Monday, July 09, 2012

From Stray to Show Stoppers:Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean

Sometimes a dog will show up when a person most needs one.

Sometimes a person will show up when a dog needs one more.

Luciano Anastasini needed something. An acrobat in a fifth-generation Circus family, Luciano found himself seriously injured and able to return to his act when he recovered. He really needed some way to get back to the world he loved, the only world he'd ever known. He needed a second chance.

He could no longer do tricks, but he knew of an animal that could--dogs.

Perhaps he could give some dogs a second chance, too.

And in the local dog shelter, he found some dogs who needed one more chance.

Penny was one who had already failed three times. An young and adorable bichon frise, she drove her owners crazy, spinning in circles, seeming to try to climb the walls. Bowser was a furry-faced thief who snatched his owners' dinners from their plates when their backs were turned and even opened cupboards repeatedly to pilfer the contents. Cocoa was a handsome chocolate Dalmatian whose digging turned his harried owner's backyard into a construction site. Gradually, Luciano rounded out his initial troop of canine rejects with Stick, a trash can-tipping rascal, and Tyke, the world's grumpiest Schnauzer. What could Luciano do with these loser canines?

Luciano observed these dogs carefully. And carefully he formulated his own theory of dog training.

He didn't believe in making dogs do something they didn't do on their own. Dogs like to be busy.

Slowly he fashioned a dog act that played to each dog's natural strength and ability. Bowser was bright, strong, and had great agility and balance. Cocoa had tons of energy and loved to run fast and leap barriers. Tyke, always contrary, liked going down a slide with the other dogs--as long as he could do it backwards. Penny spun in the middle of the act like a little dervish. The act began to come together, as other rescue dogs were recruited--Meemo, Free, Sammy, Rowdy--and found a place doing their thing with the troop.

Today Luciano Anastasini's ten Pound Puppies are circus stars. Luciano is back in the world he loves, and the dogs have found their home and life's work as well. "They saved ME," he says of his dogs.

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs (Scholastic, 2012) by Michela Muntaen tells this story of lives reclaimed in simple, lucid text, with charming color photos of its photogenic superstars by K. C. Bailey and Stephen Hazmierski, a book that dog fanciers and circus fans of all ages will find intriguing.

Publishers Weekly offers its praise, saying: "...prose and photos that strike an ideal balance between journalism and storytelling."

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