Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cowboy & Wills

Publisher's Summary. In this exceptionally touching memoir, critically acclaimed author Monica Holloway shares the extraordinary, deeply moving story of Cowboy, the golden retriever puppy who changed her son's life.

The day Monica learns that her lovable, brilliant three-year-old son, Wills, has autism spectrum disorder, she takes him to buy an aquarium. It's the first in a string of impulsive trips to the pet store to buy animals as a distraction from the uncontrollable, crushing reality of Wills's diagnosis. But while Wills diligently tends to the growing menagerie, what he really wants is a puppy. And one Christmas, when Wills is six, Cowboy Carol Lawrence joins their family.

Like all dynamic duos, Cowboy and Wills complement each other perfectly. Wills is cautious, fastidious, and irresistibly tenderhearted. Cowboy, a rambunctious golden retriever, is overeager, affectionate, and impulsive. And from the moment Cowboy enters their lives, Monica sees her son step a little farther into the world. Soon, the boy who could barely say hello to his classmates in kindergarten is sharing stories of his new "sister" Cowboy during morning circle. Children crowd around them at the park, and instead of running away, Wills, holding Cowboy's leash in his sweaty fist, proudly answers all of their questions. With Cowboy, he finds the courage to invite kids over for playdates, overcomes his debilitating fear of water to swim along beside her in the family pool, and, after years of gentle coaxing, Wills finally sleeps in his own bed with Cowboy's paws draped across his small chest.

Through it all, Cowboy is there, dragging him toward other children, giving him the confidence to try new things and the courage to face his worst fears. And when Cowboy turns out to need her new family as much as they need her, they discover just how much she has taught them -- about devotion, about loyalty, and about never giving up.

Sometimes it's what you don't know to hope for that saves you. For Monica, her husband, Michael, and their son, Wills, salvation came in the form of a puppy with pale blond fur, chocolate brown eyes, a fondness for chewing the crotch out of underpants, and a limitless capacity for love.

Review. Full disclosure: I am a pet owner. Specifically, I have three cats (two Siamese and one domestic shorthair) and two dogs (both Labrador Retrievers). The joy that my furry crew bring into my life is commensurate with the destruction that they cause (carpets used as scratching posts, furniture as teething toys and assorted electronics and apparel as edible snacks). And don’t get me started on the retirement funds spent on vet bills (the local emergency vets know my gang by name!). Still I have never in my life been petless – a furry face has always been a part of my family. All this is my longwinded way of saying that any book that features a furry face has me from the cover, so with my admitted bias, below is my review of Cowboy & Wills.

When Monica Holloway’s son, Wills, is diagnosed with autism she flees to the pet store to purchase an aquatic fish wonderland. This is a pattern that repeats itself with each blow that the family suffers – bad news leads to a new fill-in-the-blank pet: hermit crab; land turtle; hamster; rabbit; and, eventually, the top of Wills’ pet wish – a puppy!

When Cowboy Carol Lawrence, a female golden retriever, enters Wills’ life he begins to enter the world around him. Holloway describes the stark transformation:

With Cowboy in between himself and the crowd, Wills was able to answer most of their [his classmates’] questions. Everyone suddenly now knew Wills. We’d hit an unexpected gold mine. Wills was making his social debut. Cowboy on her purple leash, was leading Wills into the world of his peers, one that both terrified and beckoned him.

Without revealing any spoilers, Cowboy & Wills is a touching three hanky tribute to the powerful bond of a boy and his dog.

Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment (October 6, 2009), 288 pages.
Advance Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.


  1. I still need to read this one. Your review makes me want to get right to it. Thanks for inspiring me :)

  2. This sounds like a great story. Pets sure do lift people up.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  3. Interesting concept. This sounds like it could be a keeper.

  4. Sounds like a great story, but I avoid ones that I need tissues for.

  5. This sounds like a book I would love to read.

  6. PS...I loved your furry friends disclosure. We feel the same way about our 4 cats...LOL