Will You Love Me? by Barby Keel is an emotional true story of the deep bond which can exist between a human and a dog and shows how, in rescuing others, we can also help ourselves. The first two chapters are written as if being related by the dog, an ex racing greyhound fallen into the wrong hands. Permanently chained to a wooden post and with no shelter, beaten, kicked, scarred and bleeding from cigarette burns all over his body, terrified of humans and so weak from starvation he can hardly stand, he’s almost at death’s door when he’s dumped in the dark and rain at the gates of the Barby Keel Animal Sanctuary in East Sussex.
The story is continued by Barby herself and tells of the hours, days and nights she spends nursing the dog, which she names Bailey, back to health and helping him to overcome his nervousness and fear of humans. It’s a wonderful moment for her when Bailey finally gets his first taste of freedom in an off-lead run round an enclosed paddock. She also has to deal with the daily comings and goings of various animals and the financially devastating effects of two burglaries at the sanctuary’s town centre charity shop, and all this while undergoing a debilitating course of radiotherapy treatment after getting breast cancer for the second time. The book also gives an insight into Barby’s early life and how she started the sanctuary, the money-raising events, hard work and great expense involved in the day-to-day running of it and the care of all the animals living there, which wouldn’t be possible without the help of a few official staff and a band of very willing volunteers.
Eventually Bailey, although still a bit underweight, is considered confident and well enough to be rehomed, and though it breaks Barby’s heart to let him go a new forever home is found for him with Mary and Ron, a lovely couple who already have two rescue greyhounds. After several meetings to make sure that Bailey and his new owners are right for each other the final papers are signed, and as he walks out of the gate to a new life with Mary and Ron and their other two dogs it’s as though he’s always been with his forever family. There’s a welcome surprise for Barby a few weeks later though when Mary and Ron bring Bailey back to visit her on the day of the sanctuary’s summer fete.
This book is the third in a series of three, though it can be read without reading the other two first as each one is a different story in its own right. Although Michael had bought me the previous book several months ago I hadn’t got round to reading it before I spotted this one in my local Asda store ; as a long-time lover of animal stories, especially real life ones, it was the photo on the front cover which attracted me. One look at the sad face of the pictured dog and it was a no-brainer – I bought the book.
I read it in its entirety last Sunday morning and right from the first chapter there were several times when the story brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes, though thankfully the unhappy times are outweighed by the happier ones. It’s a story of sadness, hope, triumph over adversity, and the love humans and animals can have for each other – for anyone who loves animals it makes an interesting and very moving read, and unless you’re extremely hard-hearted there’s every chance that at some point it will make you cry.