Sue Halpern decides to train her labradoodle as a therapy dog to help the
lonely and infirm at her local nursing home in Vermont, she faces a few
challenges. Pransky is very much a country dog and the requirements for his certification
include everything from ignoring an unattended bowl of food to walking on a
leash without pulling.
not to fail is hilarious, most especially when she admits, "I realized I knew how we would
pass the test: we would cheat." But it's her stories about Pransky's interactions with the
residents that turn this book from merely engaging to massively insightful. In
each encounter, Halpern demonstrates how her dog and his new friend—often
a person with dementia—enact each one of the classic seven virtues of "love, hope, faith, prudence, justice, fortitude, restraint." Hope is a particularly enlightening episode, revolving
around Pransky's refusal to leave the side of an ailing patient
named Clyde, who, in his more lively days, kept trying to grow tomatoes that
would eventually, inevitably get killed by frost. Consider it a meditation on
morality, aging and friendship, as well as affirmation that, no matter our
physical conditions or economic circumstances, "We are rich in life."