We all need to be rescued from time to time whether it's once in a blue moon or if life is topsy-turvy, daily. It can be as simple as helping to banish a bad mood or as critical as performing the Heimlich maneuver on someone choking. Frequently we are well aware when we provide assistance to a person in need but on occasion the smallest gesture in word or deed, can make a significant difference without our knowledge.
Members of the animal kingdom are no different than we when it comes to needing human intervention. Having no voice our vigilance is of the utmost importance. In her first chapter book of 2013, White Fur Flying (Margaret K. McElderry Books), Patricia MacLachlan writes about the varied forms rescue can assume.
"Once upon a time there was a wicked queen," said my younger sister, Alice.
In the Cassidy family Alice is the talkative sister, an observer of life, a weaver of outlandish tales and a writer jotting her latest thoughts in a journal. Daddy is a veterinarian with a huge heart. Mama with an equally large heart, rescues Great Pyrenees. Zoe, the narrator, while not as talkative as Alice misses little of the world around her; she sees and knows much.
Into the mix are Kodi and May, Pyrs. May will soon leave for a new home. A recent addition is Lena, an African grey parrot whose favorite phrase, repeated in a British accent is "You cahn't know!" It seems Mama is not the only rescuer; Daddy seeing the need to save this feathered mimic.
As the story begins a new family has moved into the home across the street appearing to be pretty much the opposite of the Cassidy crew. The suit-wearing Mr. Croft comes and goes silently in his big black car. Prim, proper Mrs. Croft seems uncertain and slightly fearful. A boy, Philip, Alice's age, does not talk. Philip is staying with the Crofts until his parents can work out some problems they are having.
Within a couple of days, outgoing Alice, wise Zoe, warm Mrs. Cassidy and the two dogs have welcomed Philip into the supportive, loving fold of their lively summer. Philip still does not speak (except to Kodi and Lena) but he is now smiling and laughing. When Mrs. Croft accepts an invitation for a tea date at their home, a new understanding of their neighbors is revealed to the Cassidy family.
With May in her new home, Mama has rescued two more Great Pyreness, Callie an adult female and Jack, a young male. Very soon though the rhythm of their days changes. In the middle of a stormy night, two are missing, one canine and one unable to speak.
Three leave to search; Mama has Kodi but Zoe has only her knowledge of the truth to assist her. By morning all that has been lost are thankfully recovered. Understanding and compassion can and does heal, sometimes the rescued becomes the rescuer.
Consistently Patricia MacLachlan delivers stories reaching into your heart, shaping it and holding it warmly surrounded by love. When you step into the world of the Cassidy family, narrated by the older Zoe with the added day-to-day dialogue between the characters, you can't help but want to be a part of that world too. The importance of a dog's ability to heal and help, to sense and see, what some humans can't is at the essence of this tale.
Each of the short chapters carefully connects to the next with a single profound closing sentence or remark. Through the technique of Alice's writing MacLachlan offers further insights into what she hopes readers will take away from this book. Alice's poem, You Can't Know, and the final pages of the book taken from her journal are pure perfection. One of my favorite passages is:
My voice sounded loud in the quiet kitchen.
No one said anything.
"He thinks many things. And those things are trapped inside of him. Maybe something happened that made him afraid to talk," I said.
I looked out the window.
"Except to Kodi," I added softly.
"Kodi and Phillip are friends in some way we don't know about," said Daddy. "And it doesn't have much to do with words."
Happily and with confidence give White Fur Flying written with impeccable, masterful skill by Patricia MacLachlan to fans of her work, to those people who love dog books, or to someone who might need rescuing. This story shows family dynamics at their very finest; full of understanding for the personalities traits of one another. Also, if we choose to view those around us with the same care as our canine companions, bridges can be built and crossed.