Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thunder dog: The true story of a blind man, his guide dog, and the triumph of trust at ground zero by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory

Michael Hingson and his guide dog Roselle were on the 78th floor of Tower 1 when the planes flew into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  This book is a blend of their story as they walked the 1,463 steps to escape the tower, and the story of a person who grew up in a family that didn't let his blindness stop him from living a full life.  It is a deeply moving story for so many reasons, and is more than just a memoir or a biography, it is a window into the world of an extraordinary partnership that stayed strong through a devastating and confusing event that was felt around the world.

I have read a lot of books this year that provide an account of the life shared by a handler and their assistance dog, and each one has been unique and portrayed the way their various disabilities have affected their lives.  Some have been working with dogs for years, like Michael Hingson who has worked with several guide dogs before partnering with Roselle, while for others the dog they are working with is their first dog.  As I have said in other reviews of similar books, it seems as though publishing memoirs of people with disabilities and the dogs that help them has become the favourite thing for publishers to do at the moment, ranging from stories about children with autism spectrum disorder through to people with more traditional assistance dogs such as guide dogs.

Some memoirs have drifted from the path of the story, providing lots of background information that can at times be a little distracting, or they bounce from past to presence leaving you a little confused about where you are at in their life story.  Thunder dog is expertly written, blending together the story of 9/11 with the story of Michael's life, mostly alternating chapters to bring you up to speed about how Michael ended up where he did, while also providing a much needed breather from the emotional and sometimes draining description of what happened on that day. 

This was not an easy read, because while the book describes events as they unfold, as a reader (even one from New Zealand - the other side of the world) I can remember the horror of watching the news and seeing the planes flying into the towers, then watching the towers collapse, and worst of all watching the devastating aftermath as people searched for loved ones amongst the chaos.  Each step of the way you know what is coming next, and experiencing what happened along with Michael adds an authenticity to events, something that you could never gain through watching events on the television.

This is a highly recommended book and while the first thing you see when you open the book is an article written by Michael because Roselle died earlier this year, the book is full of hope and life.  Michael Hingson is a fantastic ambassador for guide dog users, but also for people with a disability who are living a full life without letting their disability control their lives. 

If you like this book then try:
  • Emma and I by Sheila Hocken
  • A dog named Slugger: the true story of the friend who changed my world by Leigh Brill
  • Hearing dog: The story of Jenny and Connie by Angela Locke and Jenny Harmer
  • A friend like Henry by Nuala Gardner
  • Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway
  • Finding Harmony: The remarkable dog that helped a family through the darkest of times by Sally Hyder
  • Endal: How one extraordinary dog brought a family back from the brink by Allen and Sandra Parton with Gill Paul
  • Love heels: Tales from Canine Companions for Independence by Patricia Dibsie

Reviewed by Brilla

1 comment:

  1. I found this book inspirational, heartwarming, educational,and a great read. Anyone can learn some type of lesson from Michael and Roselle. I have and will contine to recomend this book. It gives you some first hand accounts of 9/11, as well as how handicapped people are seen and treated by those who are not "handicapped". It also shows how we as individuals limit ourselves in what we can do or achieve.