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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
All who have ever loved a dog and lost him/her, whether through death or otherwise, will find A Dog Called Hope, by Jason Morgan and Damien Lewis, bringing them to tears. This is a true story, in as far as Jason Morgan is able to remember the exact details of how he, a US special forces warrior, ended up a paraplegic after a secret mission in Ecuador. What happens after his near death, and with the help of family, friends and one very special CCI trained Labrador, Napal, will mesmerize and warm the hearts of all who read A Dog Called Hope.
As only well-written memoirs can do, A Dog Called Hope takes readers into the hearts and souls of the characters, making us feel what they feel and helping us see through their eyes the trauma and joy they have experienced. In Jason Morgan’s case, the reality of becoming a paraplegic, of losing his wife during the difficult years of surgeries, and the constantly thwarted determination to walk again are enough to break the strongest person. A Dog Called Hope gives us a very intimate look into that reality. But through Napal, Jason discovers a life beyond his crippling disability, a life which he would never have dreamed possible. Through Napal’s tireless devotion and love for his master and friend, Jason eventually becomes a medal-winning paralympic swimmer, a motivational speaker for CCI, (Canine Companions Independence), and even once again, someone who can ride a horse and jump out of planes! How is this possible? With the help of his co-author, Damien Lewis, Jason Morgan fills readers in and moves them through super highs and tear-jerking lows.
But A Dog Called Hope isn’t just about Jason Morgan. It’s also about Jim Siegfried, another paraplegic who trained Napal to be such an outstanding companion to Jason. These two men don’t meet until the day Napal officially becomes Jason’s companion. Imagine Jason’s shock when he saw Jim and vice versa. The CCI couldn’t have better matched Jason and Napal. Through both Jim and Jason, readers experience the incredible bond that exists between dogs and their owners, along with the emotional and mental heartbreak that accompanies the loss of a beloved pet. If you have ever loved and lost a dog, prepare to weep more than once when you read A Dog Called Hope. The book also provides tremendous insight into what goes into training such special companion dogs like Napal. It can take up to two years of training before a dog is ready to take on the huge responsibility of chief caregiver for a disabled adult or child. And not all dogs “graduate”. They really have to emerge top of the class. It’s even fascinating to read what they can and cannot eat and what character traits they need to have e.g. they can’t be easily distracted. These are, indeed, very special dogs.
If there is anything that could have made this book better, it would be the inclusion of some photos. Readers will be so curious by the book’s end to see pictures of Napal and Jason. But, such photos and even videos are available on the net. Jason Morgan has a wonderful website at ssgtjasonmorgan.com and you can also find him, Napal and his current dog, Rue, on Facebook. And do check out YouTube by searching “Jason Morgan, Napal”. You can do that before or after you read A Dog Called Napal, but only by reading the book itself will you get the full story told the way it should be: by the author himself and, to a certain degree, by Napal. Read the book to understand why I say, “by Napal”. This is a dog lover’s book and so very much more!