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Reviewed by Claudia Coffey for Readers' Favorite
In Book Two of If Animals Could Speak, we learn about the dogs, cats, horses and even a donkey named “Long Ears” that Chris Gray and her mate Keith took into their Australian homes between September 1983 and April 1990. A continuation of Book One, we read about the funny quirks of each rescue, along with the challenges and joy each addition brought to the group. We learn that each newcomer was welcomed and trained with dignity and love to fit into his or her new home. Chris tells us about the day that Lucky the kitten joined the household: “From Lucky’s point of view he now had other cats to play with! But Sooty wasn’t interested in any games as she was a mature Mother Cat and past all that nonsense. Sweet, adorable, forgetful Ingrid couldn’t remember what it was she was supposed to do. But Gus—now he was another matter altogether.” We read about Pete the dog who would use “The Big Ignore” to let his people know he wasn’t happy. We read about the curious relationship between Buck the horse and Lucky the cat. Chris writes about the day Sox came to the busy household: “He became ‘half a cat long and two cats high’—a ball of alarmed black and white fur that roughly resembled a cat with two huge yellow eyes. It was quite a lot for him to take in as he’d never seen so many cats and dogs at the one time in his life.” Chris writes about the sad day that their old companion dog, Kelly, left them. She tells us how Calypso the horse helped Kelly; how King the dog could just not say goodbye and how the adults asked themselves over and over what they could have done to possibly prevent this. As Chris writes, “If I hadn’t insisted on chasing him outside … If we’d got home earlier … If is a tiny word but it carries the weight of the world on its shoulders, doesn’t it?"
In the introduction, Chris writes that, “My menagerie over this current period included six dogs, seven cats, four horses, but still no ‘partridge in a pear tree’. But as another animal lover, James Herriot, wrote: “It is always said that however many wonderful and happy years a dog lives, you know that one day, the day he dies, your dog will break your heart.” This poignant quote certainly applies to all the pets Chris wrote about in this sweet book. Chris Gray planned to write a third volume of her life with her animal friends, but we learn in the dedication of book two that Chris died just after finishing the final edits. I loved this little book from the start, especially Chris giving words to the book for her animal friends. Illustrations with added words by Chris would make an excellent children’s book, I think. I found it even more touching to know that Keith and Chris have both left us, but I find comfort in knowing that somewhere they are reunited with their grateful animal friends.