Saturday, September 24, 2011

Finding Harmony by Sally Hyder

Sally Hyder was a young woman who loved life and lived it to the fullest, travelling to far off lands with her boyfriend (and future husband) and faces challenges that most of us would never dare to even dream about.  When they weren't off on an adventure in a far off land they were both working towards their careers, with Sally moving into the public health sector as a nurse and public health worker.  Life was good, and the were going places - until Sally got the devastating news that she had MS.

Finding Harmony is a deeply personal, and often times a very emotional, account of the life that Sally led up to her diagnosis, and then the sometimes dark spiral that her life took after the diagnosis - especially when her youngest daughter was diagnosed with an equally devastating condition (no spoilers here).  Throughout it all Sally is honest about the challenges she faced, both from her condition, and from having to cope with the changes in her life.  At times she was very low and the story is a little dark, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel - a yellow Labrador named Harmony from the charity Canine Partners.  With the welcome addition of Harmony to their family, Sally begins to reconnect with the life she once had and all new doors open allowing her and her family to move forward knowing that she will always have the support of Harmony to help her physically, and emotionally, through the rough patches ahead.

Harmony is the light and centre of this biography, and while Sally leads you through the challenges of her life, it is Harmony that shines through.  Like other people with disabilities who have written about their assistance dogs, the story that leads up to Harmony is deeply emotional and at times leaves you with tears in your eyes (if not rolling down your cheeks).  Sally has faced significant loses over the years personally and as part of her family, and yet she never broke and always tried to carry on.  Harmony on the other hand is a real character, an example of how although the dogs are highly trained and bond strongly with their human partners, they are still dogs and can have dog moments.  I had to laugh every time she was described as a "blonde bimbo" by one of the trainers or Sally.

There are other books about assistance dogs and their handlers out there, in fact it appears that writing books about your disability and your assistance dog is becoming the "thing to do" there is a depth and emotional investment in Finding Harmony that is missing from some of the other books - you really connect with Sally and enjoy the antics of Harmony almost as much as Sally and her family.  The story is a little disjointed, at times jumping between points in time rather than progressing stage by stage, which at times made it hard to figure out where everyone was in time, but it was irritating rather than offputting.  This is an enjoyable read,  but maybe not one to read in the staff room at work or on the bus/train as the other people around you may wonder why you are crying one minute and laughing out loud the next.

If you like this book then try:
  • A friend like Henry by Nuala Gardner
  • A dog named Slugger by Leigh Brill
  • Emma and I by Sheila Hocken
  • Partners for life: True stories of canine heroes by Jane Bidder
  • Endal by Sandra and Allen Parton
  • Let Buster lead by Deborah Dozier Potter
  • Puppy chow is better than Prozac by Bruce Goldstein
  • A puppy called Aero by Liam Creed

Reviewed by Brilla

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