- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
Whether you’re a dog or cat person, I’m betting that anyone reading “Welcome Home Mama & Boris: How a Sister’s Love Saved a Fallen Soldier’s Beloved Dogs” (Reader’s Digest, 224 pages, color photo insert, $19.99) will shed more than a few tears and be optimistic at the same time.
This memoir by Carey Neesley and co-author Michael Levin deals with the important bond between a brother and a sister. I know about this firsthand since I have two younger sisters. Now that we’re all in our 70s, and with our mother and both brothers gone, the bond is even stronger as we deal with what life throws at us.
In the 1997 movie “Grosse Pointe Blank” starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin, and Dan Aykroyd you’ll see a fictional portrayal of one of the most affluent of Detroit’s suburbs, with a few scenes shot in the actual suburb adjoining Detroit on the shores of Lake St. Clair. It’s a comic caper movie centering around a high school class reunion. By the way, Grosse Pointe is the hometown of acclaimed actress Julie Harris, who died Aug. 24, 2013 at the age of 87.
Grosse Pointe wasn’t all that funny for Carey Neesley as she and her younger brother Peter grew up their in less than affluent circumstances.
Neesley always thought she and her younger brother, Peter, would never be separated. The children of divorced parents and outcasts in their neighborhood, Carey and Peter supported, loved, and encouraged each other when it seemed no one else cared.
Neesley and co-auhtor Levin eloquently bring to life the sibling bond that I feel is at the core of this appealing book. Carey and Peter were the children of divorced parents (that resonates with me as my brothers and sisters were in the same position after my parents divorced in 1949 when we were young children). It was a bond that grew through the years, and one that made Peter’s eventual decision to enlist in the Army all the more difficult for Carey. With Peter helping her raise her young son and supporting her desire to finish college, Carey was closer than ever to her brother, and the thought of him serving far from home was painful.
While stationed in Iraq, Peter befriended a stray dog and her four puppies, only to watch three of the young pups die in the war zone. With only two surviving dogs—Mama and Boris—Peter did all he could to save the strays. Carey helped her brother with his mission, but everything changed on Christmas Day in 2007 when word arrived at the Neesley household that Peter had died in his sleep.
Amidst the grief of coming to terms with her brother’s death and the turmoil of trying to plan his funeral, Carey devoted herself to bringing Peter’s dogs home to the U.S. It was the final honor she could pay to her brother and a way of keeping a piece of him with her.
With the help of an unlikely network of heroes, including an animal rescue organization in Utah; Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.; then Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; a civilian airline; an Iraqi family, and a private security contractor with military connections, Mama and Boris made the journey from their temporary shelter next to the Army base in Baghdad to Carey’s suburban house.
Carey’s mission attracted widespread attention and requests from other soldiers for help in bringing home dogs they had become attached to on deployment, and she continues to work with organizations dedicated to bringing home wartime strays.
This uplifting book, filled with the gamut of emotions from comedy to tragedy, is worth reading, regardless of your views on the twin conflicts in the Middle East. It’s a natural for a movie. But you don’t have to wait for a filmed version to enjoy this wonderful book.
About the Author
A hospice social worker with a Master’s Degree from Wayne State University, Carey Neesley has a very rewarding career in which she sees both the best and the worst of human nature.
Her story has been covered on television (ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and the Associated Press), in print (The Washington Post, USA Today, AKC Gazette, MSNBC Field Notes, and many other local and national publications), on the internet, (Examiner.com, Detroit Regional News Hub, Hyer Standard, The E & P Publishers, Animal Planet star “Good Dog U” Joel Silverman- Companions For Life, and Greg Mitchell’s website), and on NPR for Melissa Block’s “All Things Considered.”
Raising her son, Patrick, in the same home where she grew up in Grosse Pointe, MIch., Carey still mourns her brother but hopes that through her work with animals in war zones she can help give his memory the honor it so greatly deserves.
About the Co-Author
New York Times best-selling author Michael Levin has written, co-written or ghostwritten more than 90 books, of which eight are national best sellers. He is the nationally acknowledged thought leader in the delivery of the next generation of business books. He has cowritten with Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, football broadcasting legend Pat Summerall, NBA star Doug Christie, Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, three-time Super Bowl winner Chad Hennings of the Dallas Cowboys, and FBI undercover agent Joaquin Garcia. He has also contributed to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Jerusalem Post, Writers Digest, and CBS News. He lives with his wife and four children in Orange County, California.