This book is devastating, heartbreaking and guilt-inducing, yet ultimately endearing - it is also very difficult to read without inward reflection. Right at the very beginning, Laura Koerber makes the point that we all turn a blind eye to the worst animal cruelty atrocities, under the false assumption that we are powerless to help, and methodically then spends the next 150 pages dashing this fallacy; as a so-called “animal lover”, it made me feel ashamed at my lack of action. I don’t think this was Laura’s intention, but, still, I think she should take some pride that she manages to achieve it, for the right reasons. What is simultaneously enthralling about the book is that it spells out what should be obvious: animals thrive in a loving environment in which they feel their needs will be met, and suffer in one which is not and does not. This simplicity, of course, only adds to the heartbreak - the “rescue” actually turns out to be only the beginning of the ordeal for these poor dogs.
The underlying message is that domestic animals are a product of the humans which rear them, then penalize them for acting out as animals, or simply responding to their “training”. The sad facts are that some pets don’t stand a chance – they are simply at the mercy of the sociopath which they are unlucky to be claimed by. Another sad fact is that there are many people out there who choose to view animals as a financial commodity and nothing more; I disagree with Laura on one point: I do not believe Stephen Markwell (the real-life villain of this tale) can be referred to as an animal worker in any respect – he appears another example of simple “white trash”, who has found a lucrative way to maximise his income from a piece of yokel land; sadly, a common demographic in many rural towns, everywhere. Another well-highlighted point is the financial inequality (not to mention the species one) in the application of law. It is sad reading – I must admit, I did shed a little tear or two reading about the conditions and circumstances of these dogs’ abduction and incarceration. Be warned: expect to be infuriated!
Still, there is a silver lining, in the revelation of the real-life heroes which are latent in good people. It is also an eye-opener about the power of social media, and what can be achieved when one sets their mind to it. Everybody could learn something from this book, and give second thoughts when they are opting to buy from a breeder rather than adopting from a shelter. Of course, the type of people who really need to change are not those who would care enough to pick this type of book up in the first place, I guess.
Laura is clearly a passionate animal lover, with a great deal of affection and anger at their treatment; the book is seething, as well as superlative-heavy, and I did worry for a brief moment that “I Once Was Lost…” would venture into a contrast of slush and vitriol, but, despite the heart-on-sleeve expression of myriad emotions, the book was actually greatly enhanced because of them. Laura’s writing is quite lovely – heartfelt and sincere, with a stern presentation of the facts. The book is incredibly well-researched and intelligently considered, and the cruel treatment is contextualised not by anger, but by balanced collation of events, studies and dog behavioural training practices. This is an important book which needed to be written by a disciplined professional and an animal lover, both of which clearly apply to Laura. She is a very articulate and hard-working author, and the book is well written, whilst, vitally, she provides scanned evidence of all her claims about Markwell, eradicating any concerns of diligence on the part of the reader – this, I think, is instrumental not only in asserting the quality of an exposé, but also in the success of campaigns like that supported by this one.
Another great touch to the book is a very welcome section at the end, sharing great expert training into techniques for lovingly rearing a “problem” dog; this is a fantastic addition – if it gives caring people the learning and confidence to offer such dogs a home, then greater numbers may be saved and awarded a happier fate than that in store. For this reason, and because she otherwise deserves it, I do hope Laura achieves success and circulation with “I Once Was Lost…”, and I thank her for writing it, even if it does make me feel a little worse about my own reflection.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: book review non fiction real life animal rescue puppy farm animal cruelty inspirational laura koerber matt mcavoy review biography dog lovers animal lovers