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Charlie & Barbara Lampert
Charlie: A Love Story”, by Barbara Lampert, is the story of love, illness, and loss between the author and her beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie. Barbara is an avid gardener and was journaling the progress of her huge garden and landscaped yard, but as Charlie began getting sick with a myriad of illnesses, the journal became as much about his struggles as it did about gardening.

For anyone who has ever lost a pet or struggled with a pet’s lengthy illness, Charlie’s story is a tough one. Having dealt with a pet with an extended illness myself, I sympathized with the emotions Barbara was going through in an all-too-real way. The constant ups and downs, worrying if you’re making the right decisions, hoping for more time with your beloved pet but realizing nothing lasts forever…the feelings are raw, deep, and unforgettable.

Charlie: A Love Story” is a perfect portrait of the emotional depth of love we can feel for our pets, and a testament to the lengths we will go to ensure our pets can stay with us just a few, precious moments longer. It proves how those of us who love animals can have multiple pets and love them all equally, but still have a particularly special bond form with one pet that sets them apart from the others. It is also a testament to the strong, positive spirit that animals can possess even when their pain and sickness becomes too much for their humans to emotionally bear.

If there is one criticism of “Charlie: A Love Story”, it is that perhaps the journal entries heavy on gardening talk may not be universally interesting to all readers. There is much discussion of different sorts of plants, and readers unfamiliar with them (or with no interest in gardening) may find themselves skimming through the descriptions. Those interested in Charlie's story alone (and not the garden journal backstory) may find their interest wandering during these passages.  However, even for those without interest in horticulture, the sheer joy and relaxation her yardwork brings to the author is palpable. I found myself picturing Barbara’s garden, and wishing I could sit on the soft grass with a loving Golden Retriever by my side. I understood the tranquility and bliss that Barbara must have felt.

A word of warning: you WILL need tissues when you read this book. I found myself raising the book up to eye level so that my husband wouldn’t catch my eyes welling up with tears every few chapters. It was hard not to re-live the emotions I felt during my own pet’s extended illness, and I expect it would be hard for anyone who has lost a pet not to do the same. At the same time, it reminded me of the special bond I felt with my own pet and allowed me to experience that special love again.

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