“A cocker,” I exclaimed, as I looked out the car window at the neighboring car during a traffic jam. My boyfriend slammed his foot on the brakes, thinking my outburst signaled impending danger as we passed through Hubbard’s Cave in downtown Chicago. That was his inauguration into my world of dogs, especially cocker and springer spaniels. At that time I was living without a dog, alone in an apartment and in desperate need of a dog.
Many years later, after having had five cockers and three springers throughout my life, I know I will never be without one. I’d rather commit suicide than be forced to live without a dog suffering through old age in a nursing home. Nothing brightens me up more, than coming home to a wiggle-butt dog, declaring I’m the most important person in the world.
Owning and walking dogs has opened so many doors for me, introduced me to neighbors , created friendships, made me stay at a dog-friendly job, and even involved me in the competitive world of agility trials. So it was no surprise that I picked up a memoir with a cute blond cocker on the cover, called Katie Up and Down the Hall; A True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family by Glenn Plaskin.
Glenn begins with his need to fill a void in his life, thinking how a dog will help fill it, his hesitation, and finally buying a little blond puppy with wobbly legs. Having never owned a dog, he asked friends and neighbors for advice. That’s when he met a neighbor down the hall in his apartment building, who had recently had lost her old cocker spaniel. Pearl and Glenn became friends, at first over caring for young Katie, but then their relationship deepened, like a mother to him and grandmother to Katie. Their friendship grew as Glenn’s friend John, and his three-year-old son, Ryan, moved in down the hall, forming a close-knit group, united by Katie and Pearl’s cooking. As with most good books, this is not only Katie’s story; it is also about Glenn’s relationships created by this little cocker.
Glenn’s apartment building was a block away the World Trade Center as he witnessed the events of 9-11 first-hand. Forced to evacuate his high-rise apartment building and walk through the panic-stricken crowd, debris and soot enveloped them from the collapsed twin towers. Katie’s nostrils clogged as she crumbled next to Glenn, unable to breathe. Glenn grabbed a nearby firefighter pleading for help, who squirted pressurized water into her nose, clearing the blockage, allowing Katie to spring back to life.
Eventually, after a long life of fifteen years, Glenn has to make the agonizing decision to put Katie down, causing him to make several trips to the vet. His feelings reminded me of my own recent despair at putting my springer, Cassie down only eight months before.
Katie Up and Down the Hall emphasizes the friendships that formed because of the little blond cocker, and how those friendships deepen over time. But what sticks with me most is Glenn’s experience with 9-11 and how a kindly firefighter, who certainly had much more important things to do that day, took a moment to save a dog’s life.
Watch the book trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZbDx444LZs .