Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer by Doug Koktavy

Doug Koktavy adopted two little black lab brothers as puppies and lived a long and happy life with them for almost 9 years.  They had a really deep emotional connection with each other so when Beezer contracted fatal kidney disease, it threw the household into turmoil.  Doug and the dogs embark on a hard fought and emotional ordeal with the disease and through that experience Doug grows in his understanding of his dogs and himself.  When 9 months after Beezer dies, Boomer is diagnosed with bone cancer it seems like the battle is only beginning.

I'm warning you right now that my review of this book is going to give you a glimpse in the way I think about things and how I sometimes wrestle with how I react to a story.  I've been going back and forth in my head about whether I wanted to just talk about what I loved about the book and how it moved me or give you the whole gambit of what I think of it.  The whole thought process won out.

The book opens with a letter that Doug wrote to Beezer a week after he passed away.  I could feel the emotions coming off the page in an almost tangible way.  It felt like I was reading something so personal that I felt almost guilty about it.  It moved me to tears and I was grateful that the author chose to share that with us.  The whole book felt as if I was reading someones journal as they jotted down their journey of personal growth and understanding by going through something that is so horrifyingly sad.

Doug recounts how he battled with himself and how he approached problems when Beezer was first diagnosed.  By the end of the journey Doug, with the help of Beezer and Boomer, seemed to have grown both emotionally but spiritually as well by helping his dogs through both their illnesses and deaths.  It changed his approach to life and how he thinks about himself.   I felt that Doug puts himself and his journey out there to helps others deal with their own journey as they care for a terminally ill animal.

This in a lot of ways was a hard book for me to read.  I've always been a dog lover and still find myself crying over "Old Yeller" and "Marley & Me".  Actually you have any animal on screen/page die and I'm crying, including the episode of "Silver Spoons" where they went deer hunting.  So this book hit at home for me and I'm grateful for Doug sharing his story.  Beezer and Boomer could have been a lot of the dogs we had growing up, one of which I still miss to this day.  So no matter what I'm about to say next, I'm glad I read this book.

This is the part I almost left out of my review.  This book is so personal that I still kind of feel that I should keep what I didn't like about it to myself.  After a lot of back and forth within my own head, I felt I couldn't give a fair review unless I did talk about all my reactions to the book. 

Remember a thousand paragraphs ago I mentioned the opening letter and how moving it was?  Well that was the beginning of many letters.  In my mind there were too many of them.  They interrupted the flow of the narrative which kept me from totally immersing myself in what was being told to me.  My focus kept being shifted so much that I was never able to get fully vested back into the story.  More than that though they almost took on a gimmicky quality.  They stopped feeling genuine and it felt like they were written for the book more than anything else. This really hit home when a letter from Beezer to Doug was inserted in.  I was never able to take the letters at face value after that and it made me doubt the "realness" of all of them, including the very first letter.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that the letters hindered the book for me.  They took a book that I wanted to stay with me for years and turned it into a book that was good for one read and one read only.

Now I realize that his is just one person's reaction to a storytelling device and for the most part, others would not be bothered by this.  With that in mind I do strongly urge all pet lovers out there to read this book.  It will move you and make you think about how you would react in a similar situation.  It may even prepare you for a future that we all wish would never come.


Heidenkind said...

I think your response is totally valid and a very good point. I'm glad you told us about it in your review!

Strange coincidence: I was browsing through Pet Finder last week and there were two dogs from the same litter up for adoption. Their names were Beezer and Boomer! (OU country, dontcha know.)

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I have a hard time with these animal stories. They're always so sad. I never read Marley and Me, but the movie made me sob and sob. I guess because I've had SO many pets over the years and each loss is so very heartbreaking. I'm glad that you were honest in your review. A very good review.

My sister and I had twin black labs when we were kids, Jackie and Tara. It's a long, sad story for another time. So, another reason why this book would be hard for me to read.

BeezerBoomer said...

Hi Ryan,

Thank you so much for reviewing my book. I really appreciate the extra effort you took to give an honest opinion. Your commitment to the process shows through.

That said, the letters from the dogs to me are my favorite part of the book. Especially the first letter from Beezer to me. I learned to listen with my heart, not my ears, and this is what I felt. I then learned to trust that feeling.

Many people comment that the only negative characteristic of a dog is its short life. I believe just the opposite. That the short life of a dog is to teach us to love unconditionally and let go. The change is in perception only.

The book deals with a sad part of life. However, if you are born, you die. It is our contract from birth. I believe the animals understand this change--from one side of the circle, to another, and are available to teach us to live with presence, not fear or guilt.

So the message I tried to convey is inspiration and hope. Especially when your loved one does not have that Lance Armstrong recovery.

Thank you again for reviewing my book.

My best wishes,
Doug Koktavy