By Paul Chutkow. Lyons Press. $22.95.
If you ever dreamed of coming back in your second life as a dog, you couldn’t do much better than have Paul and Eda Chutkow as your owners.
In this travelogue, love story they rescue a filthy street dog in New Delhi, India, where Chutkow was working as an Associated Press writer, and eventually take it to Paris and later Sonoma County, California, stark contrasts to its origin.
For 14 years, the onetime waif was the centerpiece of their lives despite the fact an Indian veterinarian urged them to let him dispose of it “in a very kindly manner.” But Chutkow refused and adds, “thanks to her boundless courage, humor and high spirits she was able to win our hearts, escape the streets and go on to fame and glory as the Queen of Paris, when Chutkow was transferred 26 months after arriving in New Delhi.
Neighbors in both New Delhi and Paris have trouble grasping the bond between the Chutkows and this spirited, sassy mutt. In India, these creatures are viewed with disdain; in France, the squirrel-chasing pooch was seen with disgust.
Imagine, for a minute, here is a dog that once scrounged for its next meal through garbage on the streets to savoring delicious French offerings from family and friends. At one time, she refuses kibble in Paris with attitude of a food snob, even going on a pseudo hunger strike, which becomes and Ed and Zelda war of wills.
Zelda’s Paris fan club is a number you could count on one hand until she becomes an instant heroine in the middle of the night helping alert and lead to the capture of wine burglar. Her reward ranges from huge roast-beef bones, to toys, treats, gaudy leashes and collars.
This onetime underdog’s upbeat temperament is contagious everywhere she travels, from the streets of Paris to a friend’s vacation home on the island of Sardinia, Italy, and later in Napa Valley, Calif., where the family moves after 12 years in Paris. Her image, however, is literally all over the map, even within the family, where she is a soul mate for one of the Chutkow’s sons Justin; a playmate for the other, Ethan; and life lesson teacher to the adults, to whom she exudes courage and grace right to the end of her battle with cancer.
Zelda’s sometimes bumpy ride is captured in detailed description and engaging scenarios, leaving the reader with a megawatt grin one minute and a delightful sense of wonderment the next.