A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher

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Overview

In late adolescence, Pransky was bored: she needed a job. and so Sue Halpern decided to give herself and her underoccupied Labradoodle a new leash—er, lease—on life by getting the two of them certified as a therapy-dog team. Pransky proved to be not only a terrific therapist, smart and instinctively compassionate, but an unerring moral compass as well. In the unlikely-sounding arena of a public nursing home, she led her teammate into a series of encounters with the residents that revealed depths of warmth, humor,...

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A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher

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Overview

In late adolescence, Pransky was bored: she needed a job. and so Sue Halpern decided to give herself and her underoccupied Labradoodle a new leash—er, lease—on life by getting the two of them certified as a therapy-dog team. Pransky proved to be not only a terrific therapist, smart and instinctively compassionate, but an unerring moral compass as well. In the unlikely-sounding arena of a public nursing home, she led her teammate into a series of encounters with the residents that revealed depths of warmth, humor, and insight Halpern hadn’t expected. Little by little, their adventures expanded and illuminated Halpern’s sense of what goodness is and does—how acts of kindness transform the giver as well as the given-to.

Funny, moving, and profound, A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home is the story of how one virtuous—that is to say, faithful, charitable, loving, and sometimes prudent—mutt showed great hope, fortitude, and restraint (the occasional begged or stolen treat notwithstanding) as she taught a well-meaning woman the essence and pleasures of the good life.

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Editorial Reviews

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In addition to having one of the most fetching titles of the month, Sue Halpern's A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home recreates the stories of multiple personal transformations. It all began when Halperin's daughter Sophie went off to the college. With her husband (writer/activist Bill McKibben) already away much of the time, Sue and her Labradoodle Pransky felt understandably forlorn. It did not take Sue long to come up with a timely solution: She and her four-legged friend would win certification as a therapy dog team. Once they went work at a public nursing home, the real fun began. With the acumen of a natural writer, Halpern (Four Wings and a Prayer; Can't Remember What I Forgot) describes how Pransky and elderly people at the home formed relationships of touching rapport. Heart tugs and sweet smiles.

The New York Times Book Review - Julie Klam
When writing about pets and infirm and elderly people, the temptation to get sappy and sentimental may be great, but Halpern never succumbs. I found myself choking back tears at her spare and dignified descriptions of life in a nursing home…It is a great gift for someone with Halpern's mind to join with Pransky's heart to shed light on some very dark places for the rest of us. With this book, we all get to share in Halpern's wisdom and hope…
Publishers Weekly
Halpern’s (Can’t Remember What I Forgot) love of life and openness to its infinite possibilities shine through in this powerful and engaging account of her time working in a Vermont nursing home. Her efforts to brighten the residents’ lives were aided by a remarkable Labradoodle named Pransky—“one singular, faithful, charitable, loving, and sometimes prudent dog.” Confounding both her expectations and the reader’s, Halpern was surprised to find that happiness was “the dominant emotion for both Pransky and me,” at the nursing home where they work together as a therapy-dog team. From the outset, the book’s humanity is evident, as seen in a description of an encounter with a legless man Halpern had never seen before and would never see again. Instead of simply passing by the man, who embodied her worst fears about nursing homes, Halpern, prodded by her dog, engaged him in conversation and got out of her comfort zone. Time and again, anecdotes bolster her contention that in places where “life is in the balance,” it is possible to get to the essentials about human nature. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (May)
author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human - Temple Grandin
"A therapy dog opens many doors of deeper human communication. All people interesting in improving the lives of others should read this insightful book."
author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and The Orchid Thief - Susan Orlean
"Affectionate and deeply affecting, written with a light hand and a keen eye, this is a wonderful story of great things—namely, love, life, human kindness, and dogs."
Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, People of the Book, and Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks
"A joyous and moving account of how seemingly small gifts of kindness can make a profound difference. And not to the recipient alone."
author of One Hundred Names for Love - Diane Ackerman
"This is a gem of a book, a beautiful, wise, and big-hearted story about companionship and the true nature of virtue."
author of Refuge and When Women Were Birds - Terry Tempest Williams
"A book about a dog that is ultimately a book about humanity? a beautiful, honest, joyful accounting of what matters."
Kirkus Reviews
Reflections on a rest home for the elderly. When faced with the beginnings of empty-nest syndrome, Halpern (I Can't Remember What I Forgot, 2008, etc.) decided to invest time in others as a way to fill her day. She and her dog, Pransky, became a certified human–dog therapy team, working at the local nursing home. She expected to meet and "learn something about old people, and about the therapeutic value of animals in a medical setting, and about myself in that setting, which was alien and not a little scary." With Pransky at her side acting as an icebreaker, Halpern experienced the seven virtues of life: "love, hope, faith, prudence, justice, fortitude [and] restraint." Witty and compassionate, the author introduces readers to the lives of many of the residents, providing insight into the last stages of a person's life. These people were farmers, counselors, teachers, museum curators, and they "had lives--rich, rewarding, interesting, challenging, complicated lives." The residents showed Halpern that death is not something to be feared but accepted with dignity despite failing mental and physical health. Over time, the author realized that "hanging out…[was] as satisfying as anything else we could have been doing between ten and noon on Tuesdays, and, most of the time, more so." Through her enlightening observations of this particular nursing home, readers will take away the knowledge that we are each given one life and we had best not squander how we live it. Endearing thoughts on aging and companionship.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594487200
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/16/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 75,945
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Sue Halpern is the author of five previous books. Her writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Time, The New Yorker, Parade, Rolling Stone, and Glamour, among others. She has been a Rhodes Scholar and a Guggenheim Fellow and is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. She lives with her husband, the writer Bill McKibben, and Pransky in Ripton, Vermont.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2013

    Wow.  What an amazing book!  Regardless of whether you are a dog

    Wow.  What an amazing book!  Regardless of whether you are a dog lover or not, this book is filled with great stories and heartfelt emotion  The author provides a wonderful 
    insight into the human condition.  Each chapter deals with a different virtue (love, hope, charity, fortitude etc.,) which the residents of the nursing home that
    the author and therapy dog visit  beautifully encompass.   When I received this book, I started reading it and completed it one afternoon.  Simple, but profound.   

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Sue Halpem is a smarty, witty writer and she doesn't disappoint

    Sue Halpem is a smarty, witty writer and she doesn't disappoint with her newest book, A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home. The writing is top notch. The characters are well developed. The dialog is interesting. The plot is nicely put together. Five stars.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2013

    Heartwarming

    ,

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    Very well organized and a delight to read. Easy reading and goo

    Very well organized and a delight to read. Easy reading and good for all ages.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

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    Posted August 25, 2013

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    Posted July 6, 2013

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    Posted March 1, 2014

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