For the seventh book in the Heartwarming Animal Stories 2012 Reading Challenge, I chose Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin.
Unfortunate circumstances, loss, and pain bring a family and a dog together at the start of this story. The former comes to the veterinarian because their elderly cat needs to be euthanized. The latter is recovering at the vet because he is a victim of dogfighting - a two-month old puppy used as bait.
When they happen to see one another in passing at the veterinarian's office, one of the sons bends down pet the puppy. The puppy bolts over to him, greeting him like a long-lost family member. He does the same for the other son and father.
As Larry said, "The dog had run to us as though he had instantly recognized that we were his family and he had been waiting all of his life for us to arrive. He knew who we were to him. The union was instantaneous and complete."
When I went online to find an image for the book cover, I saw that Oogy had made his appearance on the Oprah show. Part of the description about the show said, "When he was just a puppy, Larry says Oogy was living in a hell on earth. He was tied to a stake and used as bait for pit bulls in a dogfighting ring. 'He'd been thrown in a cage and left to die, and the police raided the facility,' Larry says. 'He was brought to Ardmore Animal Hospital, and they saved him.'
"Dr. Bianco, a veterinarian, says Oogy was still a puppy when he first treated the dog's severe damage. 'He basically had the side of his face ripped off, his jaw was crushed, his skull was damaged,' he says. 'He's lucky to be alive.'
Yet, despite the violence he encountered from both dogs and people when he was a puppy, one of the most gentlest dogs that the staff at veterinarian clinics and rehabilitation centers had seen.
As Larry said, "Trauma is easier to overcome than long-term maltreatment, because abuse becomes a way of life and affects the dog's spirits. .... [Oogy] continued to heal and then began to flourish. His happy, affectionate nature was seemingly more pronounced because of the horror he had undergone."
What I liked about Oogy is that it wove and connected the stories of the adoption of Larry's sons with the adoption of Oogy. (The twin boys were adopted by Larry and his wife when they were three days.)
As one of the sons (Dan) said about the adoption of Oogy and how he related to the dog, "I...think it has affected how I feel about him. We share the same experience. We both have better lives for it. I want to help him and love him the way I have been loved and guided."
Larry hopes that Oogy will become licensed as a therapy dog for hospitalized children and wounded veterans. As he said, "Beyond the ordinary benefits that companion dogs provide, it makes sense to me that young people in the midst of personal struggle - battling pain, depression, and anxiety and daunted by the future before them, what they will look like, how people will react to what they look like - will be encouraged by and take some inspiration from Oogy.
"They will see in front of them living proof that the most agonizing and horrific events can be overcome without any lasting damage to the spirit, without harm to the ability to give and receive love."
Oogy is a book that I would recommend, particularly to those with an interest in dogs and adoption. Both of these issues are close to my heart, making it a book that will stay with me long after I have finished reading it.