A Dog Named Boo

By Lisa J. Edwards. Harlequin. $21.95.

Boo who?

Well, this Boo is one you won’t soon forget, thanks to his resilient, can-do spirit, and an author’s well-polished, moving anecdotes.

Boo, one of those $49.99 pet-shop Labrador-something-else mixes that what you see isn’t necessarily what you get, overcomes all odds from health to the author’s not-so accepting husband.

“I believe that fate leads us to the animals we need in our lives – and the animals who need us in theirs,” says Edwards. And once the two resident canines, Atticus and Dante, offer their approval, it’s game on for Boo, who was abandoned in a cardboard box in a strip mall between a pizza parlor and a liquor store in 2000.

The author and her husband, Lawrence, “are excellent examples of the fallout of punishment and abuse,” hence offer this rejected dog acerbic and endearing interaction at the outset. It isn’t long before they move from a New York City apartment to a rundown log house in Putnam County, N.Y., that would lead the author to a tight friendship with an obedience instructor about to embark into animal-assisted therapy instruction.

This proves the perfect motivation for Edwards, who has hopes of training Boo to become a mobility assistance dog for her brother, Chuck, suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. But Boo falls short and trainers begin to question his funny gait. Eventually, it is determined he has a condition known as cerebellar hypoplasia that occurs in utero and is triggered by the cerebellum (part of the brain) not being mature at birth. The result can be mental retardation, poor balance, seizures, hearing impairment and reduced muscle tone, explaining Boo’s unnatural mannerisms.

After her brother dies and that training dream falls by the wayside, the committed Edwards becomes a dog trainer and discovers that it’s OK to be different, establishing new goals for Boo after observing the dog has “an exceptional ability to gently and disarmingly say hello to a small child.”

After Boo passes the Pet Partner test, Edwards notes that “one of the greatest lessons Boo can give anyone whose life he touches: you don’t have to be normal to find success. He had the aptitude all along. It’s just a matter of me helping him master his fears and the skills necessary for the test.” It was, as she describes, “a metamorphosis from the confused, clumsy dog that nobody believed in to the gifted visiting dog with butterfly wings.”

Edwards lovingly details the interaction between Boo, Dante and Atticus and how her husband’s attitude toward Boo does a 180-degree flip as the dog matures and becomes a beacon for virtually every child he encounters at schools, libraries and hospitals, changing the attitudes of many.

But Boo is a teacher to his owners, too, from the standpoint of faith, courage, forgiveness and open-mindedness, with Edwards explaining, “It’s not my job to dominate a dog; it’s my job to understand him, and with that understanding, I will get what I need from the dog. “

Boo’s story is a rich narrative on life’s lessons one dog has taught its thankful owners. Sugary one page, sobering the next, it is inspirational chronicle of patience and passion from cover to cover.