When he was 9 months old, Harry Howard, Golden Retriever, boarded a Cathay Pacific flight in Canada bound for Hong Kong. This marked the beginning of his life as an expat, frequent-flyer, cross-culture dawg, spanning ten and a half years and five countries. Harry’s journey takes his readers through the wild untamed parts of Hong Kong, back to Canada as a returning expat, to Hanoi, Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia where he went on to his final resting place from a Buddhist temple, east of Phnom Penh.
Harry's 'tails' recount the multitude of unforgettable adventures he had as he traveled with his Humans and his Golden Retriever sisters, Brie and Mali, throughout Asia. As he moves from one exotic location to the next, he provides insights into his family’s life and the lives of the people he meets along the way, offering interpretations of different cultures and customs, trying to make sense of them as best he can. The book takes some fascinating twists and turns that will truly astound the reader considering Harry's stories are all true, based on actual events that happened during the course of his lifetime.
His depictions of life in Asia are vivid and palpable ranging from what he sees or hears to simple observations of life around him. Sometimes it’s just a random thought that suddenly pops into his head; other times he pays tribute to the wonderful world he lives in and to his own friends and family, both Human and canine. One of his most intuitive observations focuses on the tremendous impact of change and the effects of a kind of ‘silent sickness’ that his own Humans and most Human expats struggle with when they move from a familiar environment where they were able to function easily and successfully to one where they no longer can. This affliction (a.k.a. culture shock) can homesickness to frustration and anxiety, feelings of isolation and alienation, and unexpected outbursts. Harry’s sensitive and humorous descriptions of the symptoms and stages of culture shock based on observations of his own Human’s behavior could well serve as a guide for the millions who leave their native countries every year to become, ‘strangers in a strange land.’ In Harry's words:
"Expect the unexpected is all I’m saying, and it’s going to include some unbelievably off-the-wall behavior from your mom and dad, because of their own feelings of isolation and alienation. trust me. you’ll be amazed. the smallest, most insignificant incident can send them right off the rails; in fact, I think I’d better run through the different stages of culture shock so you won’t be caught off guard. "
At different stages, Harry is forced to deal with his some of his own life-changing events as well such as the arrival of his sister's Brie and Mali, Brie’s death in Vietnam, and ultimately his own death.
Aside from the unusual aspect of the book being authored by a dog, there's something else that's very unique about Harry's memoirs. It has to do with the genre which Julie, Harry's mom, and co-author of the book, describes as a 'dramatized, anecdotal, non-fiction narrative.' Although she's not sure this is an officially recognized genre, her feeling is, it doesn't really matter because it works! For starters 'Harry' is an anecdotal narrative told in the first person.Secondly, it's non-fiction based on actual events and thirdly, there's considerable drama in the telling.
For those who have left their own country and found themselves disconnected and vulnerable in a foreign land, Harry’s 'tails' will bring recognition in a heartbeat. He generously offers his signature guide for overcoming culture shock. For people who prefer to travel vicariously, stories told by a dog as well travelled and worldly as Harry will not only captivate the imagination but stir the emotions. And finally, for the millions of dog lovers everywhere, stories of life as an expat canine told with trademark Golden effervescence, will be even more compelling and lovable.