If you've ever loved a dog, you'll know the magic they can work on a human being, and in Second Chance, Elizabeth Wrenn tells the story of the magic worked in Deena Munger's life. In the first few pages Deena asks, "How did I end up here?" - she means as the owner of a cat when she is really a dog person, but she has bigger problems in her life. Her children are becoming independent leaving her re-examining her purpose in life, her marriage has become passionless and neglected, her dreams of being an artist merely taunt her, the menopause is looming, and to top it all she's out of shape and overweight.
But a change begins when Deena decides to volunteer to raise a guide dog puppy. It may seem that the tiny pup, Heloise, will only complicate Deena's life further, but in fact she is the catalyst to Deena re-connecting with herself and the people in her life. The frantic, chaotic early days of raising a puppy will resonate with most dog owners, but gradually Deena and Heloise grow together. Exercising Heloise improves Deena's physical condition, and embracing all that goes into raising and socialising a guide dog puppy exercises her mind. She is forced to go out and about, to socialise herself, and to meet people she would otherwise not have met.
Of course as sometimes happens, Deena's new found confidence causes ripples which destabilise her outwardly stable world. Will her children cope with less attention? Will her marriage survive? How will she cope when Heloise leaves to fulfill her destiny of becoming a guide dog?
Deena forges a touching friendship with an elderly neighbour who is in need of a friend - and this has the ring of truth. On our dog walks we encounter other dog walkers, and that shared love of our dogs can bind us together and form a vital support network. In the course of researching this book Elizabeth Wrenn herself raised a guide dog puppy, so no wonder the book is authentic on that score, as well as on how dogs enhance our lives.
Thanks to Heloise, Deena learns to give to others in genuine need, and to give to herself too. If you believe in the redeeming power of dogs, you'll love this book - and if you don't, give it a read, you may just be converted.
Review by Julie Hill