“Katie Up and Down the Hall”

By Glenn Plaskin. Center Street.  $19.99.

After a couple hours of literally living in Katie and Glenn Plaskin’s neighborhood, I was feeling right at home, thank you.

I found the 92-acre site known as Battery Park City at the southern tip of Manhattan (New York City) inviting, thanks to Plaskin’s lively and flavorful descriptions of how a blond cocker spaniel Katie (named after Katharine Hepburn)became the linchpin for bringing together himself, an octogenarian couple, a single dad and his super-active young son.

Plaskin, a veteran journalist and celebrity interviewer for several newspapers and magazines, introduces the reader to each of his apartment neighbors and cultivates the heartwarming relationships that ensued with time, thanks to Katie. The result: a family with stronger bonds than most conventional counterparts.

Whether it is Katie and Ryan, the young boy, racing down the long hallway at breakneck speed as neighbors watch or Katie jumping on the bed and snuggling next to an ailing Pearl, the aging matriarch of the group, Plaskin’s work is inspirational and insightful.

This is real-life stuff, not that made-for-TV fluff with laugh soundtracks.  And be warned: This is not a volume you can set aside easily. This family grows on you. You feel its pain and its gain via dog walks, nightly meals, illness, death and living in the shadows of the 9/11 disaster.

Katie’s impact, however, isn’t limited to her immediate family. Plaskin, a New York Daily News celebrity columnist, hobnobs with the rich and the famous (he authored a 1992 volume, “Turning Point: Pivotal Moments in the Lives of America’s Celebrities”) and guess who accompanies him to many interviews.  But soon after, his life goes from the penthouse to the outhouse, when the newspaper is sold and 180 employees are fired, including him.

From that point forward, Katie and family play a more meaningful role through Plaskin’s unemployment, injuries and depression. “True, I had lost my footing professionally, but what I had gained was a new appreciation of family,” he says. As death takes Pearl’s husband Arthur after 59 years of marriage, young Ryan plays a key role in her recovery.  Quickly, she becomes Granny to the youngster, as well as a mother, friend, confidante and neighbor to the others.

Plaskin is at his best detailing the trials and tribulations of the group, whether it’s being temporarily transplanted from the “war-zone”-like neighborhood after 9/11; Ryan and his father, John, moving uptown and eventually to Paris; or facing the death of Katie and later Pearl. “Home is not a place, it’s the people placed in your heart,” he emphasizes.

But Katie is the glue that keeps this group together emotionally, whether they’re afar or next door. 

Plaskin’s tender description of Katie’s final days will touch any dog owner’s heart, for we have all lived it – that dreaded day when we finally have to say goodbye.  “After nearly 15 years together, the bond between us was something beyond words,” he says. “So on those magical nights at sunset, I savored our moments together under the linden trees and wished they could last forever.”

While the family in a physical sense gradually diminishes, Plaskin is quick to acknowledge, “love remains. It always does. It always will.”

“Katie” is an old-fashioned love story in a modern setting, accented with nuggets of wisdom, rich earthiness and sound values.  And a beautiful testimonial to man’s best friend.