Remembering Vera by Patricia Polacco
A true story about a remarkable dog who was an honorary member of the U.S. Coast Guard and saved numerous lives. As a homeless puppy, Vera was rescued by a member of the Coast Guard in San Francisco. At first, she was kept hidden from the commander, but when she helped rescue some civilians from a sinking sailboat, the commander took a liking to Vera and she began to spend her days in his office and even go on vacation with his family. She also assisted on more rescue missions. Vera became well-known in the area, with newspaper articles written about her and features on the local news. After a courageous rescue involving a capsized ferry in which she saved several passengers who were trapped, Vera was retired from active service as a result of injuries she suffered during the rescue, including damage to her leg muscles. She was awarded a medal for her actions and made an honorary member of the Coast Guard. She spent the rest of her life on the base and was buried there with a full military honor guard after passing of old age. The author actually met Vera twice – once while touring the base and again at the end of Vera’s life in 1967 when Polacco was a volunteer at an animal hospital and attended Vera’s burial. Years later, Polacco visited the base again and found Vera’s grave – a photo of which appears at the end of the book. A wonderful tribute to a brave dog.
The book has a lot of text, so it is not appropriate for toddlers and pre-schoolers, but older children. It includes charming illustrations in colored pencils and markers. One thing I didn’t like about the book was the fact that Vera had puppies every year most of her life. This is a true story and took place in the 1950s and 60s, but with millions of homeless dogs in this country being killed in shelters, people need to spay and neuter their dogs and should not allow them to have puppies. I would discuss this with children if I were reading the book with them.