‘The Rescue at Dead Dog Beach’ by Stephen McGarva: Not for the faint of heart

rescue at dead

Rating: 5 stars

In his memoir “The Rescue at Dead Dog Beach: One Man’s Quest to Find a Home for the World’s Forgotten Animals,” Stephen McGarva pulls no punches. It’s not a story filled with feel-good vignettes or lots of tales about cute dogs that get happy homes. This book is about the nitty-gritty poor area of Puerto Rico where dogs are viewed as nuisances or something for target practice.

While living in Puerto Rico where his wife had been transferred, McGarva happened on a beautiful beach. He didn’t realize that it was known as Dead Dog Beach, a place where locals would dump their unwanted dogs. It was also a place where the hapless dogs were killed — either poisoned, hacked to death by machetes or burned to death. Unwanted dogs in the poor areas don’t have painless deaths. The ends of their lives are filled with terror and cruelty.

McGarva began to feed the dogs and try to care for them and their many wounds. When dogs he had helped died, he buried them. He became a target himself because of his concern and caring for the dogs. The police turned a blind eye to those who targeted him, so McGarva was often threatened.

Frankly, the book is terribly heartbreaking. While McGarva accomplished a lot, the constant violence and death of the dogs is very disheartening, especially to a dog lover. This author rescues dogs and cats and knows firsthand how dire are some of the situations from which dogs are rescued. Because of that very fact, this is not a book that would likely be first on a list of must-read books.

But for those who aren’t aware of the plight of dogs in countries like Puerto Rico or Mexico — or China for that matter — this book is highly recommended. It’s an eye-opener for those who go through life assuming that all dogs are pampered like those we see in movies, or those who do not think about the issue at all.

The book is also inspirational in that it showcases how sometimes just one person can make a huge difference. If one person, after reading this book, stops to feed a hungry animal or help a dog or cat get to the safety of a rescue, then McGarva will have accomplished something grand. He will have spread the word about compassion towards those who need it.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, William Morrow, for review purposes.