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Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog

Review

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog

Jenna Blum’s heartfelt tribute to her dear and departed black Lab, Woodrow (the “George Clooney of dogs,” as she nicknames him), pulls at the heartstrings while demonstrating that humans learn way more from their animals than the other way around. In her first nonfiction outing, Jenna chronicles the last year of Woodrow’s life, several other large losses in her life, learning to open herself up to others, and the value of community.

Living in a building across the street from the Commonwealth Mall in Boston, Woodrow and Jenna visited the same bench numerous times a day in his later years. While there, they encountered hundreds of people and many dogs, made friends with scores of them, and became a fixture in their neighborhood. Jenna even ran an Instagram account for Woodrow, posting about the individuals they met and the relationships they developed.

"Ultimately, the book is about opening up, learning to live and to love, and understanding the true meaning of friendship."

WOODROW ON THE BENCH is structured around the lessons that Woodrow taught to those who knew him, dovetailing with the last months of his life, and interspersed with stories about people who visited him on the bench over the years. The first chapter, May’s “Never Give In,” addresses Woodrow’s congestive heart failure diagnosis, and Jenna’s refusal to just give up and say goodbye to him. The second chapter, June’s “Ask for Help,” is a deep dive into why Jenna doesn’t like to ask for help and how eventually Woodrow taught her that doing so was not a weakness, but instead was a side effect of having friends.

The lessons continue until the final month, December’s “Let Go,” when Jenna realizes that it is time to let Woodrow go and what it is like to actually make such a decision. This last chapter details the extreme grief she experienced, how lonely it was initially, and what happened when she allowed herself to be enveloped by the enormous outpouring of support that she received from everyone who loved them both.

Sandwiched in between Woodrow’s life lessons are stories about some of the people  Woodrow and Jenna met through the years. These brief chapters tell the tales of those who helped her carry Woodrow across the street or simply cheered them on as they crossed, a sorority that stopped and admired Woodrow, or those who looked after Woodrow at times. These accounts are a fabulous addition to the book, demonstrating the kindness of strangers, the desire to lend a hand, and the importance of community and relationships.

While WOODROW ON THE BENCH is a story about a dog, the lessons in it will appeal and apply to everyone, pet lovers or otherwise. Ultimately, the book is about opening up, learning to live and to love, and understanding the true meaning of friendship.

Reviewed by Cindy Burnett on November 24, 2021

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog
by Jenna Blum

  • Publication Date: November 9, 2021
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 006311318X
  • ISBN-13: 9780063113183