Title: Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life with a Very Large Dog
Author: Lauren Fern Watt
Genre: Non-Fiction, Dogs, Memoir
Blurb from Goodreads
Lauren Watt took her 160-pound English Mastiff to college—so of course after graduation, Gizelle followed Lauren to her first, tiny apartment in New York. Because Gizelle wasn’t just a dog; she was a roommate, sister, confidante, dining companion, and everything in between.
Together, Gizelle and Lauren went through boyfriends, first jobs, a mother’s struggle with addiction, and the ups and downs of becoming an adult in the big city. But when Gizelle got sick and Lauren realized her best friend might not be such a constant after all, she designed an epic bucket list to make the absolute most of the time they had left.
Bursting with charm, this unique, coming-of-age story of a girl making her way through life is a testament to the special way pets inspire us to live better, love better, and appreciate the simple pleasures. Gizelle’s Bucket List is the humorous, poignant lesson our pets teach us: to embrace adventure, love unconditionally, and grow into the people we want to be.
I am an unabashed dog lover. I firmly subscribe to the view that your life isn’t complete until you’ve got a furry canine companion to share your days with.
My family got our first puppy when I was still very tiny. And then our second came along soon after. These dogs were my childhood. They were there every step of the way. And when they died, as dogs inevitably long before us do, my young heart didn’t know if it could ever love as much again. But my parents gave me another dog, my Westie. And this time it was different. I was a teenager, older, more grown up. Westie was my responsibility and mine alone.
Why am I telling you this?
In this book Lauren tells us about her beautiful mastiff Gizelle, named for Giselle from the Disney film Enchanted but with a ‘Z’ because she was spunky! Lauren was 19 when she got Gizelle; some years older than I was when I received my beautiful pooch. But I could see the similarities. Gizelle was there for Lauren through those years when we go from childhood to adulthood. Gizelle was the one who taught her great lessons about life.
In her early 20s Lauren followed her dreams and moved to New York with her ‘giant’ dog and in this book she candidly relates tales (or is that tails!) about trying to figure out who she is in this world all in the company of her dog. There are stories of apartments and friends, odd jobs and Tinder: all are told in a natural and unfussy manner that really makes the reader identify with Lauren and feel like they understand her. Lauren also bravely shares with us difficulties in her family life. Her mother lives with addictions and this unsurprisingly has had a huge impact on Lauren and there are many touching insights into the difficulties of loving someone suffering from such a cruel disease.
However, as the title of this book and the blurb both allude to (and therefore not a spoiler), this is a story about the end. About a bucket list of things to do with your dog before they get too old and leave your side. It’s about the lessons that a dog can teach us. How they just live in the moment. How they can let things go. And how they are much more human than we can ever be.
I said goodbye to my Westie after 16 years of loyal and faithful companionship. It remains one of the most devastating days of my life.
But I would not give up that devastation.
For that grief means that for 16 years I had a best friend. I had a snuggle buddy with a stinky butt and a slobbery muzzle. I had a dog that was there for me on good days and on bad. A dog that didn’t care if I spent the day in my pjs or if I was dressed up to the nines. A dog that just wanted to be with me. To go for walks with me. To veg on the sofa with me. To curl up on my bed. To steal the potato peelings as they fell on the floor when preparing dinner.
This was a great little book. It was more than just another dog book because of the honesty that Lauren imbued her anecdotes with. The book felt very rounded and as if we learned a great deal about the writer. I laughed. I most certainly cried but above all I remembered.
Reading this brought back such happy memories, and some terribly painful ones too, but above all it made me glad to be a dog owner.
Since Westie I’ve shared my life with another two dogs. One of whom sadly died much too young from cancer which is a whole different kind of pain and tragedy, and currently I have a young dog that I describe as relentlessly enthusiastic!
No dog ever replaces another. Our hearts are much bigger than we give them credit for. No dog replaces another for they are all as beautifully unique as we are as humans.
But I do know I will always share my life and home with a four legged friend in the same way that Lauren knows too.
A brilliant read for dog lovers, and people who dream of New York.