Go Find Book Reviews and Awards
Go Find hits #53 in the NOOK Top 100! Oct, 2019
2018 NAUTILUS SILVER WINNER, Go Find. Category: Memoir & Personal Journey (large publisher)
National Geographic Endorses Go Find as top travel reads December 2018
Bend Magazine GO FIND made the top 10 new fall book read list
“Susan Purvis has written a brave and profound book about the eternally compelling topic of human survival. No one can truly understand the wilderness without going deeply within themselves, and perhaps vice versa. She’s done both and come back with truths that we all can learn from.” —New York Times bestselling author, Sebastian Junger,
“I’m a bit of a science nerd, so one of the things I loved about this book was how dogs use scent to find people. For example, the author explains how a dog can detect one molecule in a trillion and link it to a specific person. What’s more, there is a lot of complicated science behind how scent moves over a landscape depending on the sun and wind and water, and learning about that was really fascinating. The end of the book was particularly powerful and was a nice payoff. The links that were drawn by the author as she struggled to hold on to her most important relationships—her husband and her dog—were quite moving. Specifically, our human need to make promises because those promises sustain us and help us survive from day today. But what happens when promises can’t be kept? Some promises simply don’t last because fulfilling them is beyond our control. When promises are broken, we lose the structure that holds our world together…that’s how we get lost. Overall a great read!”–Brian Nelson, Author and Fulbright Scholar
“Go Find is a great story about the sacrifices we often make in pursuit of our passions. It takes great courage to jump out of a helicopter on a Colorado mountainside, but it takes as much, if not more, to tell the sacrifices, failures, and ultimately the successes, while opening your life to the judgment of the world. Sue takes you on her journey to break into a search and rescue community that can often not be welcoming to new comers. I’m a 31 year Paramedic, RN, former SAR team member and had the pleasure of being a student in one of Sue’s wilderness medicine classes. Go Find gives an honest and not always flattering view into the world of volunteer search and rescue in the Western US, as well as an intimate portrait of the life of a rescuer, before the pager goes off in the middle of the night. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.” —Steve, Paramedic and World-class Kayaker
First I read it, then bought it on audible. If you know a first responder, give them this book and read it yourself. I wanted to hear the book again in the authors own voice. Loved it. It’s been a long time since I found a book that I could not put down and also learned something from. This brave woman carried me on her journey in life where she made a difference and found her purpose. I laughed, cried and looked at what is important in my own life. Go Find reminded me that life is no life without community and love.I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves people, dogs, snowmobiles, travel, skiing, adventure, or exploring.–First Audible Book Review.
New Years Review. Rita Ebli “This is such a powerful book–run to go find this!! It is full of insights, growth, honest vulnerability, amazing tenacity, deep passion, courage, and so much more. Wow! I just didn’t want it to end. Thank-you, Susan, for sharing your gifts with us. I have had many adventures and read many wonderful adventure memoirs, yet this is on the top-it opened a whole new awareness. Encourage your friends to enjoy this book!!”
“Sue Purvis has written a brave and profound book about the eternally compelling topic of human survival. No one can truly understand the wilderness without going deeply within themselves, and perhaps vice versa. Purvis has done both and come back with truths that we all can learn from.”
People at a crossroads in their life will be inspired by the story of how one woman created a life for herself—and helped so many in the process.–Ellen E. Schultz, graduate of Purvis’ intensive wilderness medicine courses, avid backpacker, and former investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
“Susan Purvis delivers a spectacular love story about the beautiful bond between a woman and her dog. Through her extreme and arduous adventures (professional as well as personal, literal as well as metaphorical), Purvis seeks to find purpose, love and meaning. She brings readers along for the always-surprising trek with her vivid and intense prose. Prepare to be moved, enthralled, and inspired. Go Find is truly a rare and special find!” —Angie Abdou, PhD, author of The Canterbury Trail and Home Ice
“Go Find this book. You will be thrilled by the relationship of a woman and her dog.”–Lavonne Mueller, playwright, novelist, and Woodrow Wilson and Guggenheim Fellow.
“A fantastic read, a fantastic accomplishment! Loved it! Chillingly good!”—Dr. Lanie Robertson, Tony Award and Broadway playwright, actor, and educator.
“Readers searching for meaning will find themselves somewhere on these pages. While the whir of helicopter blades and avalanche bombs are powerful, Susan Purvis takes us even deeper into the psychological landscape of lost and found.” — Brian Schott, Founding Editor, Whitefish Review
“If it’s true that you have to get lost to be found, then this book is my new primer.” —Laura Munson, New York Times best-selling author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is and founder of Haven Writing Retreats
“Finally, a good book on the world of avalanche rescue dogs and the lives of their mostly unpaid and often thankless trainers. And those who take on the thankless, long journey to train search dogs deserve a special place in heaven. I’ve known Susan Purvis for many years and she is certainly one of them.” Bruce Tremper, retired Director of the Utah Avalanche Center and author of Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain and Avalanche Essentials
Tears pour down my face as I devour the final pages of Go Find, just like the avalanche dog, Tasha, devours her kibble. Susan Purvis’s first book is an unstoppable tour de force of excitement, emotion and bravery. From the first page to the last, I was immersed in her wintery world. Beyond the fabulous storytelling and incredible adventures, lies a story at the heart of each one of us: What is a Life Worth Living. This book should be at the top of every person’s must read list. Lauren Walker – Best-selling author of Energy Medicine Yoga and The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription
Susan Purvis’ debut memoir is an eye-opening look at what it means to surrender to a calling — even when that calling means personal danger, hardship, and loss. This fast-paced and often pulse-pounding story pushes readers onto snow-covered mountains, under frigid waters, and straight into Purvis’ heart as she struggles to rescue the fallen and herself. It’s a multi-layered story of strength and weakness, survival and loss, risk and reward, but above all, love in its many human and canine forms. If you enjoy stories about adventure, dog training, forensics, and/or examples of fortitude, self-actualization, and courage, be prepared to forgo your routine until you finish reading GO FIND: MY JOURNEY TO FIND THE LOST—AND MYSELF.
Carrie Pearson, children’s book author, Stretch to the Sun: From a Tiny Sprout to the Tallest Tree on Earth, October 2018.
Go Find by Sue Purvis could easily be sub-titled Busting Down the Men’s Club Door. In her seeming Quixotic quest to train an avalanche dog and join the professional Ski Patrol at Crested Butte, she blissfully ignores the long-standing barriers to women and change in the established annals of mountain history. To her credit, she tilts at Windmills, wins entry and the grudging respect of the Windmills.
In a time when women are equaling or bettering men in outdoor pursuits, Go Find is an inspirational story that demonstrates with grit, determination (and a friend with a belly full of kibble) anything can be accomplished. Keith Liggett, Writer, Ski Instructor, Avalanche Rescue Team Leader.
Reading Go Find is like sitting down with a good friend and listening to her story, and although it is Susan’s autobiography, Tasha is the star. Susan and her dog find a new life, test their limits, and go against the odds to succeed, and in the end realize what—and who—are important to them. While the book doesn’t take place entirely in Montana, its themes are relevant to any mountain town.–Bozeman online Book Review
Fascinating, moving and well written, Susan tells a multi layered story that appeals not just to mountain folk, dog lovers, but also to anyone who has a heart and caring soul. I cried and marveled and found myself in these pages as well. Bravo Susan. I feel forever changed.–Kristen Ulmer, former pro extreme skier, thought leader and author of The Art of Fear.
Loved the book. Couldn’t put it down once started (the glue on the cover helped alot) … compelling, thought-provoking.–David Butler, Director of Sustainability at Canadian Mountain Holidays
“This is so much more than a dog story. Susan Purvis takes you on an exciting and tumultuous journey of high-mountain search and rescue. A peregrination with highs and lows that also becomes a metaphor for life and relationships. Her moving, humorous, and genuine writing will enthrall you. Go read and you will discover.” Dale Atkins, past president, American Avalanche Association
Dog lovers and adventurers alike will discover ‘Go Find’ nearly impossible to put down. Sue explores the human + dog connection on her life long journey as a top wilderness medicine educator and dedicated search and rescue volunteer. She sheds the light on what it means professionally, spiritually, and emotionally to dedicate one’s self to the service of others and to the unconditional love of a dog. Woof! Ace Kvale, adventure photographer and subject of: Ace and the Desert Dog
Sue is authentic. She gives the reader insight into the real cost of becoming a rescuer – blood, sweat, sleepless nights, dollars and emotional turmoil are all in the mix. For anyone considering training a search dog, this is a must read. Animal lovers will need a box of tissues at the ready as they read Sue’s story of falling in love and partnership with her best friend through the heart wrenching inevitable end to that relationship. Luanne Freer, MD, Founder/director, Everest ER, Past president Wilderness Medical Society, Medical Director Yellowstone National Park
“Go Find is a stunning, fascinating journey of a tenacious woman bravely making her way in the brutal, unforgiving world of high-altitude search and rescue and joins one of the few elite high-altitude volunteer dog teams in the U.S. As Susan Purvis and her equally strong-minded dog Tasha pursue the training and certifications necessary, Purvis finds out that the “lost” includes herself and that while forging the closest possible relationship and understanding with Tasha, human connections confuse and elude Purvis. Told with abundant suspense, warmth and humor, “Go Find” captures the persistence, dedication and strength of one young woman forging ahead against all odds in the macho realm of search and rescue. Told in vivid, sharp prose, you will feel the frigid cold and icy snow of the Rockies and find yourself holding your breath with each new obstacle, each brave step forward, and every new mission. Purvis takes her readers on a page-turning journey, and with a will as unflinching as the mountains she and her pet search, the author eventually discovers herself.”–CHRISTINE CARBO, author of the award-winning Glacier mysteries.
“A love story about a woman and her amazing rescue dog. A tale of exciting, life-changing adventures.” New York Times bestselling author, Kat Martin.
“Having spent a month in the hottest place on earth with Susan Purvis, I quickly realized that she was not only a tough explorer but an extraordinary soul. In Go Find, Susan regales her extraordinary life and personal spiritual odyssey, with observations as profound as the natural world that she explores. A great read for explorers and armchair explorers alike.”–Richard Wiese, President of The Explorers Club and Emmy Award-winning host of Born to Explore with Richard Wiese
Go Find, a story of evolution and self discovery as a woman and her dog struggle to enter the “male macho clubs” of the 90’s but with ultimate success … the real story – her gaining independence and autonomy teaching her black lab (& learning from her lab) search & rescue skills in spite of the resistance of a male dominated world of ski patrols and S&R groups. A good tale of an outlier doing well and the love of her dog and the impermanence we all face. It’s another version of the Butterfly Effect, where seemingly random distant events have large consequences – “Hallelujah”–Jerry Roberts is a retired Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) Forecaster presently working for Mountain Weather Masters providing forecasts for the motion picture and television industries.
”Beyond entertaining and educating the global audience, Go Find challenges every professional service dog handler to spend more time reading and responding to partners — both K9 and human. For today’s law enforcement and rescue missions, as high-tech AI (low brain) supersedes low-tech K9 (high brain), dogs still have more to show us.” —Sandy Bryson, California commissioner, Ret., law enforcement K9 team trainer
Half the time I was laughing; half the time I was crying while reading Sue’s renditions of memorable training sessions and missions. Sue Purvis is brutally and painfully honest as she tells of struggles she encountered in the dog-eat-dog worlds of search and rescue and ski patrol.
Fortunately, our search dogs never have to go through the emotional roller coaster of frustration, successful finds and rejection, all on the heels of each other. To them, it could more appropriately be described as a race against the clock, rather than a competition. In “Go Find”, Sue confesses that “I had sold my soul for dollars and life was passing me by as I slaved away along a purposeless path of making money.” Search dogs don’t need a thank you or financial remuneration; they find joy in the job. We’ve learned so much from our sar dog partners: how to love unconditionally, the gift of forgiveness, loyalty and deep devotion. If they spoke our language, they’d tell us that “You humans so need to learn the lesson of finding joy in this life.”
I loved witnessing the happy dances that Tasha and my dogs would do after a successful find. They didn’t understand the grief that would suffocate and bury the friends and family of every avalanche victim. All they knew was that they had solved the mystery. They had finished the game. Like our search and rescue dogs, we have so much to give and so little time. “Go Find!”–Patti Burnett, author, K-9 handler, search and rescue, ski patrol
”A story of physical, psychological, and emotional courage in the face of obstacles that would turn many away, Go Find describes the challenging journey into K9 search-and-rescue and the human heart up in the thin air. More than a series of adventure tales way-making across rugged terrain, here Purvis offers an informed and deeply personal story of lives lost, lives found, and lives transformed– including her own.” —Susannah Charleson, SAR and MAR K9 handler/instructor, author of Scent of the Missing, The Possibility Dogs, and Where the Lost Dogs Go
Go Find is an engaging tale of one woman’s journey to find herself. Along the way, she and her dog Tasha form a unique partnership, and use their talents to make a difference in other peoples lives. It is authentic and inspiring, and the concise and engaging writing will keep you glued to the page, and have you reflecting on the costs and rewards of following your dreams. This book succeeds on every level.Marty Vidak, National Park Service Climbing Ranger (retired), Ski Guide.
“Go Find is an adventure-filled, gripping memoir of a woman’s quest to find herself while also finding the strayed and lost in the wilds of Colorado with her dog, Tasha. Susan Purvis’ spare style makes us feel we are part of her heart-stopping rescues. Gripping from start to finish, we share her failures and successes, and her setbacks and advances. A good read all the way through! Part adventure story, part woman-and-her-dog tale, part search-for-self autobiography, this memoir has something for all its readers. Told with self-effacing honesty, Susan Purvis weaves her challenges to find herself, develop strong communication skills into a skillfully told story. Overcoming obstacles to her passion to save lives and, at times, help find closure for the living who have lost loved ones in the wilds of Colorado makes for a spellbinding read. You won’t be able to put it down.
Warning! Do not start reading this memoir when you go to bed at night. You won’t be able to put this gripping tale down and may spend a sleepless night engrossed in Go Find. Susan Purvis’ narrative of her fearless pursuit to rescue the lost and strayed with her dog, Tasha and discover who she is in the process is a good read all the way through.”—Christine Roesch, Editor and Author
“GO FIND” is a heartwarming and heart wrenching memoir about the author’s journey with her beloved search and rescue (SAR) Labrador Retriever, Tasha. In the first sentence of Chapter One—”If the helicopter shifts, we’re dead.”—this book grabs you by the throat and heart and never lets you go.
A fast-moving, skillfully written, true adventure story that will make you laugh, cry, cheer, and it has photos and a great dog in it too! What more could any reader want? Highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more by Ms. Purvis. Deborah Epperson, Author of Breaking TWIG and Shadows of Home
Five stars for Sue Purvis’ Go Find
The two words, “go find”, changes lives in a heartwarming memoir by Sue Purvis. This is a high-adventure, high-altitude love story between Sue and her search and rescue dog, Tasha. Navigating her way through the ego-driven search and rescue world, Sue and Tasha learn together what it takes to find the lost and to bring home loved ones who have perished in the wilderness. Along the way, Sue must also find her way in a marriage to a man with different life goals. Go Find will make you laugh and make you cry. It’s a must read. — Peggy M. Paramedic and Wilderness Medical Associates Instructor.
“What does looking for gold in a foreign country, ski patrolling, dog training, and teaching wilderness medicine training have in common? Adventure, companionship, betrayal and the unconditional love of your best friend. Relationships are complicated. No one seems to know that better than Sue as she artfully begins to weave a story of adventure, heartbreak and joy. sometimes the most important lessons we learn in life come from the most unexpected experiences. Life and death, the battle of time, determination and skill, GO FIND has it all. Sue weaves together the events of her life with skill in storytelling that will leave you wanting more.”--Marion McDevitt DO MPH FACEP FAWM,Diploma in Mountain Medicine.Fellowship trained in Wilderness Medicine/EMS/Global Health Prior Associate director of Wilderness Medicine/EMS fellowship at the University of Utah
This is not just any dog book. Learning how to be a rescue dog and trainer is also about learning about yourself. At times both heartbreaking and thrilling, the story grabbed me and kept me reading. This was an armchair adventure for those who love dogs and that sense of wonder about nature. —Susan Fisher, Librarian
Karen L, Reviewer
“Will appeal to dog lovers as well as those who love real-life adventures such as Cheryl Strayed’s WILD.” 5 out of 5 stars
I’ve already recommended this book to so many readers! Will appeal to dog lovers as well as those who love real-life adventures such as Cheryl Strayed’s WILD. The author spent years working with ski patrol, search-and-rescue, and wilderness first responder teams. This is a story of a young woman and her dog, Tasha, who grow together in their quest to save lives and find lost people in rugged, remote, and dangerous wilderness areas. The author does an excellent job explaining logistics of some of their missions as well as detailing the inner journey of a woman torn between her devotion to her marriage and her search-and-rescue career. I love the photos that are included in this debut memoir. Dog lovers who have never set foot in the mountains will still love the ups and downs of training a naughty puppy to follow commands and overcome extreme challenges.
Dick W, Reviewer
Memoir documenting the training and missions of Susan Purvis and her search and rescue (SAR) dog, Tasha. Reads like a journal as Susan battles to balance her life, SAR passions, marriage, relationship with Tasha, SAR politics, etc…and do it all while trying to live up to her own expectations and those of everyone around her.
Cara B, Reviewer
What a great read! I was hooked from the first page until the last! I can’t wait to read more by Susan Purvis!
Rhonda L, Reviewer
Susan Purvis Her pup her life drew me right in to her adventures struggles real honest life stories highly recommend.
Debbie B, Reviewer
Go Find is a roller coaster ride carrying the reader on Susan Purvis’s quest to train an avalanche dog to save lives. She candidly admits she had no idea how to teach Tasha, a strong-willed black Lab puppy, and her errors often result in hilarious consequences.
Despite opposition, the dog-and-woman team always pushes forward, gaining skills and confidence. Their strong bond keeps them going through frequent failures and devastating setbacks. Eventually they achieve successes that are nationally recognized by law enforcement, the Secret Service, and Congress.
Sprinkled in with adventures are fascinating tidbits about the science of scent detection and avalanche prediction. Susan explains complicated concepts in a way that’s understandable to the lay reader.
While training sessions are often humorous, the actual search missions are stark terror—traveling in steep mountains in bitter cold, on constant alert for avalanches, seeking lost victims who may or may not be alive. Susan and Tasha risk their lives for no pay. Sometimes their only reward is the satisfaction that they brought home bodies for grieving families to bury.
Following her dream comes at great personal cost but Susan also discovers unexpected rewards. She develops a successful business that takes her all over the globe, teaching others how to save lives in the wilderness.
Go Find is a fast-moving, thrilling adventure as well as a study of one woman’s independence, resilience, and perseverance.
On the surface, Go Find is a simple memoir with a simple title: a woman in her 30s makes an impulse decision to get a dog and train him to eventually become a member of the world’s most renowned search-and-rescue dog team. But dig deeper and it’s a complex mixture of love and loss, triumph and grief, success and failure…on multiple levels. U.P.-born author Sue Purvis is our guide on a journey of exotic locales, from Colorado to Nepal. Susan Purvis grew up on the east side of Marquette, Michigan. As a child, Susan explored Lake Superior with her father, Harold (a fisheries biologist) in search of lake trout. Susan’s mother, Dorothy, a homemaker and community organizer, introduced Susan to ballet, ice skating at the Palestra, Girl Scouts and skiing at Marquette Mountain (Cliffs Ridge). As a senior in high school, Susan attended her first medical and writing courses at Northern Michigan University.
Before I go any further, I have to say that I am not a dog person; yet I found myself compelled to keep turning the pages. I could hardly believe that here I am – a 54-year-old grown man – reading a story that is 50% about a black Labrador retriever named Tasha and enjoying the heck out of it, and I mean it’s really about a dog: what the dog sees, smells, vocalizes and so on.
When the story begins, Sue and her husband Doug are a team of struggling field geologists working to uncover new gold deposits in the Dominican Republic. She doggedly plays her role as Doug’s lieutenant, taking jobs where her getting a job is a condition of Doug’s contract. Getting a dog, at first, is just a checklist item on life’s bucket-list: get married, get a house and get a dog. At first, adopting Tasha, at the tender age of 5 weeks old, is all Sue ever wanted. However, shortly after landing in the tiny resort town of Mount Crested Butte, Colorado, in 1995, Sue picks up the scent of a tragedy that happened a few years earlier: an avalanche that enveloped three toddlers just outside their home. By sheer luck, two were rescued and resuscitated, but a third died needlessly from the lack of a qualified avalanche rescue dog.
Sue sees this gap in the world and boldly steps forward to fill it, despite knowing nothing about search-and-rescue or even the basics of obedience training. What she does bring to the table is plenty of hard-won backcountry experience with old school map-and-compass work, as well as her geology degree. Sue quickly encounters an endless maze of qualifications and certifications she must pass to meet the demands of the local group SARDOC (Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado) before she can even participate. Her can-do spirit never flags – well, at least not too much – as she goes on to discover avalanche dog training is really only a small piece of the puzzle. Even if you had the greatest avalanche dog in the world, you’d still miss out on most opportunities for search-and-rescue. To volunteer all year round, in all environments, requires four distinct skills, each with a grueling training and testing regimen: wilderness, avalanche, water and cadaver detection.
Sue’s latent maternal instincts immediately kick in when she bonds with Tasha. Much as we don’t like to think of love as a zero-sum game, it inevitably manifests that way as she pours the love that she doesn’t get from married life into raising her dog. Like an avalanche she can never outrun, her devotion to her new career and partner threatens to suffocate her marriage. Though outwardly supportive, Doug demands obedience like an alpha dog himself, often belittling Sue for spending thousands of hours preparing Tasha and nearly $20,000 on gear, travel and other necessities. The geographical rift between a high-altitude Colorado town and the harsh equatorial climate of the Dominican Republic also mirrors the conflict in Sue’s life as she tries to maintain two careers 2500 miles apart.
After spending a few thousand dollars on EMT training, Sue becomes an assistant at a local high-altitude clinic that ostensibly treats ski and outdoor related injuries, but inevitably serves as an all-purpose, rural urgent care facility. This really piques her interest in helping people, and she’s actually good at it, as well. She absorbs enough information – through study and practice – to become something of an expert in the nascent field of “wilderness medicine.” Partnering with a local doctor eventually leads Sue to begin teaching seminars on wilderness medicine; specifically, high-altitude and mountaineering medicine, to a growing clientele, first locally and then nationally, including Secret Service agents. This involves altitude-induced sicknesses from basic Acute Mountain Sickness to life-threatening conditions such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Many of the symptoms can easily be written off as “flu-like,” and a misdiagnosis as a lesser illness can mean death in a matter of hours or a couple days.
But…back to the dog story. As you may have surmised, all of this training takes a toll on Tasha, and there’s so much to do that the whole first half of the book is devoted to the three years of training it takes to get Tasha certified to participate in actual emergencies and not just weekends worth of training exercises. Sue struggles mightily with learning to train her dog, and eventually, through several mentors, she acquires the means to be the alpha dog in their relationship and get out of the way so Tasha is not induced to produce false alerts, the bane of any dog rescue team. Sue’s eye is always on the clock, knowing that the severe regimen and the basic lifecycle of dogs will limit Tasha’s working life to perhaps age 10. “Go Find” is the basic command to bring Tasha to begin a search pattern, and so an apt title for the memoir itself.
Go Find is written from Sue’s point-of-view and as much as she can surmise, Tasha’s point of view. Although there are more than a dozen missions included, the text never gets dull or repetitive, and as reader, I was on the edge of my seat wondering whether Sue and Tasha would beat the clock rescuing an avalanche victim or complete a mission dropped on the top of a mountainside by a helicopter. They win some and they lose some, but the infectious enthusiasm of Tasha is like the relentless tug of a leash of which you won’t be able to let go! Originally appeared in March 2019 issue of Marquette Monthly. Used with permission.
Informative and Thoughtful
Go Find is a great book about rescue dogs, the commitment of first responders and the quest to find one’s way in life. The author’s story of her passions and relationships, both with her dog, Tasha and her husband, leads to the self-discovery of being lost herself. It’s an honest look at one woman’s struggle to be found. A great read! – Dianne Pellagrini
It was May 29, 2019 when I wrote on my Facebook page, “I want this book. Really want this book.” Go Find: My Journey to Find the Lost—and Myself, written by Susan Purvis, is about her experiences raising a puppy to be an avalanche search and rescue dog, her own growth as a professional search and rescue volunteer, and her subsequent career in teaching wilderness medicine. I knew, immediately, when I read the review in the Montanan that the book would be my cup of tea: a strong, female protagonist on a journey of self-discovery with a dog—and a memoir, my favorite genre, to boot. When I asked about it at a bookstore in Billings, they told me it wouldn’t be out until September, so I resigned myself to wait.
A few weeks later, I received a package in the mail from Susan Purvis; I recognized the name, the postmarked town (Whitefish), and the M.O.: Mark had contacted her and ordered it for me, the same way he ordered another of my favorite books, Indian Creek Chronicles, from Pete Fromm. Mark had done that, gone to all that trouble, even though we hadn’t been involved with each other for months. When it arrived, we had just started to talk about giving our relationship another try, and that, along with other things, sealed the deal for me.
Today, I finished reading the story of Tasha, the black Lab, and Susan, and completing the book left me feeling kind of lost, myself. What now? How can I just go on with life knowing that the story ended and it won’t be waiting on my bedside table for me to read another chapter? This is the same reaction I’ve had to all of my favorite books, over the years, and it’s a common sensation many readers share, one of despair that the story is over: every writer should hope for such a reaction from her readers.
Purvis does many things well in her first book. Her descriptions of Tasha, from the day she chose her from the litter at six weeks old to the day (SPOILER) Tasha took her last breath, every single thing resonated with me. I’ve had dogs in the past, spending Basco’s last minutes with him alone, and choosing Zoey Blue at eight weeks old just eight months ago, so a dog’s life, especially the challenging months of puppyhood, are fresh in my memory. What made me love Tasha—and Susan—more than anything are Purvis’ accounts of the many times Tasha misbehaved, some of them directly related to Purvis’ own mistakes. Knowing that Tasha was a world-class search dog responsible for saving many lives (and finding many others) and that she, too, gave in to distractions and temptations, despite all her training, made me feel more hopeful for Zoey. The fact that Purvis could recognize in retrospect where she had been inconsistent or herself distracted from being a good dog-mom made me feel less inadequate. Purvis’ descriptions of her complicated feelings toward Tasha during those moments of misbehavior mirrored my own with Zoey: frustration, anger, fear which soon give way to relief and intense love. Several times in the book, Purvis writes of Tasha’s dark, brown eyes, about locking eyes with her and trying to decipher what Tasha is wanting to communicate, to her frustration when Tasha won’t listen nor make eye contact. This, too, describes my complicated relationship with my dog, and I feel Purvis’ frustrations and feelings of inadequacy; I find myself nodding, silently affirming, “yes, yes, yes!!” –Karen Henderson’s blog post
From our K-9 Friends
“Essential as a tennis ball on a hike.” Olive Lady Cakes
“I love it when man reads all the good dog parts to me.” Genghis Khan the Desert Dawg