When Larry Levin and his twin sons took their terminally ill cat to the animal hospital to be put to sleep, it was a sad moment for them, but their day was brightened by a rambunctious puppy who bounded through the door, knocking one of the twins over and showering him with 'kisses.' The left side of the pup's face was disfigured and covered in pink scar tissue, making Larry think that he'd been in a fire. When he found out the truth, that the animal had been used as bait for fighting dogs, he was horrified. Larry was touched by the puppy's sweet, gentle nature and obvious will to survive and knew almost instantly that they were going to give him a home. After being fostered for a short time by the manager of the animal hospital who had been instrumental in saving him, Oogy, as his new family dubbed him, was adopted by the Levins, beginning a journey in which man and beast would become eternally bonded.
Oogy is the inspirational, heartwarming story of a dog with an unbreakable spirit and will to live who never lost his loving, gentle demeanor in spite of unconscionable abuse. Before beginning the book, I had no idea why Oogy was disfigured, only that he was adorable anyway. Although the author, Oogy's master, Larry Levin, doesn't know all the details on how Oogy was rescued and brought to the animal hospital where they met, nor exactly what happened to him before that, I think he's done a pretty good job of piecing together the information he did have to speculate, and the picture he has painted is positively horrifying. This poor puppy was used as bait for fighting dogs and left to die in a cage, but he was fortunately found by police who brought him to the only emergency animal hospital in the area. To think that anyone could do that to a poor, helpless animal is appalling. No one really thought Oogy would survive, much less go on to lead a happy, productive life, but he defied the odds time and time again. If not for the kindhearted manager of the animal hospital, Oogy probably would have been put down, but she refused to give up on him and convinced the vet who was her business partner to try to save him. They and other kind, loving people became instrumental in giving Oogy the life he deserved.
I think it's a real testament to Oogy's personality and determination that he lived at all, much less was so sweet and docile throughout his surgeries and recovery. He obviously had an extraordinary tolerance for pain. During his early years with the Levins, Oogy had a penchant for mischief and destruction, but his family exhibited the patience of Job with him, understandably not wanting to cause him any more fear after everything he'd been through already. If Mr. Levin's words are any indication, I'd say that Oogy has brought the author and his family far more joy than heartache or frustration. Unforunately, poor Oogy had to go through several more surgeries. Some were for the purpose of reconstructing his damaged face, and all I can say is God bless Dr. Bianco, the veterinarian who performed these surgeries and all other routine medical care for Oogy free of charge for his lifetime. There were other surgeries for torn ACLs that Dr. Bianco couldn't perform and for which the Levins had to pay large fees. They also had to patiently go through the rehabilitative process with him, and again, all I can say is God bless the Levins for their dedication and willingness to invest all their time and money to give this poor misfortunate dog a good life.
I think our pets often choose us, and that appears to be exactly what Oogy did. After reading the chapter 'Signs', it became even more apparent that Oogy was simply meant for the Levins. There is a chapter in the book about how Mr. Levin and his wife, Jennifer, came to adopt their twin sons, which I thought was very relevant. It shows what huge hearts these people have and how much family means to them. Oogy became a part of all that the minute he went home with them. The Levin house was brimming with love, kindness and patience which was exactly what Oogy needed. Larry Levin's love for Oogy is very apparent, and he definitely thinks of Oogy as far more than just a dog. This animal has become a constant friend and companion. I don't think Oogy could have asked for a better family to spend his life with. In the last chapter, Mr. Levin mentioned trying to get Oogy certified to be a therapy dog, and I think he'd be great at it. I wish they had a website to keep readers updated, but I couldn't find any info as to whether Oogy successfully completed this training. It does appear though, that Mr. Levin and Oogy have made several appearances at fund-raising benefits and are helping to raise awareness of dog fighting which is an equally admirable mission.
Oogy is a gentle story about what it truly means to be a family, and other than some moderately disturbing details of Oogy's condition when he was rescued and what dog fighting is like, there is no objectionable content. It's a nice, easy read that would be appropriate for middle grades and up as long as they wouldn't be overly bothered by the things I mentioned. Oogy, both the book and the dog, are a real inspiration. As Mr. Levin says, if Oogy could survive all he went through with his sweet, gentle, loving disposition intact, so can others. This wonderful dog can be a great object lesson to educate and uplift all of us, but particularly those who may be suffering through a physical disfigurement or other obstacle of their own or who are trying to come to terms with abuse. This book warmed me through and through, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys animal stories.
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