Joint Custody

Image of Joint Custody (The Gatz Chronicles)
Release Date: 
January 5, 2021
Reviewed by: 

Three years ago, a Border Collie puppy, more human than canine, was placed in a New York shelter with his three littermates. Feeling lonely and abandoned, he plans to be chosen by the perfect person. A few contenders check him out, but he decides they aren't the ones he wants to spend his life with. His thought: No way was I going to let myself be adopted by an inferior grouping of humans. 

Then a man comes in, and he knows this is the one. "There he stood, in all his disheveled glory, looking around at the shelter like he wasn't sure if he'd come to the right place or if he should even be there at all."

It is love at first sight, and he is so excited he doesn't listen to learn the man’s name or anything he says. As far as he is concerned, he is "The Man," and that's how he refers to him.

As the man and dog leave the facility, a young woman with a British accent approaches them gushing over the pooch asking if she can pet him. In that second both the puppy and the man are besotted. When she asks the dog's name the man informs her, he just adopted him and hasn't thought of a name yet. They ponder over suitable monikers, and she states he looks like "Gatz," from her favorite book, The Great Gatsby. The man is floored because it is the one he favors the most, so the name is chosen and thus Gatz now considers her as "The Woman."

In love with Gatz, she offers her contact information in case the man needs someone to watch him. Soon they become a couple, and Gatz couldn't be happier. He adores his new family, especially when the woman moves into the man's apartment with them.

There's only one problem: the man, an author, is an extreme introvert who spends the brunt of his time at home. Socially ill at ease, he's not one to attend parties or go to clubs, though he does enjoy taking Gatz to the nearby pub, where the dog is greatly welcomed. 

The woman is an editor and used to a busy social life. She enjoys stepping out and having a good time, so can this relationship work? The two connect, but this difference in their personalities causes obstacles for them. 

Though estranged from his relatives, on their first holiday season together, she persuades him into visiting his parents for Hanukkah. This turns into a catastrophe, and he is miserable, which hampers the festivities. She comes from a close-knit and loving family, and when she brings him together with them it only makes matters worse. He withdraws, feeling totally out of place, and from then on, their relationship begins to dissolve. 

Twelve months pass and as the holidays approach, the man says: "How about this year, we go to no families? Would no families work for everybody?"

Gatz has many internal conversations and this is one after the man's statement: 

“Oh crap, buddy. I put my paws over my head in disgrace. It would’ve been better if you'd just let the silence go. It would've been better if you hadn't broken it. Don't you know by now that it's better to keep silent and have everyone think you're a fool than open your mouth and confirm it? I mean, I love you, man, but come on: Surely even you can see that this is not the route to go right now, can't you? So, let's all take some deep, calming breaths and—”

Though the woman cares about him, she is sad, coming to the conclusion they aren't right for each other, and she ends up moving back to her condo.

Not only is the man in a funk, but Gatz misses her, too. Clever pooch that he is, he formulates a plan to get them back together when he decides to eat the box of chocolates the man has left on the counter, knowing chocolate can prove fatal for dogs. He's willing to take any risk, even understanding this can have dire effects on his health.

After ingesting all the candy, he becomes violently ill, which scares the man. Gatz overhears him on the phone, thinking he's calling the woman, but it turns out he's talking to the vet. Then he calls the woman who meets him at the vet's office where the doctor purges him of the poison and stabilizes him. But does his plan work? 

The man and the woman, who both love Gatz, decide to share custody of him. He will be with the man during the week while he's working at home on his next novel, and she will have him on weekends. Gatz sadly realizes his plot to rejoin the man with the woman has failed, but he's happy to his two favorite people will stiff be in this life. 

Time passes and life goes on. The man is still in a funk and misses the woman terribly, especially when he discovers she has a new beau—and one who seems perfect for her. He has one-night stands to try to get over her, but it doesn't work.

The woman still takes Gatz on the weekends and before long he meets "The New Man" as he refers to the woman's new heartthrob. On a visit to his condo, Gatz is impressed by the opulence of his residence compared to the man’s tiny apartment, yet he goes out of his way to show his hostility to New Man. Even when he recognizes how happy the woman appears to be, he still believes she should be with "his" man. But could he be wrong? 

This novel is especially charming for it is told from the point of view of a dog. His comments and actions are both humorous and thought-provoking as he thinks he can get into the minds of his "people," while believing he knows what is best for all of them. It makes one wonder what our pets think about. This book is for pet lovers and would be enjoyable for anyone looking for a feel-good story.