* Prices may differ from that shown
''We had been a dogless farm for many years, and I was not ready to change that arrangement. I had my own reasons for not wanting a dog - long standing ones.'' It's fair to say that life on the farm suited George well; he enjoyed the honest but hard way of life a great deal. He enjoyed still further the help and support of his beloved wife Mary-ann and the youngest of his five children, Todd. Todd was born ten years after George and Mary-ann thought they had changed their last diaper. Todd was - Depending on which Doctor you asked - mildly retarded, or autistic, or learning disabled. He simply didn't seem to function at full speed, but what he lacked in some areas he more than made up for in others. A kind and gentle young man, Todd seemed to hold a special affinity with animals. They trusted him, they enjoyed being around him, they felt unthreatened by him. And so it was - with an almost unstoppable inevitability - when Todd heard an earnest appeal on the local radio station for people to volunteer to adopt a dog for the Christmas period he set about convincing his parents that they had to help out, they simply had to adopt a dog for Christmas. But whereas Todd saw such matters in their simplest black and white form, George was a lot more reticent about letting a dog into their lives after so many years. Previous experiences with dogs as a young man had left him heartbroken and scarred, and he wasn't at all sure that he was ready - or able - to offer the love and support to a canine again. Nevertheless, with plenty of lobbying from Mary-ann and the promise that Todd would feed, water and exercise the hound religiously - it was decided that they would adopt a dog. But only under the complete and irrevocable understanding that this was a short term deal, that the dog would be returning to the animal shelter once the holidays were over. Little did George realise however that come the 26th December events would take an unexpected and life altering twist, and the decisions made would have ramifications reaching far beyond their lives on the secluded Kansas smallholding. ''The one thing that defined Todd's life more than any other was his relationship with animals. He held them, raised them, loved them, and laughed with them.'' Without wishing to give anything of the ending away I found this an immensely enjoyable read. At varying times my emotions fluctuated between sadness, anger, happiness, and joy - Not a bad sensual journey from a book that is only one hundred and eighty pages in length. I think most people can find some sort of affinity or bond with an animal - be it a dog or cat or whatever - and this feeling is what Greg Kincaid taps into so well in this book. He also sets the story at Christmas for added effect - we all want the yuletide period to be full of mincemeat merriment and tinsel draped niceness - a time when goodwill to all men (and dogs) should prevail to preserve that perfect fairytale Christmas we all strive for. In my mind there are not nearly enough books like "A Dog Named Christmas" around. Sure it's not going to win any awards for its depth of story or plot twists, but as a light read that tugs on the heartstrings it does a darn fine job. A good barometer when reading a book for me is if I find myself caring and feeling for the characters, after all if you don't care about the characters then ultimately you don't really care about the story either. Happily I found myself empathising with the characters (both human and canine). The author blends the perfect ingredients for a story that has you longing for the happiest of happy endings. And therein lies the appeal of this book, a story that is sentimental but also painfully true to life, it deals with love, loss and hope - something we all have to go through in life. ''I walked around the dog twice, noticing four legs, a tail, and all the other required appendages. 'He looks excellent to me,' I offered'' Four stars out of five from me then, Greg Kincaid has managed to write an engaging story of hope over adversity that captures that rarest of bonds between man and dog - not bad from a man who doesn't even write as a main job (he is a lawyer). I managed to read the book cover to cover in a couple of hours but then at a little over £3 from ASDA in paperback form I didn't feel short changed. A Dog Named Christmas really is a cracking little gift book which I recommend.