A national pet columnist will return to Fairfield on Thursday to talk about an animal-themed book that already has members of the local library’s discussion group buzzing.
“One group member was crying from just the first chapter,” said Louella Bickford, head librarian at Lawrence Public Library.
The book, “Trusting Calvin: How a Dog Helped Heal a Holocaust Survivor’s Heart,” was written by Sharon Peters, who grew up in Maine and used to spend her weekends and summers with her grandparents in Benton.
Peters, who began writing her pet advice column, Pet Talk, for USA Today in 2007, said she has fond memories of the town and the library.
“My grandparents lived at the top of Benton Hill, and several times a week I’d jump on my bike, ride across the three bridges, make my way across Main Street and pedal up to the library,” said Peters. “It was such a welcoming place, and it added to my love of books and of words.”
It was through her advice column that Peters first met Max Edelman, the holocaust survivor who is the subject of the book.
As a teen, Edelman was traumatized by his experiences in five Nazi prison camps. He saw Nazi soldiers use a German shepherd to kill a fellow prisoner and was beaten so badly that he permanently lost his vision.
Throughout his life, Edelman was emotionally withdrawn and harbored a fear of dogs, but at the age of 70, his relationship with a chocolate Labrador named Calvin helped him to achieve new levels of healing.
Julie Redwine, of Benton, is one of about 10 book discussion group members at the library who read Peters’ book in anticipation of her visit.
“For me, it was an overnight read,” she said. “It is a small book, well written. The vocabulary isn’t hard — it’s an easy read.”
Redwine, who also works part-time at the library, said that while the scenes set during the Holocaust were depressing, Edelman’s personal story made up for it.
“When the dogs became involved, it was really heartwarming,” she said.
Redwine said she plans to ask Peters whether she had any personal connection to the Holocaust that drove her to tackle this particular topic.
While attending the University of Maine, Peters was an intern in the sports department of the Morning Sentinel.
She first became heavily involved with animal advocacy in 2005, when she spent a month in Mississippi, volunteering to mitigate the effects of Hurrican Katrina on animals and people.
The event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the library.
During her trip to Maine, Peters, who now lives in Colorado, has also made appearances in Bangor, Eastport and Freeport.