Monday, March 31, 2008

Girl on A Leash: The Healing Power of Dogs

By Vivenne Sales

Betty Lim King's memoirs about how her love for dogs helped her through the bad times.

Author: Betty Lim King
Sanctuary Press, 224 pages

*A percentage of the book’s proceeds goes to charities that help animals.

Ms. King’s life has always gone to the dogs. In her memoir, “Girl on a Leash: The Healing Power of Dogs,” she recounts the dogs in her life as well as the many issues that any immigrant family faces in their new home: racism, assimilation, discrimination, and conflicting family ties just to name a few. Ms. King actually has developed two leashes throughout her lifetime, both of which she details in the book. The first one is her constant love for canines, which turns out to be a lifeline rather than a constricting leash, and the second one being the conflict between one’s family values and the values of your adopted homeland.

The second leash in Ms. King’s life is one that most first-generation Asian-Americans are familiar with. For Ms. King’s family, they had to deal with two different sets of values in their adopted homelands. First, the Philippines, then the US. These issues are most prevalent in the Filipino chapters, but they never overshadow the canine tales.

As a first-generation Chinese-Filipina growing up in a dysfunctional (read: normal) family, the first seven dogs of her life provided her with balance, companionship, protection, and unconditional love. Every Filipino chapter focuses on how each dog entered and left her life.

King’s European chapter focuses on how her two dogs added spice and embarrassment to her life as a diplomat’s wife, while the North Carolina chapters focus on the events (specifically, the murder of her beloved Borzoi, Chornley) that transformed Ms. King into an advocate for animal rights. Her activism focuses on treating dogs (or any other pet) as we would like to be treated ourselves.

Being a dog lover is not a requirement to appreciate this book (this reviewer prefers cats to dogs), but if you own a dog or any other household pet, you’ll relate well to Ms. King’s “relationships” with her canines. If you do not own a pet however, this book will make you realize that dogs, not diamonds, are a girl’s best friend.

Note: The reviewer and her brother share “joint custody” of a Siberean Husky.

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