Last week I was searching through the recently returned items for an appealing audiobook that would guarantee me some pleasurable moments in my car as I weave through construction and city traffic. I could find no title with obvious appeal, and I reluctantly settled on a book by columnist Brian McGrory. The folksy title of the book, Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man, almost caused me to overlook a delightful gem of a book.
The audiobook is read by Johnny Heller. His appealing voice extended just the right amount of exuberant energy that is required to capture the listener’s interest. In fact I was immediately enchanted by entertaining stories about McGrory’s life…a life that came complete with a long bachelorhood, a love affair with a dog, a rewarding career for the Boston Globe, a new family, and a transition from city to suburbs. In fact, I was initially convinced that this really was a dog story, as Brian’s experiences with his dog Harry were absolutely riveting and eventually brought me to tears. A relatively self-absorbed, highly-respected celebrity was shown how to love unconditionally and to appreciate the gentle rhythms of daily life by a golden retriever that charmed his way through his off-leash life. Yet we progress from this spiritual union between man and dog to the ridiculous relationship of man and fowl. The entrance of the rooster is likened to the apocalypse…and allows for some light-hearted laughter.
In all honesty I was truly sad when I reached the last CD of this particular audiobook. I looked forward to my car rides so I could hear more stories involving the rooster’s palatial abode, the thrusts and parries between McGrory and his rooster (that sometimes resulted in the neighbours watching a grown man run across his yard with a rooster in steady pursuit), and the author’s attempt to win the affections of all the members of his new family. I loved the anecdote where Brian is sent to the store in pursuit of a collectible American Girl doll, and he is the only male in the store. McGrory has a great sense of humor that extends from heartwarming anecdotes to sarcastic jibes…he irreverently recounts his wishes for the “end” of the rooster by many possible means, lamenting that his suburban neighbours fail to report Buddy for crowing before the crack of dawn and during the day and instead fed him string cheese and cereal at the fence.
In retrospect, I am surprised that I did not recognize the name McGrory, as the author is related to Mary McGrory, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post. Carrying on that journalistic tradition, Brian McGrory has been a news reporter and columnist for the Boston Globe for almost thirty years, and is now editor. He is the author of four novels, in addition to this heartwarming memoir.
What did I learn from these stories about pets, late-life relationships and transitions from city to country life? The underlying message is that you are never too old to embrace change, and that the more you give the more you are likely to receive in return. Buddy’s loyalty to his “flock” is ultimately inspirational to the author and the book’s readers. Despite this, a pet rooster is not part of my future plans!
If you enjoy Brian McGrory’s book, you could try:
A layabout mutt turned therapy dog leads her owner to a new understanding of the good life. At loose ends with her daughter leaving home and her husband on the road, Sue Halpern decided to give herself and Pransky, her under-occupied Labradoodle, a new leash–er, lease–on life by getting the two of them certified as a therapy dog team. Smart, spirited, and instinctively compassionate, Pransky turned out to be not only a terrific therapist but an unerring moral compass. In the unlikely sounding arena of a public nursing home, she led her teammate into a series of encounters with the residents that revealed depths of warmth, humor, and insight Halpern hadn’t expected. And little by little, their adventures expanded and illuminated Halpern’s sense of what virtue is and does–how acts of kindness transform the giver as well as the given-to. Funny, moving, and profound, A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home is the story of how one faithful, charitable, loving, and sometimes prudent mutt–showing great hope, fortitude, and restraint along the way (the occasional begged or stolen treat notwithstanding)–taught a well-meaning woman the true nature and pleasures of the good life. – Publisher’s Summary