Shannon Kopp has created a masterpiece in “Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life.” This is a book to be enjoyed slowly and savored, as it touches on much more than a woman with an eating problem saved by the shelter dogs she fell in love with.
Pound for Pound is dedicated to a black pit bull Shannon dubbed “Midnight.” The two of them met during Shannon’s early days of animal shelter work and Midnight was her first shelter love. In the beginning of the book Shannon writes of the fun she and Midnight had, as this sweet pit bull lived life to the fullest in the “here and now.” It was a lesson Shannon would learn as she dealt with not only her bulimia, but also an alcoholic father who promised to change. Shannon dreamed of Midnight after their special day together, only to learn the next time she went to the shelter that Midnight had been euthanized.
This isn’t a sugar-coated story of a woman who overcomes an eating disorder and everyone lives happily ever after. Shannon will struggle with bulimia on a daily basis for the rest of her life. Although she has a supportive and loving father, he’s an alcoholic. Readers who love someone addicted to alcohol will relate to the promises to stop drinking, only to find their loved one face down and unconscious, despite that person’s dedication to stay away from the bottle. We follow a woman who tries and fails then picks herself up and tries again. Her relationship with her true love Mark (now her husband) is brutally honest as she tells how they separated at one point because he couldn’t deal with her self-destructive eating habits.
Shannon talks candidly of her relationship with her younger sister Julie (who would beg her not to throw up anymore), and of her childhood dog Sugar (a Bichon Frise). An early love of animals is evident as the two sisters and Sugar formed a bond that will live on forever. Because of her early love of animals, especially dogs, Shannon has worked and volunteered at various animal shelters throughout the San Diego and Los Angeles area, where the shelter dogs she fought for showed her not only that she did matter, but how to live “in the moment.”
Animal advocates especially will enjoy this book because it throws out the truth of what animal shelters are really like that the average person doesn’t see. In shelters that have to euthanize, there are thousands of animal lovers throughout the country who devote their time and open their heart so a dog or cat will know someone does care, all the while realizing it could be the the last time that animal will know a loving hand or a kind voice. The loss of learning a shelter favorite was killed because of space or being judged because of breed or simply because no one wanted that pet is heartbreaking.
In the final chapters of Pound for Pound, Shannon describes her relationship with a pit bull named Sunny, a one-year-old dog relinquished by the owner. Sunny played a major role in Shannon’s recovery and was on the euthanasia list at a shelter when Shannon went on a trip to Oregon. The two had spent a lot of time together prior to the trip, and when she returned, Shannon immediately went to the shelter and found Sunny missing from her kennel. Shannon was told Sunny had been euthanized for space. After learning the fate of her favorite dog, Shannon asked for the bathroom key, wanting a private place to cry and to throw up. She writes
“But then, as I was about to turn right to the bathroom, I saw a familiar muzzle pushing through the jagged bars of a kennel. I choked on my breath. I stopped and stared at a black, fat nose, with a cluster of white fur at the tip of the muzzle and long black whiskers. The dog was standing on three legs, resting her fourth paw, the right front one, on a horizontal bar across the kennel door. Three toes had white fur and the others were gray. I knew that muzzle. And I knew that paw. I’d held it many times before.”
It took a miracle, but Sunny was saved at the last minute. You’ll have to read the book to experience the joy of their reunion. This book deserves five stars and is recommended for readers with an eating disorder, an alcoholic in the family or who is involved in shelter rescue. Shannon should be encouraged to write a sequel, as her writing is easy to understand, interesting and very much appreciated.
Note: Some profanity and sexual situations so it’s suitable for mature readers rather than for children.
Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life is available in paperback, hardback and Kindle on Amazon.