1. Were you surprised that Ben and Eileen took home Helen, an abandoned dog? What would you do if you came across a stray dog?
2. Describe the mother-daughter relationship between Sandi and Sonja. When Sandi’s miniature pinscher, Cleo, sustains an injury under Sonja’s care, how does that affect their relationship?
3. Of the many animals Dr. Nick Trout has seen as patients, why do you think Cleo and Helen left such strong impressions on him?
4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of Dr. Trout becoming emotionally involved with his animal patients and their owners? Does Dr. Trout relate to the animals in his care the same as he does to their owners?
5. How much responsibility do you think Dr. Trout bore for Cleo’s accidental death? If you had been in his position, would you have felt responsible?
6. What legal ramifications does Dr. Trout worry about in the aftermath of Cleo’s death? How does the experience of his colleague Neil ease his worries?
7. How does Dr. Trout navigate the difficult territory of breaking the bad news to Sonja and Sandi? Were you surprised by how each woman handled the news?
8. Throughout the year that Dr. Trout describes, some of his animal patients seem to have miraculous, against-the-odds recoveries. Discuss these circumstances and the intersection of spirituality and medicine. Was Dr. Trout off-base to believe in Cleo’s spirit?
9. Do you think animals have souls? Why or why not?
10. Why is it important to Dr. Trout to stay in touch with Sandi and Eileen, even years after he performed surgery on their pets?
11. Has there been a pet or animal in your life that has had a lasting impact? Who was the pet and what lesson did he or she teach you?
12. Do you feel like this book has a happy ending? Why or why not?