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Book Review Dog Shelter Blues


Dog Shelter Blues

Mark Conkling


Sunstone Press

245 pages

Dog Shelter Bluesis the second novel by author Mark Conkling. While it is not a sequel to Conkling's first novel, Prairie Dog Blues, the author does answer a few stray questions that the reader was left with at the end of the prairie dog's tale. In the new book, Danny Sandoval faces multiple legal problems after speaking out against the cruel treatment of rescued animals at a local shelter. With the help of his friends, Danny survives law suits and a relapse of his addiction, all while maintaining his stand to protect the animals he is so passionate about.

During an interview with the local paper, Danny, a vet tech at the Albuquerque Animal Humane Center, accuses Safe Sanctuary No-Kill Rescue of mistreating the animals the organization takes in. The most damaging accusation Danny levels against the non-profit run by Norma Jean Lawson is that a sick puppy a young boy adopted from Safe Sanctuary exposed the child to a disease that can be fatal to humans and animals. In making the comment, Danny revealed confidential information that his fiancée, Ida Corley, a nurse at the local hospital, shared with him.

The article sets off a series of unfortunate events in Danny's fragile life. He is sued by Safe Sanctuary for slander and libel and a restraining order is taken out to keep Danny away from the property where the rescue center is located. A recovering alcoholic, Danny risks his sobriety and his freedom to prove the neglect taking place at Safe Sanctuary.

Conkling's writing is darker in this story as opposed to the faith-filled prose that supports the plot of the Prairie Dog Blues. The author reveals the abuse and loss Danny experienced as a child, which led to his addiction and discomfort with most people. Conkling also challenges the reader to view Norma, one of the antagonists, as a whole person who also has a troubled past and is involved in a damaging relationship that she entered into in order to pursue her goal of helping animals. One of the great ironies of this story is that the two people who clash the most have similar struggles dealing with people and a shared passion for animals. As in Prairie Dog Blues, Conkling convincingly uses the premise of animals in need as a spring board for diving deeper into the human psyche.