Book Review: Going Home ~ The Lost Story of Chief the Fire Dog

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Going Home: The Lost Story of Chief the Fire Dog, by Charlene Kate Kavanagh. iUniverse 2007.

Abandoned and alone, “a dog who forgot his name because no one called it anymore, who lost everything and found more.” Going Home is the story of every animal who was once loved and then abandoned on the street, in an animal shelter, or left somewhere else to fend for itself. This short 95 page book tells the story of one such dog, Chief the Fire Dog, and how he found love and purpose again.

Going Home: The Lost Story of Chief the Fire Dog

1929 was a time in American history, very much like today, where a stock market crash and other economic, environmental and political disasters brought on the Great Depression. The family pet became a luxury. Swarms of former beloved cats and dogs were abandoned to starve and eventually die alone because their owners could not take care of them anymore.  It became a hard choice whether to feed the family with what little there was, or have less and share it with the dog.

Chief was a dog who once had another name before he was abandoned in a field by his family and left to wander the streets of New York City. He would think of his family and wonder, “If they don’t want me anymore, who will?” Just by accident, Chief found Engine Company 203, where he was welcomed inside by two firemen. The company was in need of a mascot and guard dog and Chief fit right in.

Kate Kavanagh combines the mindset and thoughts of Chief with the thoughts of her firefighter husband Gil Halverson, and all professional firefighters, in such an artful and heartfelt way that one begins to understand the special character of a first responder. Chief was a first responder. He would rush inside each burning building first before all others, searching for human life, and on one occasion bringing a baby outside by carrying it by its swaddling clothes in his teeth. He was presented with awards for his heroism four times. The author touches on a common theme; belonging, and finding one’s soul and purpose for living.

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Going Home is about healing after a great loss. The author artfully weaves the story of Chief with the later destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11 where so many civilians and brave firefighters senselessly lost their lives. She gives hope and comfort for those left behind to find their soul again.  For anyone who has lost love or hope, this is a book to restore those feelings.

Far too often, animals arrive at animal control centers throughout this country without a name; most are strays, abandoned by the ones they trusted to love them. Going Home touched my heart and represents all of the lost dogs and cats whose names have been forgotten. This book can be enjoyed by all ages, whether by reading out loud to a child or alone.

Charlene Kate Kavanagh

Charlene Kate Kavanagh



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