When I was asked to review this book, I hesitated. For much of my life, I have approached books, television shows, and movies with dogs in them with one all-important question: Does the dog die? Because that I cannot stand. Perhaps because I’m soft-hearted or perhaps because, like all dog lovers, I live with the knowledge that the lives of our beloved companions are far too short, and it’s easier to deny this if I don’t have to see it or read about it. But Martha Teichner ’69 faces that reality head-on in her heartbreakingly lovely memoir, When Harry Met Minnie.
A chance meeting at the Union Square farmers market in New York City sets in motion a series of new relationships for Martha and her bull terrier, Minnie. As we get older, it can be difficult to form new friendships, but dogs somehow make it easier. It’s not unusual, particularly in the city, to form casual relationships with other dog owners you encounter while on walks. Martha runs into such an acquaintance not long after the loss of her other bull terrier, Goose, while she is considering adopting another dog to help ease Minnie’s grieving. As they stop to talk at the farmers market, a man asks if she would be interested in adopting Harry, his friend Carol’s bull terrier. Carol is dying of liver cancer and wants to know that Harry will be taken care of after she is gone. Martha agrees to consider it, but first Harry and Minnie have to meet to see if they get along.
And so begins the sweet and often funny story of trying to set up two dogs on a blind date. A great rom-com in the making, Harry and Minnie do fall in love in their fashion—but it’s also the story of how Martha and Carol meet. How they become friends, bonding over bull terriers and their idiosyncrasies (the breed is notoriously stubborn, and neither Harry nor Minnie is an exception). How death and grief are as much a part of our lives as laughter and friendship. How Martha enters into this relationship knowing that it will be short-lived, but much like the time we spend with our pets, worth it anyway.
Don’t hesitate to read this poignant meditation on the love we share with our dogs and the friendships we build, and how both enrich our lives immeasurably. (Though I do recommend extra pets and snuggle time with your beloveds during the journey.)
Garrett lives in the Boston area with Fizz, Winnie, and Piper, the three best dogs in the world.