Lynn Plourde has honored dogs—and the people who love them—in her new novel, Maxi’s Secrets (or, What You Can Learn from a Dog). I began tearing up on page 1, but the tears didn’t actually fall until page 2! That’s because we’re asked to accept a hard truth right up front: “Having Maxi in my life will always be a bigger deal than losing Maxi. Her tail still thump-thump-thumps in my heart.”

This wonderful novel packed with wisdom in the form of “secrets” features a diverse cast of lovable characters trying to make their way through middle school while facing various issues, such as being new and different, having disabilities, and being bullied, not to mention the dreaded LOCKERS! (I still remember worrying about being able to open my locker in middle school! Opening her locker was also my daughter’s #1 worry!)

Maxi’s boy, Timminy explains, “Classes are the safe part of school. I hate the in-between parts—before school, break time, passing between classes, lunch. All potential land mines that can blow up any second.” (“Secret #12: The combination to unlock middle school survival is one big mystery.”)

But soon Maxi, a Great Pyrenees with a disability of her own, teaches them that life is best lived together. (“Secret #45: The bad stuff, like the good stuff, needs to be shared.”)

Despite being deaf, Maxi listens to everyone she loves . . . with her heart! “Secret #8: It’s possible to hear someone even if your ears don’t work.” The corollary? It’s also possible NOT to hear someone even if your ears work fine. Part of loving is listening.

And Maxi loves EVERYONE.

Without expectation. “Secret #29: When you expect nothing . . . everything is a treat.” So true! It’s when we place expectation on others—instead of ourselves—that we’re headed for disappointment.

Thankfully, dogs like Maxi teach us to forgive easily and quickly. And completely.

I agree wholeheartedly with Plourde: The love, wisdom, and joy a dog imparts is greater than the pain of outliving them. There’s a dog whose tail still thump-thump-thumps in my heart, too; I wrote about her here. And I believe—hope—I honored her by adopting another dog. For me, knowing loss and choosing love anyway is greater love in action. As Plourde writes, “The only thing that matters is LOVE.”


P.S. The acknowledgements are as thoughtfully and beautifully written as the book itself. I loved reading about Plourde’s inspiration for Maxi: her dog, Maggie. Like Maggie, my special dog is still here with me at my desk, too: dutchdesk

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