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Book Review: The Changing Season by Steven Manchester

It’s funny how books sometimes end up being a convergence of different worlds and unexpected timing. The Changing Season by Steven Manchester is a novel about the summer between high school and college for one young man (Billy) and his long-faithful dog (Jimmy). That’s particularly interesting to me since writing about dogs and writing about higher-education (in particular, writing to help high school students pick a college or university) are two of my niches. In fact, I read The Changing Season while flying to / from higher-ed consulting project, where I spent a day and a half doing focus groups with students about what they looked for before picking a school. Crazy, right?

Other than one dog-related gaffe, The Changing Season is a nice story about the transition into adulthood and the role childhood pets play at that juncture. The OLD dog in the book DOES NOT die … so it’s safe to read.

Book Review The Changing Season, Champion of My Heart, dog blogOn the higher-ed side of things, I had to laugh when Billy fields a lot of questions from family and friends about his future. Where are you going to college? What’s your major? What do you want to do with your life? Suffice it to say that Billy only had an answer for the first question. Everything else was in doubt.

It also made me giggle when Billy’s internal dialogue included references to his “passion” … like knowing that at the age of 18 would set the course for his life. That’s funny because we’ve all but forbidden the use of the word PASSION in our higher-ed work. That word (and others like it) put WAY too much PRESSURE on young people.

On the dog side of this coming-of-age novel, I can say that most of the dog details are sweet and funny and accurate, so imagine my dismay when I came across a scenario in the book that’s so far outside the realm of normal that I had to check with my friends and former colleagues in the animal sheltering / rescue world to make sure things had not changed. Now that I’m not in a shelter regularly, I didn’t want to rely on my past experience as a measure of what’s done today.

Major Animal Sheltering Gaffe …?

So, accuracy-wise, what’s this big gaffe relating to dogs in The Changing Season?

An animal shelter director / manager deliberately adopts an intact male dog to a breeder. And I quote …

“I know a breeder who’s looking for a new stud.” Arlene examined the four-legged ogre and grinned. “And with a specimen like him … before it’s over, he’s going to father a hundred offspring.”

While no one can say for certain that some animal shelters might do this, my friends and colleagues — many with 20+ years of experience in the field — were collectively astounded when I asked if anyone had ever seen or heard of a shelter, humane society, or rescue group ‘adopting’ intact dogs to breeders for breeding purposes in real life. My question resulted in several strong responses such as:

  • Never!
  • No!
  • Red Flag!

Then a couple of my friends said this … I especially like the use of the word KOOKY.

dog blog champion of my heart dog adoption discussion as graphic

This discord with reality struck me especially hard because otherwise the fictional shelter in the book did progressive things like socialization and play groups, behavior modification work, etc. 

Now, it’s important for me to note that I have several friends who are breeders. The really good kind, who do amazing things for their litters and their breed of choice. I’m definitely NOT anti-breeder, but I’m also definitely PRO-rescue.

So, to see even a fictional scenario set in an animal shelter that’s this FAR out of what’s normal or accepted in the animal welfare world, it makes me cranky.

It did NOT, however, completely ruin the book for me the way a reference to dog dominance or the TV dog guy (who shall not be named) would.

Of note, I started reading another book during this recent work trip, but per a policy that we’ve had in place since 2012, I immediately stopped reading and cancelled the planned book review when I came across such a reference. There are few things I’m super staunch about, but that’s one of them. I will not waste my time or give any attention to a book that includes that level of false information about dog behavior and training.

So, there you have it … check out The Changing Season for your summer reading list.


Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.