A Dog Named Slugger
by Leigh Brill
Reviewed by Paul H. Yarbrough
“I have cerebral palsy. I walk funny and my balance is bad. I fall a lot. My hands shake, too. That means I’m not so good at carrying things. And if I drop stuff, sometimes it’s hard to just bend down and get it.” I waited anxiously for the interviewer’s response. She smiled. “It sounds like a service dog could be great for you.” — Leigh Brill in A Dog Named Slugger
No matter how many dog stories you’ve read (Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, or My Dog Skip), you can almost predict the tales will always include themes of loyalty, love, and service. And, you can predict they’ll end with sorrow. So should My Dog Slugger be any different? Nope. And it isn’t. It is, in fact, a story of loyalty, love, service, and sorrow. But, as Leigh Brill, a victim of cerebral palsy (CP), describes her struggles in a poignant and painful memoir, she forces readers to experience life from her unique point of view.
“Why do they let those damned cripples in this school anyway?” Statements like this sting as Brill overhears a group of medical students discussing her within earshot. With poignant honesty, Brill shares her turbulent journey as she tackles both emotional and physical hurdles, exposing a core that is damaged time and again by the world around her.
But just when life becomes nearly unbearable for Brill (and the reader alike), a dog named Slugger comes to the rescue. The 85-pound yellow lab becomes her service dog and gives the author a new lease on life. The journey is an ideal read for dog lovers and for anyone who wants to learn more about the role of service animals. This is a story about a dog with plenty of hair; a dog with a large vocabulary; a dog who loves cheese treats; and a job offering that Brill cannot accept because the employer states no dogs allowed.
As with any good love triangle, this tale also introduces Pranav, a man who falls in love with Brill and is forced to accept that their new family will include Slugger. All seems to be leading to a happy ending until the story takes a tragic turn. Slugger is stricken with cancer, and a painful scene is depicted in which Pranav and Leigh hold Slugger during his final moments. At this point, Leigh makes us feel as if we are there, in the room, watching a loved one’s life end, and the journey is all of ours to share. Leigh Brill has written a fitting tribute to her special friend named Slugger and an insightful read for anyone wanting to learn more about service dogs and the important role they play in the lives of many.