The title of the story, “Poppy in the Wild: A Lost Dog, Fifteen Hundred Acres of Wilderness, and the Dogged Determination that Brought Her Home” by Teresa J. Rhyne is a bit misleading. It’s not really just the story of a beagle from China who escapes from her foster family and gets lost in a California wilderness area. It’s also the story of Teresa (I feel as if we are on a first name basis) and her love for animals.
Teresa starts her story in a delightfully conversational manner. Her writing is imbued with humor. She is explaining about her partner, Chris, who laughs at her determination to save dogs as she is driving with a dog in her backseat. She writes, “He had a great sense of humor, and he’d need it. Because I hadn’t yet told him about the dog in my back seat. (I will. I will. I’m just practicing telling you first.)” She isn’t just telling her story, she’s telling it to us. We are included in the ride. We are literally invited on the ride. “Hop in the car. You may as well come along for the rest of the drive.” We are also offered french fries. Who could resist?
Part of Teresa and Chris’s problem even before Poppy ran away was that Poppy was their third dog, and they lived in two places (Riverside and Paso Robles) that both allowed only two dogs. So after they had Poppy for a few scant weeks, someone wanted to foster Poppy. And that’s when what is often a dog lover’s biggest fear actually happened to poor Poppy. She escaped her harness and disappeared.
Any dog lover can imagine the anguish and torment that Teresa, Chris, and the fosters suffered through those days that Poppy was gone. The worry about coyotes, about cars on highways, and in California, even about mountain lions. Our dogs are precious and we want to protect them with every fiber of our being. And Poppy was lost in a huge wild area populated with lots of coyotes. She was just a third of their size and not used to being on her own. This was a dog who had been bred for slaughter in China.
The book reads like a novel, and the chapters and the action flow quickly. We learn what to do if a dog escapes, but perhaps most importantly, we learn what NOT to do. Some of those things are what we have seen on lost dog signs: “Please do not chase.” “Dog is frightened and will run. Do not call his name.” Teresa shares the reason for and importance of this rule.
And even though at times she disregards the suggestions of the dog-finding experts (when we want to scream at her to tell the volunteers not to walk around looking for Poppy!), she shares all their knowledge and advice. Most important is getting the word out through posters and other methods. She even shares that putting the posters on street lights but low so people in cars can see them is most effective.
There’s even a twist at the end. I’m not sharing it, but when Poppy finally is rescued and ends up safe and sound with Teresa and Chris (minor spoiler here), the way she’s found is completely unexpected.
“Poppy in the Wild” is a wonderful, heartwarming read. You will love meeting Teresa. You will want to take her out for a drink in Paso Robles, which is really a charming town near San Luis Obispo in California. As she says, it’s wine country and it’s beautiful. Maybe you will even want to adopt a beagle. But, as she points out, there are many, many dogs and cats in need of foster homes and adoptive families. There’s even one waiting for a home near you.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Pegasus Books, the publisher, for review purposes.
First posted on Bookreporter.com.