Sit, Stay, Love
Debbie Burns continues her adorable stories about dog adoption and the heroes and heroines it brings together in Sit, Stay, Love, the second book in her Rescue Me series.
Kelsey Sutton, lead adoption coordinator for the no-kill High Grove Animal Shelter, is determined to find a quiet home for her latest charge, Orzo, a shy, retiring corgi puppy. She takes her job very seriously and the placement of the animals in the right permanent home is of utmost importance to her. She’s the kind of woman who lets a different shelter dog come to stay at her place every night; she’s happy but lonely. When her best friend Megan (heroine of book one, A New Leash on Life) asks her to help rehab a group of recently-rescued fighting dogs, she’s both looking for a change in her life as she nears thirty and unable to resist the lure of helping innocent animals.
Kurt Crawford has spent his life training dogs for military and police service around the world. After eight years in the military, he’s happy to be home, to hang with his friends, renovate classic cars and readjust to the land of plenty while fending off his dysfunctional family and looking for a civilian job. Kurt’s not sure of his next move until his mentor, Rob Bornello, approaches him with an offer to use his expertise to help him rehabilitate a group of dogs seized from a fighting ring.
Kelsey and Kurt meet on the job, and there’s instantly a combination of repulsion and attraction between them. Kurt thinks Kelsey is far too lightweight for the task ahead; when she throws up violently on his boots upon seeing what rough shape the dogs are in, she seems to prove his case. Kelsey feels overwhelmed, both by Kurt’s attractiveness and the enormity of the job at hand, but is careful to keep organized and otherwise cool-headed. But her impassioned speech to a reporter who’s covering the controversy created by the shelter’s choice to take the dogs in instead of euthanatizing them convinces Kurt to sign up for the program. Because the dogs are too unstable to be placed with the general populace at the shelter, Kurt and Kelsey settle with them into a semi-derelict mansion owned by the shelter together with an ornery cat who (literally) owns the place, and set about the tasks of becoming friends to both one another and the dogs.
One of the dogs, Orzo, soon finds his place, helping Kurt heal from his battle wounds as well as helping to socialize this new pack of dogs; and Kelsey and Kurt’s crushes turn into mutual admiration and blooming love. Kelsey is still smarting from losing her college best friend and first true love, and Kurt experienced a terrible loss in Afghanistan in addition to possessing baggage heavy enough to fell a blue whale. Will they succeed in helping this new pack find homes?
Sit, Stay, Love is a cute book with a serious mission and a very all-American motif about it; it even (fittingly) closes with a recipe for apple pie.
The dynamic between the hero and heroine is quite traditional but flows beautifully along. Kelsey is inexperienced, sensitive, highly emotionally intuitive but confident with a growing sense of security about who she is, and hails from an intact and happy family, while Kurt’s family is dysfunctional, he’s been through several tours of Afghanistan and bears those scars, and is sarcastic-minded and remote. Love, naturally, softens them both, and the ultimate romance is very sweet.
Kelsey ends up becoming the most readily-evolving character; she’s rather immature and out of her depth at first, which causes moments of uneven characterization. In one scene, she easily disposes of deceased, recently trapped rodents in the mansion and playfully threatens to show them to the housecat which has failed its mousing duties. But then she finds the abuse to the fighting dogs cruel and distressing and has an ‘I Brake for Turtles’ bumper sticker. But she’s overall proud-minded and determined and makes a good heroine.
Kurt’s a nice guy too; it doesn’t take Kelsey long to prove him wrong about her, and it doesn’t take too long for him to start opening up about what’s bugging him. But there’s a lot going on with him, almost too much tragedy and conflict for a single backstory. It’s interesting to see a hero with both PTSD and ADHD, but the latter character trait feels a bit underdeveloped even when the author discusses it.
The supporting cast is amusing in general; my favorite is Ida, the wise sister of the person who willed the mansion to the humane society. Kelsey’s co-workers, Kurt’s family and the previously mentioned Megan also put in charming appearances. For fans of the previous instalment, Megan and Craig’s wedding takes place in this one.
There’s a strong, positive message attached to this book about the worth of rescuing traumatized fighting dogs, and there’s a lot of good focus on what it takes to train and rehabilitate them and be a responsible owner, and the author obviously did her research into how shelters operate.
Sit, Stay Love is a fine, sweet-tempered book that provides a tender idyll for the mind. It’s sometimes a bit too fairytale for its honest and realistic plot underpinning; but in the end, if a little escape is all you need, it might just be what you’re looking for.