Distinctly compelling and funny, this is a love story between a person and an elderly, incorrigible dog with a keen understanding of human nature. Anyone who has loved and lost a dog will laugh along with Raika’s antics, cry as the inevitable effect of aging take their toll, and ultimately be comforted by what Raika has to say about life, aging, and the transcendent love that binds human to dog, even beyond death.
The story of Raika begins several years after she retired from a noteworthy career in the world of competitive dog sports. Now that Raika and her owner no longer spent hours a week training, playing and traveling, she was left with relatively little to do. As a result, her life transitioned from one of working to one of eating, and eat Raika did! Unfortunately, all of that eating led to a serious weight problem, and she wasn’t about to take responsibility for her mom’s guilt-driven negligence:
In the process of losing that weight through long daily walks, we find ourselves privy to Raika thoughts on everything from the weather to human frailty to the importance of living life to the fullest.
While mom is initially unable to hear Raika’s thoughts, she slowly comes to appreciate life through the eyes of her elderly dog. She also comes to accept that time is short.
“Raika, last night I had a dream. In my dream, you were trying to talk to me….it was so clear what you were trying to say…No amount of walking, or changing of diets, or listening…could make you young again….You wanted me to let you go…I know that your time will come. It is inevitable.”
And so begins the second part of the story as the pair begin to engage in dialogue. Raika presents her perspective on the irrational nature of human behavior and emotion with a blunt matter of factness that startles…and then thoroughly charms, with her sense of humor and keen awareness of the human condition.
The reader is held with a deep and growing affection for the pair, even as the inevitable effects of aging take their toll and we work our way closer to the end of Raika’s life. The book wraps up as Raika speaks one last time in her distinctly funny and compelling way, at which point we learn that she has agreed to an enormous sacrifice in order to fulfill a promise made when she was alive.
Raika’s final words to her mom leave the reader with a sense that she has not passed on at all and that indeed, all living creatures stay with us forever.
Here we have a uniquely memorable story that leaves the reader with a sense of acceptance and perspective on the topics of life, aging, and death. In a candid and heart-wrenchingly beautiful way, a reader can find comfort and wisdom in the face of deep loss and grief, laughing through their tears all the way to the end.
Denise Fenzi is a professional dog trainer who specializes in building cooperation, joy, and extreme precision in competition dog sports teams. In addition to traveling worldwide to teach dog training conferences and seminars, Denise writes non-fiction prolifically for the dog sports audience, and more recently, fiction for all audiences who share her love for dogs. In addition, Denise runs a very successful online school for both competition and pet dogs, the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Denise currently lives with her husband, Millo, and two teenaged sons, Chris and Nick. Her canine companions include Lyra, Brito, and most recently, Dice.