lives of these animals...as well as changing their own lives for the better in the process.
This story is a good book for people who enjoy dogs, agriculture, and nature - three things I like. It would be a great book to read by yourself, or aloud to children or to seniors at a nursing home (if there's a reading program offered).