When Steven D. Wolf is forcibly removed from his successful law practice, his partners cite secretiveness and erratic behavior as reasons they can’t trust his work performance. Wolf has not trusted them with news of his deteriorating spinal condition and associated symptoms. After losing his job Wolf, sans wife and daughters, relocates to Arizona after being advised that the dry, warm climate will be better for his health. Once there, he isolates himself from his new neighbors and tries to manage his condition on his own. While crossing a supermarket parking lot, Wolf meets a greyhound advocate and fundraiser. Eventually, and reluctantly, he adopts Comet, a retired cinnamon colored greyhound. He doubts his ability to keep and care for her and he knows that his wife will not approve of this, the family’s third dog. However, as time passes, the two become inseparable.
Comet’s Tale was almost equal parts frustrating and enjoyable. Ostensibly this is Comet’s show – the heartwarming story of how a mistreated greyhound, having been brutally raced and abruptly abandoned, overcomes her own neglect and the limitations of her breed to transform the life of a disabled man. Comet is smart, and willing, to be trained as Wolf’s aid dog. Wolf trains Comet himself because no other animal trainer thinks it can be accomplished with a greyhound. The title of the book makes it clear that this is Comet’s story, but the lack of meaningful detail about Wolf made it difficult to get at true sense of the impact Comet had. He allows that he is guarded, a do it yourself guy who keeps his feelings private. I couldn’t help thinking that these tendencies presented in the vague way he relayed information about his condition, the detrimental effect it had on his relationship with his wife and teenaged daughters, and his day-to-day functioning. Essentially, I had problems with the book’s structure. I was distracted by the lack of information throughout. Details I discovered at the end would have kept me engaged in the beginning, but as it stands I got the feeling that Wolf was trying to protect his life and its details. This seemed incongruous to writing a book, albeit one about your dog. It’s one thing to say that strangers loved Comet, that she could open doors and pull Wolf’s wheelchair, but without the context I later received, it was difficult to fully appreciate Comet’s unusual devotion.
In the last chapters of Comet’s Tale, Wolf finally elaborates on the problems with his spine, explaining the severity and the accompanying pain and depression. Knowing this in the beginning would have helped me to understand as I was reading. At the time it comes, it’s almost as a footnote to the story. The strongest parts of the book are when Wolf, ever the greyhound enthusiast, discusses the history of greyhounds and their evolution from the free-spirited companions and hunting dogs of kings to skittish racing dogs with problematic personality traits- ingrained habits as a result of their training. Greyhounds are not socialized to interact with children, dogs or other animals since they are always caged when not training or racing. Wolf is passionate about their history and it was a pleasure to learn more about this regal, yet long suffering breed. Animal lovers will love learning about Comet’s second chance at life, her sweet-natured antics, and stunning loyalty, but I needed a firmer commitment on the part of the author in sharing his story to make this an enlightening and compelling read.