This slim, pretty package of short stories is the very book I would give my grandmother for Christmas, if she were here with us today. An aging senior from a small town, fond of dogs and animal tales, slipping away in a nursing home –the stories are relatable. This also makes it a good selection for my grandmother’s children, grandchildren or anyone who has spent time with their elderly loved ones.
Phoebe’s Way: a heartwarming tale of one dog’s gift by Pamela Ditchoff is a collection of heart-warming – and at times heartbreaking – tales told from the perspective of a Saint John Ambulance therapy dog. Phoebe and her “Myother” as the dog refers to her owner, “…Mary, my other self, my mother”, visit Mersey House, a nursing home in Safe Harbour, Nova Scotia every Saturday.
Each chapter begins the same way. “We move as one, Myother and me, 12 steps from car to door, cross the threshold with four steps more, right to the west wing, left to the east.” And so it goes (give or take a few steps) as Phoebe and Myother make their way around. Twelve chapters take us, month-by-month, to different rooms –different stations of the journey, into different lives and different memories.
Phoebe’s gift, along with the comfort she brings, is the insight she has for others, the glimpses into their lives and their past to which she is privy, through scent and sound and touch. This also makes her an excellent judge of character. Phoebe, aging herself, shares these memories, while the seniors often drift with matter-of-fact yet lyrical prose.
Each bittersweet vignette is a moving and emotional lesson on aging. They are short, but sweet, and interesting enough to make you care, even though we readers are in each room of Mersey House only briefly. This collection can easily be devoured in an afternoon and just as easily savored one by one.
A heartwarming tale of one dog’s gift
by Pamela Ditchoff
$14.95, paperback, 96 pp.
ECW Press, September 2014