This afternoon, on such a hot humid day, my new puppy and I were trudging along the Hudson River, Lucy chasing squirrels and making friends with a variety of canines out for their afternoon walks.
The review, published by the Seattle Kennel Club and written by Ranny Green (his biography below), really captures the essence of what I intended, including a discussion of the book’s major themes. I want to share it with you and hope that once you read the book, you’ll send me your own review!
“Katie Up and Down the Hall”
I found the 92-acre site known as Battery Park City at the southern tip of Manhattan (New York City) inviting, thanks to Plaskin’s lively and flavorful descriptions of how a blond cocker spaniel Katie (named after Katharine Hepburn)became the linchpin for bringing together himself, an octogenarian couple, a single dad and his super-active young son.
Plaskin, a veteran journalist and celebrity interviewer for several newspapers and magazines, introduces the reader to each of his apartment neighbors and cultivates the heartwarming relationships that ensued with time, thanks to Katie. The result: a family with stronger bonds than most conventional counterparts.
Whether it is Katie and Ryan, the young boy, racing down the long hallway at breakneck speed as neighbors watch or Katie jumping on the bed and snuggling next to an ailing Pearl, the aging matriarch of the group, Plaskin’s work is inspirational and insightful.
This is real-life stuff, not that made-for-TV fluff with laugh soundtracks. And be warned: This is not a volume you can set aside easily. This family grows on you. You feel its pain and its gain via dog walks, nightly meals, illness, death and living in the shadows of the 9/11 disaster.
Katie’s impact, however, isn’t limited to her immediate family. Plaskin, a New York Daily News celebrity columnist, hobnobs with the rich and the famous (he authored a 1992 volume, “Turning Point: Pivotal Moments in the Lives of America’s Celebrities”) and guess who accompanies him to many interviews. But soon after, his life goes from the penthouse to the outhouse, when the newspaper is sold and 180 employees are fired, including him.
From that point forward, Katie and family play a more meaningful role through Plaskin’s unemployment, injuries and depression. “True, I had lost my footing professionally, but what I had gained was a new appreciation of family,” he says. As death takes Pearl’s husband Arthur after 59 years of marriage, young Ryan plays a key role in her recovery. Quickly, she becomes Granny to the youngster, as well as a mother, friend, confidante and neighbor to the others.
Plaskin is at his best detailing the trials and tribulations of the group, whether it’s being temporarily transplanted from the “war-zone”-like neighborhood after 9/11; Ryan and his father, John, moving uptown and eventually to Paris; or facing the death of Katie and later Pearl. “Home is not a place, it’s the people placed in your heart,” he emphasizes.
But Katie is the glue that keeps this group together emotionally, whether they’re afar or next door.
Plaskin’s tender description of Katie’s final days will touch any dog owner’s heart, for we have all lived it – that dreaded day when we finally have to say goodbye. “After nearly 15 years together, the bond between us was something beyond words,” he says. “So on those magical nights at sunset, I savored our moments together under the linden trees and wished they could last forever.”
While the family in a physical sense gradually diminishes, Plaskin is quick to acknowledge, “love remains. It always does. It always will.”
“Katie” is an old-fashioned love story in a modern setting, accented with nuggets of wisdom, rich earthiness and sound values. And a beautiful testimonial to man’s best friend.
Ranny Green, a Seattle Times pets columnist and feature writer for three decades before retiring in 2008, will be writing monthly features and book reviews on this newly revised web site. Green is also the former president of the Dog Writers Association of America, a five-time recipient of the DWAA’s columnist of the year award and a six-time winner of the DWAA feature writer of the year for newspapers over 150,000 circulation. He currently serves on the media staff of the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show staff in New York City each February, and is on the board of numerous dog- and animal-related charities. He and his wife Mary own a German Shepherd and Pembroke Welsh Corgi, both rescue dogs.