In Life on Four Legs: A Memoir Nina Kasdon Ianni has created a memoir, not about her own life, but the life of Gianna, her dog, adopted by the author from a rescue group. The book treads a fine line between fiction and nonfiction. It conveys the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of a dog--from the dog's perspective--on her journey through life, beginning with her birth in a breeder's kennel in upstate New York, to her unfortunate placement in a home where she was neglected and abused, to a second home where she failed to bond with her owners, and, finally, to her "forever" home where she spent many happy years.
Of course, we all know that dogs can't write books, but many of us, animal lovers in particular, believe or want to believe that we understand how our pets view the world around them, how they interpret events, daily interactions with humans and animals alike, and how they attempt to cope with the curves life throws at them.
Gianna, the book's ostensible author, was a purebred Portuguese Water Dog, a beautiful animal of regal bearing with long legs, a thick black curly coat with an uneven "stripe" of white fur in the center of her chest, and a long, slender tail with an elegant plume at its end. Her graceful gait was a joy to behold. Gianna's eyes, round and brown as coffee beans, presented a window into a gentle soul.
Despite previous mistreatment and early years of uncertainty and instability, Gianna dares to hope things will improve. In relating her travails, a painful process, she is forced to take frequent "breaks" from dwelling on the past (she does this by jumping back and forth between a troubled past and a peaceful, secure present), she succeeds, against all odds, in maintaining her dignity and sense of self.
The human-animal bond is precious, cherished by both parties. This is borne out by Gianna's powerful expression of gratitude and love and her owner's profound feelings of loss at the end of Gianna's life.