A Dog's Collar

Christian - General
392 Pages
Reviewed on 03/28/2022
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Author Biography

I am almost seven feet tall and I live on the side of a mountain. It is from that vantage point that I write. I am a theologian. I write about the presence of God. Life is the precious gift. Love is about acknowledgement and appreciation. Living is day to day. Dying is individual. Death is a mystery. Faith requires hope. And it is with words that we give testimony to our beliefs. With every word written creation is affirmed. Books hold the past, the present and the future. God is the Author. And we write in divine imitation.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Bernadette Longu for Readers' Favorite

The title of this book, A Dog’s Collar, is misleading if you are not aware of the fact that Catholic priests call the white collar they wear their 'Dog Collar.' Author Sam Knupp has taken a very sensitive topic and turned it into a beautiful story that will have you laughing and smiling in parts and then crying in others. A Dog’s Collar is about Sam (Samuel), a hospital chaplain, who is just over 6 feet tall, built like a linebacker, and rides a big motorbike. The time period of this book is the modern day, but it could take place anytime in any town. The author starts the book very unusually, but it piques your interest, and then you are hooked and find yourself reading until the end, even through the tears. This is a must-read.

A Dog’s Collar by Sam Knupp brings to life how important it is to the dying, the injured, and the uncertain that there is a resident chaplain on call in the hospital they are admitted to, not only for the patients but for the staff as well. The compassion, understanding, and humanity portrayed in this book make you believe in the world again. This is one of the most interesting, page-turning books I have read. It made me realize how disinterested we have become in the suffering of others, especially those facing the death of a loved one, whether it be self-inflicted, by accident, or through illness. The importance of a resident chaplain in a hospital really hit home and it is something we do not have anymore. Sam Knupp, thank you for a wonderful book and for making me realize that God is always listening; we have just forgotten to listen in return. A book well worth reading. It is a page-turner in its own right, written from the heart.

Donna Parrey

Author Sam Knupp gives readers a glimpse of his life as a chaplain in his anthology, A Dog’s Collar. No, not a glimpse … we become voyeurs to his profession. The collection of essays is poignant, funny, sad, horrifying, and enlightening … sometimes all within one essay. Knupp’s experience in ministering to the dying in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, provides the fodder for this book. Each chapter (individual essay/story) might range from two to twenty pages. Within these pages, readers get insight into the process of facing death and dying, not often available to the general populace. It’s not a book for everyone, but it’s a book that could be about any one of us.

A Dog’s Collar is not an easy read. The details of author Sam Knupp’s stories are often enough to move even the most hardened heart to tears. He has ministered to amputees and babies in jars, the common and the uncommon. Yet this chaplain writes like a comedian, albeit a solemn one. Knupp’s writing style makes it all palatable, and his down-home language is often out-right funny. For example, on page 21, Knupp writes, “Grace is sixty, plain as Methodist punch, and starchy as an Idaho potato.” He likes to use single quotes to emphasize words, but once a reader embraces Knupp’s writing voice, those quotes become unnecessary. We become apprentices, peeking over Knupp’s shoulder to learn about death and dying from one who’s witnessed it more than anyone should have to do.

Susan van der Walt

In A Dog's Collar, Sam Knupp shares stories from his life as chaplain, referring to his clerical collar as 'God's black dog collar.' He confesses his love for God but honestly states that he doesn't always like Him. Sam Knupp is also not shy to share honestly with us his many doubts. The sorrow and suffering he witnessed create these doubts, and the source is the stories he tells in this book. The stories are about death, grief, and loss when horrible things happen to ordinary people. Since Sam Knupp mainly gets summoned when people are dying, he has a unique way of using humor to lighten the mood during his visits.

A few stories really gripped my heart. First, the little girl that was born without a head, where Sam Knupp shared his emotional turmoil when holding her after they took her off life support. We feel Sam Knupp's desperation when he tries to save a boy he rescued from an overheated car. And on a lighter note, the endearing story of a little boy who brought his pregnant dog to the clinic when her puppy got stuck and how the staff worked to deliver a breech puppy. While reading A Dog's Collar, I've experienced many emotions, sharing in the pain, sorrow, and grief of ordinary people and realizing the fragility of human life. A Dog's Collar is a book that you should read in short sessions to give yourself a chance to recover from the intensity of the emotions you experience while reading these stories.

Philip Van Heusen

Most people have heard of a hospital chaplain, but few know what their duties involve. Sam Knupp was the chaplain at a hospital in Lancaster, PA., and in A Dog’s Collar, he tells of his experiences. Death is covered, as is the need to support the families of the recently deceased. Chaplains also spend time in the hospital rooms with those facing death, surgery, or life-long complications from whatever disease brought them there. How then do people who regularly deal with death keep their own outlook from becoming too cynical? Sam has his own way of handling his thoughts, and like most chaplains found his path through the jungle of pain and death. Whether in prison or in a hospital, knowing that a chaplain is available is always comforting, even to those who have no religious beliefs.

What is a colossal tuna doing in the ICU of the local hospital? Sam tells this and other stories of his work as a chaplain. Why was a man buried with over two hundred children? How does a chaplain act when working in prison? These questions and many more are answered with true-life stories in A Dog’s Collar. Sam experienced a wide range of events as a chaplain. In this book, Sam shares these with an open heart and everyday words, but the language can be raw at times. However, overlooking some of the wording will have you intrigued by what an ordinary chaplain faces daily. Can you imagine a young boy riding on the back of a tank through the snow to visit a dying relative at the hospital? Sam has seen it and records it in this book. The stories will hold your interest.