Where the Trail Grows Faint

Where the Trail Grows Faint

A Year in the Life of a Therapy Dog Team

Lynne Hugo

River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize Series

160 pages


July 2009


$16.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

“This is Hannah,” Lynne Hugo introduces her chocolate Labrador retriever to an aged woman in a wheelchair at the Golden View Nursing Home. “Would you like to pat her?”
“I don’t know,” the woman responds warily. “Dogs are complicated.”
So, of course, is life, especially as the years accumulate and the body declines. In fact, it is precisely the most painful complications that Hugo hopes to ease with Hannah, her exuberant therapy dog.

Where the Trail Grows Faint is the story of Hugo’s experiences with Hannah and the elderly patients they visit. In return for their visits, Hugo unexpectedly receives an outpouring of stories as the residents respond to Hannah’s antics and affection. As Hugo’s involvement deepens, she begins to see her own life and her care for her elderly parents in a new perspective. Interweaving the elders’ tales—of old loves and ancient dreams, abandonment and loneliness, and the struggle for dignity—with her own family’s story, she creates a richly textured collective portrait of the often-hidden world of the aged. At the same time, she crafts an eloquent meditation on the fundamental human need to nurture and remain connected to other people, to animals, and to the natural world.

Author Bio

Lynne Hugo is the author of two poetry collections, a children’s book, and four novels, including The Unspoken Years, Graceland, and Last Rights.


"Beautiful in its use of language and unsettling in its observations, this story was the worthy recipient of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize. Recommended not only for dog lovers interested in learning more about the training and accomplishments of a therapy dog but also for nurses, social workers, gerontologists, and anyone facing the prospect of long-term care for aging parents."—Library Journal

"This is a must-read for anyone interested in therapy dogs, the plight of nursing home residents, growing old and the basic human need to nurture and be nurtured."—Mike Nobles, Tulsa World

Where the Trail Grows Faint is not just a book about a woman and her therapy dog, but a story of life, death, hope and the joy and comfort that animals can bring.”—Mary Howard, CC: Connecticut College Magazine

“A profound and heartfelt book. . . . Hugo is a tender and wise guide to the realities of aging, and Hannah, her chocolate Labrador retriever, who brings love and life to residents of a Midwest nursing home, is a true charmer. Where the Trail Grows Faint charts the territory with a rare spirit of hope.”—Floyd Skloot, author of In the Shadow of Memory

“Hugo describes a kind of magic—magic that brings the joy of living back into the lives of elders living in nursing homes. Read her book and learn the secret.”—William H. Thomas, MD, author of What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World

“Lynne Hugo has penned a story that truly touches my soul. Her poignant descriptions of life confined within the walls of a nursing home provide an accurate and unsettling picture of existence for many, many people in our nation—those who work and those who live in these institutions.”—Sandy Ransom, RN, MSHP, Director, Texas Long Term Care Institute, Texas State University–San Marcos


Table of Contents

Author's Note
1. First, Everybody Leaves You
2. A Velvet Anger
3. One Dear Voice
4. Regret
5. We All Fall Down
6. Power
7. Whatever It Takes
8. Working (in) the System
9. Huntin' Home
10. The Eden Effect
11. Interim Report
12. At Their Mercy
13. Life Goes On
14. The Root of Evil
15. Hannah at Home
16. Hope


Winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize

Also of Interest