Lessons From Lucy – Book Review

Dave Barry is a best-selling author, syndicated columnist, humorist, and Pulitzer Prize winner known for his witty, insightful, and sometimes sarcastic humor. After reading Dave Turns 40 and Dave Turns 50, I was curious about his book Lessons From Lucy:  The Simple Joys of An Old, Happy Dog. When Dave turned 70, he realized that his dog, Lucy, was handling old age much better than he was. Lucy “has more friends, fewer worries, and way more fun.”  It’s a funny, easy-to-read, insightful, sensitive, and touching book about seven lessons that apply to people and pets. In his 70s, Dave has become more reflective, introspective, and philosophical, as theories of adult development inform us. The Palm Beach Post newspaper described the book as “An instruction manual on how to live happy, healthy, and heartily well into your seventies and beyond.” I’ve given the book to several people who laughed at least as much as I did and were equally inspired by its lessons. The lessons are:

  1. Make new friends (and keep the ones you have).
  2. Don’t stop having fun (and if you have stopped, start).
  3. Pay attention to the people you love (not later, right now).
  4. Let go of your anger unless it’s about something important, which it seldom is.
  5. Try not to judge people by their looks, and don’t obsess over your own.
  6. Don’t let your happiness depend on things; they don’t make you truly happy, and you’ll never have enough anyway.
  7. Don’t lie unless you have an excellent reason, which you probably don’t.

In the Epilogue, he concludes his self-proclaimed “self-help” book with a report card on how well he’s applied the seven lessons from Lucy to his own life.

However, after advance publicity copies of the book were sent out, an additional chapter titled “One Last Lesson” was added. As Dave’s daughter Sophie was about to begin her first year at college, she suddenly became paralyzed with a rare autoimmune disorder with a guarded prognosis. She was in the Critical Care Unit for three weeks. Despite lots of medicine, prayers, and family support, it was only after visits from Clue, a therapy dog, that Sophie could move one of her legs. And there were more visits from therapy dogs brought by volunteers. Sophie was transferred to a rehabilitation unit where she learned to walk again and later was able to start her first year. Dave described those months as the most difficult of his life. He lost a lot of weight, suffered through a case of shingles, and said, “Emotionally, it has been brutal.”  

Lessons learned. Dave’s last lesson was the most important: “Be grateful for what you have (It’s probably more than you think).” He explained that, like most dogs, his dog Lucy “overflows with gratitude.” When he drove home alone from the hospital, Lucy happily greeted and comforted him with “quivering, unbounded joy.”

Margo A. Napoletano, Ph.D., RPT-S, is a Pediatric/Child Clinical Psychologist and Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor and is in the final stages of closing her private practice. She enjoys practicing French with friends from French classes, listening to all the audiobooks of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, and discovering new ways to have fun. She now spends more time volunteering at an animal shelter and hiking trails in San Diego and Colorado.