"Maggie, the dog who changed my life," by Dawn Kairns (iUniverse, Inc.) is, as advertised, a story of love.

Dawn married late in life, at age 37. She met, fell in love and married Tom, who came with two sons, plus a 15-year-old stepson. Dawn came with Shanna, her 13-year-old cat - her one link to the past.

Whether to have a family or not was a big decision for Tom and Dawn. Dawn senses that Tom is ready for some freedom from the responsibilities of a family, and she is not sure she can handle that responsibility. They come to an agreement that a canine baby is the only newborn they will have together, and there is no question but that it will be a Lab and that it will be female.

As they look over the litter, one puppy seems more attentive to them, coming back again and again after playing with her brothers and sisters. They agree, they have found their dog. Although she has a long formal name - "Desperado's Magic of Pineridge," she is dubbed just plain "Maggie."

After waiting until she was old enough to leave her mother, as she cuddles Maggie on the trip home, Dawn writes: "I open my heart wide and she crawls in - an opening that continues to grow for the rest of our time together."

They go through the usual training, mishaps, etc., even a serious adventure in a rushing river. But eventually Maggie is trained and Dawn knows she has found a soul companion.

Their adventures together, and with Tom, continue to be learning experiences. You will enjoy reading Dawn's account of the months and years of their camaraderie.

Maggie and Shanna the cat have bonded, and when Shanna dies at age 16, Maggie mourns with the family. After a few months they bring cat Cinnamon into their home. It is instant love between the two animals and they remain pals forever.

Dawn, intrigued with her dreams, keeps a dream journal, and soon comes to suspect, that because of the deep bond of love between her and Maggie, there is telepathic communication.

Then Dawn discovers a bump on Maggie's left chest and it turns out to be a mast cell tumor, a type of cancer. It is their wake up call, the discovery of Maggie's mortality, which they hadn't considered before.

As Maggie continues to vacillate between feeling good and feeling lousy, Dawn continues her search to find something that will stop the progress of the disease.

Eventually, it does become necessary to put Maggie "down."

After her death, as Dawn analyzes her dreams, many of them were prophetic about Maggie, and she now feels guilty that she had tuned them out.

"Little do I know that Maggie's illness and death is our initiation into the nest phase of our lives - that of caring for our declining elderly parents, of saying good-bye to them."

Eventually, Dawn pulls herself together and thinks she can love a new dog.

The 140-page softcover book sells for $15.95.

Joyce Laabs can be reached at

features@lakelandtimes.com.