Dog Church

by Gail Gilmore
GusGus Press
Publication date: April 2017


When the author’s beloved dog is diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, her first instinct is to fight for her dog’s life; to do everything possible to bring the symptoms of this neurologically debilitating condition under control. But treatments fail, symptoms worsen, and she is faced with many emotionally complicated questions: What is the measure of a dog’s life? What do we owe to those whose lives we both cherish and steward? Does saving a life always mean preserving it, or does it sometimes mean letting go?

As the author grapples with these questions and their implications, she becomes a regular visitor at the Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Spending long hours in the tiny church reading through the layers of notes and letters to dogs much loved and missed posted on its walls by other visitors, she begins to piece together the answers to these questions. A story of unconditional love and devotion, Dog Church is also a story of finding comfort in faith and the ways in which the emotional threads of love and grief can bind complete strangers together for brief moments in time in ways that are ultimately life-changing.

Why we signed Dog Church . . .
“Dog lover tale. Kleenex box story. Discovering a wonderful chapel for animal lovers. True story about facing the philosophical issues with owning/ caring for a dying pet. As a pet owner, the author’s questions have been my own at various times. A wonderful way of dealing with losing a beloved pet.”

From the Author. . .
“Sometimes, one small decision made, one set of plans changed, prevents us from closing the door on what was meant to be. After deciding not to go on a planned trip to Disneyworld and choosing instead to vacation on a little-known Caribbean island, my path crossed with that of an abandoned dog on a very long beach and that encounter changed my life. Mired in grief over the still-fresh loss of my dog Comet, this new dog pulled me closer to happiness each day. My spouse and I brought her back to Boston with us. She had a new name, Chispa, and a new life. And after a while, I, too, had a new life—or a new lease on my old life, anyway. I marveled at the way Chispa’s joyfulness had restored my own sense of joy, something I didn’t think possible after losing Comet. When Chispa became ill with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, all I could think about was saving her, as she’d saved me. It would take many false starts, but eventually I came to understand what saving this precious dog-life really meant.”


About the Author . . .
Gail Gilmore is a career advisor at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and a volunteer for Missing Dogs Massachusetts. She lives in the Boston area with her spouse and two Puerto Rican rescue dogs. Dog Church is her first book.