“Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family – and a Whole Town – About Hope and Happy Endings”

By Janet Elder. Broadway Books. $23.99.

“Huck,” short for Huckleberry, is an inspirational and gritty narrative of a family’s love affair with its tiny dog, partially cast with a 1950s small-town feel of trust, concern and helping hands.


For years, the author’s son Michael dreamed of owning a dog in their New York City apartment.  At age 7, he even fashioned a PowerPoint plea to his parents to no avail. After Elder contracts breast cancer and undergoes a lengthy treatment regimen, Michael’s dream is put on the back burner by his parents, but quietly remains simmering on a front one for him.


Recognizing the stress her radiation and chemotherapy treatments are placing on her supportive husband Rich and Michael, Elder, a New York Times senior editor, visions a puppy as an upbeat galvanizing force for the family upon the completion of her regimen. 


Michael’s heart is set on a toy poodle just like Rocket, a neighbor’s dog he had fallen in love with years before.  Elder calls Rocket’s Florida breeder and is told Rocket’s half brother, a “little red boy” about 4 months old, is available, setting the whirlwind stage for the holiday arrival of a boy’s dream come true.


All goes well for several months, and when the parents decide a Florida spring vacation is just what the doctor ordered they opt to leave the endearing Huck with her sister and brother-in-law in pastoral Ramsey, N.J., a stark contrast from Huck’s New York City digs.


As the three depart for a 10-day vacation, leaving Huck behind, each has sense of concern and even abandonment contrasted by excitement and anticipation of jetting to sunny Florida and attending some New York Yankees spring-training games. 


After a couple of bustling and fulfilling days, they receive an anguished early-morning phone call from the author’s sister Barbara informing them Huck has run away. After two wonderful days in sunny Florida, the family hurriedly packs up and returns to the cold Northeast to begin searching for their prized pooch.


What unfolds is a poignant and inspiring story of a small town embracing three strangers in need. With a few different twists, tiny Ramsey’s townspeople exude that Camelot feel seldom seen anywhere today, assisting the three committed New Yorkers at every turn.  


Elder’s marvelous step-by-step account of the Hunt for Huck is gripping, nerve-wracking and frustrating as you find yourself rooting that the tiny poodle will be standing around the next corner hoping his people are coming for him. This is all about teamwork and tenacity with a dash of hope and heartache in an exasperating daybreak-to-darkness search over three days that touches dozens of lives.


New friendships are forged and life lessons are learned in this vibrant, detailed portrait that has all the ingredients for a first-rate family movie.