Miracle Dogs


“Miracle Dogs: Rescue Stories,” by Liz Stavrinides, St. Martin’s Press, $21.99

In a world beset with school shootings, international terror and natural disasters, this is the perfect tonic for an upbeat read of friendship, compassion, loyalty and bravery.

While there is a tendency to want to keep reading, savor each of the 50 vignettes and save a few more for the next day.

From celebrities to everyday people, Stavrinides’ subjects have one thing in common – a love of dogs and an appreciation of what they deliver in return. MiracleDogsA

The California author, also a professional photographer and animal-rescue volunteer, includes a photo of the subject with each short story.

The volume begins with a golden retriever named Wyatt and his young Velcro partner Ashton, who is autistic and finds it difficult to strike up new relationships. Shortly after Wyatt joins the household, Ashton “began to develop a certain amount of patience and empathy that we had never seen in him before,” says his mother, Danielle Townsend, who calls Wyatt her “helping hand.”

The far-ranging collection of inspiring accounts then moves on to focus on street and ocean rescues to helping found and support special organizations from prison-pet partnership to rescue programs.

After finishing, I found myself trying to recall if one account was more memorable than the others. I did, but mark my words: This will vary from reader to reader.

“Rescued at Sea: Lady Lucky,” by John and Michele Lissberger, has the couple sailing the coast of the Mexican Baja Peninsula in rough seas when she spots “a pair of black pointy ears bobbing up and down in the waves” at a distance.

Michele’s first thought is a harbor seal, but as they near the subject she recognizes a dog struggling to stay afloat. She alerts her husband, who is at the helm, and he makes a direct change of course toward the beleaguered animal.

“The couple’s Dalmatian, Dash, raced up and down the prow barking loudly as if to encourage his drowning comrade to stay afloat,” Stavrinides writes. They pull alongside the dog, and dispatch a dinghy and soon John grabs the exhausted creature by the scruff of its neck and pulls it aboard the bouncy craft.

Once they get her to their 50-foot yacht, they towel her down, feed her and allow her plenty of time to rest, for who knows how long she had been afloat struggling to survive. Checks of local marinas, hailing nearby craft via radio and local veterinarians produce no leads to an owner.

En route home to San Diego, the couple discuss what to do with their high-seas rescue. When Dash embraces her that question is quickly answered and the survivor becomes a cherished new family member who embraces every footstep on dry land thereafter.

“Miracle Dogs” reflects poignantly that the love of these featured creatures is a common denominator without ownership bounds. What you’ll see here is a win-win enrichment and connection for all involved in each colorful account.