Mattie, Milo, and Me: A Memoir
by Anne Abel

Published: 2024-04-23T00:0
Paperback : 288 pages
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"A warm memoir about a woman's connection to—and transformation because of—her dog."—Foreword Reviews

Anne grew up in an abusive home, leading to severe depression and a determination to do better as a mother. One of her sons wants a dog from the time he is a baby; Anne very much ...

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"A warm memoir about a woman's connection to—and transformation because of—her dog."—Foreword Reviews

Anne grew up in an abusive home, leading to severe depression and a determination to do better as a mother. One of her sons wants a dog from the time he is a baby; Anne very much does not. For years she appeases him with creatures who live in cages and tanks, but on his tenth birthday she can no longer say no—and she proceeds to fall in love with their new four-legged family member, Mattie. Then Mattie dies a sudden and tragic death, and Anne feels herself begin to sink back into depression.

Trying to cope, she immediately adopts Milo—a dog who, unbeknownst to her, has already been returned to the rescue by several families due to his aggressive behavior. But even after she realizes Milo is dangerous, she's committed to trying to give him a chance at a good life.

Anne's journey takes the reader from dog school into the deep woods as she perseveres with Milo's lifelong rehabilitation and her unwavering efforts to be a good mother to her sons. Working with Milo strengthens Anne and expands her ability to love. Ten years later, when Milo dies, Anne faces another choice: close the door to that part of her heart, or risk loving another dog after two tragic losses?

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Chapter 3 of Mattie, Milo, and Me

I don’t like to shop. When we relocated from Boston to Phil- adelphia, I looked at three houses in one day and bought one
of them that evening. While raising my boys, Jonathan, Joseph, and Josh, I would go to Gap twice a year and buy seven sets of sweatpants and sweatshirts or shorts and T-shirts—one for each day of the week—for each of them. I do pretty much the same thing for my own clothes. I’m not a comparison shopper. When I need an appliance, I walk into the store, buy the one the salesperson recommends, and hope for the best. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

1. Considering Anne’s decision to keep Milo – what would you have done? Is there a point where you would have given up or taken a different path?

2. What do you think about Anne’s need to replace Mattie immediately to offset falling into a depression? Do you think she acted too hastily? Do you think it was okay that she got another dog so quickly even though her children said they were not ready for a new dog?

3. If a child wants a dog, and their parent does not want a dog, what do you think is the right thing for the parent to do? What do you think about Anne’s method of substituting a series of reptiles and amphibians?

4. When Anne met “mellow Milo,” and he was so calm, do you agree with Anne that Bill Smith at Main Line Animal Rescue had likely sedated Milo with medication? If so, was this a justifiable method to use to place a difficult dog like Milo with a family?

5. What do you think about how the community of dog people rallied to support Anne and Milo? One example is in the beginning, when Anne was struggling with Milo, and Jane and Mary stepped in to help. A second example is when Anne needed surgery part way through dog school and they stepped in, again. Have you experienced something similar in your own life?

6. When Anne and her family met with Gail for their dog school interview with Milo, do you believe Gail was right that Milo was well-behaved during the interview because he knew what was happening and that he was “internally stressing”?

7. Do you think Gail’s advice to return Milo to the rescue was good advice? Do you think Gail should have been more open to hearing Anne’s concerns about Milo and the behaviors she wanted help with? Do you think Gail should have been more empathetic about the situation and less hasty to decree that Milo should be returned to the rescue?

8. Do you think that Tiny’s death led to Anne’s not wanting a dog? Or do you think that many people do not want dogs for many reasons, such as shedding, the need to walk them and that the moms are often left with the chores that children promise to do before the dog arrives?

9. The morning after Milo died, when Anne met Bill Smith at Main Line Animal Rescue, were you surprised that she felt no anger toward Bill even though she believed he had sedated Milo a decade earlier?

10. Milo’s death was not as sudden as when Mattie was killed by the UPS truck. What did you think Anne would do about adopting another dog after he died?

11. What do you think about how Anne’s mother treated Anne and Anne’s children? What makes a mother cold and aggressive?

12. Consider the many scenes at dog school. What do you think about how Mary conducted the training of the dogs and their moms. If you have a dog, would you take your dog to this dog school for lessons and classes?

13. After Mattie was killed do you think Anne should have called UPS and asked for a new driver? If you were Anne, would you harbor a grudge against the UPS man who killed Mattie? Or would you forgive him?

14. Reflecting on the multiple dogs in this memoir – beginning with Mattie, then Milo, and then Yat (renamed Ryan ) and Sam – which dog or dogs would you adopt? How would you take care of them with their varying needs and personalities?

15. Comment on the phrase, “Love is not a pie.” Is this metaphor always true, sometimes true or never true? What are some examples that support your position on this?

16. Consider the moral dilemma between getting a dog from a reputable breeder versus getting a dog from a reputable rescue. How does a responsible prospective dog adopter consider the moral aspects of this decision?

17. Were you surprised by Anne’s decision to take not just one but two rescue dogs after Milo’s death? Please explain why or why not.

18. The theme of empathy is an important part of this memoir. Can you identify key points where empathy changes the course of the story? Or where the absence of empathy also has an impact?

19. What are the main take-away lessons from this memoir that will stay with you?

20. Do you think it was irresponsible of Anne to take Milo to Bed Bath & Beyond to try to desensitize him to people, given her lack of experience training dogs and that she had no way of knowing whether or not he would attack someone or if she would be able to control him?

21. Do you agree with Anne that because she did not make Milo do the usual commands before she gave him his bone before her workout, she was responsible for him biting her? Would you be able to love a dog who attacked you?

22. Do you think Anne was irresponsible for keeping Milo as a family pet, even though with all his training and behavior management, he occasionally bit her and her husband? He could have bitten anyone who came into the house.

23. When Milo chases the kite in the sound in North Carolina what did you think was going to happen when he spotted the family having a picnic on the beach?

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