Friday, February 7, 2014


Title: Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero
Author: Michael Hingson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Genres: Biography, Memoir
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5


Blind since birth, Michael couldn't see a thing, but he could hear the sounds of shattering glass, falling debris, and terrified people flooding around him and his guide dog, Roselle. However, Roselle sat calmly beside him. In that moment, Michael chose to trust Roselle's judgment and not to panic. They are a team.

"Thunder Dog" allows you entry into the isolated, fume-filled chamber of stairwell B to experience survival through the eyes of a blind man and his beloved guide dog. Live each moment from the second a Boeing 767 hits the north tower, to the harrowing stairwell escape, to dodging death a second time as both towers fold into the earth.

It's the 9/11 story that will forever change your spirit and your perspective. "Thunder Dog "illumiates Hingson's lifelong determination to achieve parity in a sighted world, and how the rare trust between a man and his guide dog can inspire an unshakable faith in each one of us.


Reading Thunder Dog was a suspenseful, frightening and yet deeply spiritual experience. Starting with a thunder storm in the early hours of 11 September 2001, Michael Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle, takes the reader through the horrifying events at the World Trade Center. From the moment the first plane crashes into the north tower, down 1,463 steps and out into the chaos of the streets that surround the WTC, to the collapse of the towers and the author's perilous journey home; this is a reading experience nobody should miss.

Having owned and trained numerous dogs and having had guide dogs of my own, I'm going to start my rave about this book with Roselle. Although a guide dog must be able to keep calm and continue working under most circumstances, it is still remarkable that Roselle, who is afraid of thunder, kept her head during the noise and stressful atmosphere of 9/11. More than that, she found time to touch the hearts of a woman who started panicking as well as a fire fighter on his way to the inferno higher up in the building.

"He gives Roselle one last pat. She kisses his hand and then he is gone. I would realize later that this touch was probably the last unconditional love he ever got."

Each chapter starts with a relevant quote that ties into the contents of that chapter. While the author tells about his experiences, he frequently flashes back to his youth and his life as a blind person. Although this is highly informative, it also serves to crank up the suspense of how, and in what state, he will eventually emerge from this disaster. Thunder Dog is called a page-turner in the foreword with good reason. The information about blindness and guide dogs in this book is presented in a positive, even fascinating way. Part of one chapter, told from Michael's wife's point of view, emphasizes the concern and fear felt by the loved ones of those caught up in the events of 9/11.

The descriptions of what Michael experiences through hearing, touch and smell while exiting the building and leaving the area, is so vivid that it creates a realistic feeling of menace and fear for the reader. Add to this the scenes of chaos, seen through the eyes of a business associate, David Frank, and Thunder Dog becomes a book that truly lets one experience that day in history.

Apart from all the descriptions and recollections in this book, there is also a profound spirituality to it. The question of faith and trust in God is addressed in a touching manner that definitely made an impact on me. 

"We have to get out of the dust or we are going to die. But even in the dust cloud, with my guide dog now blind, too, I feel God’s presence. He is with me. I am not alone. I am running with Roselle."

Thunder Dog is not without its fair share of humor. The author has a fine sense of humor which is liberally distributed throughout the book. While walking down the 1,463 steps, isolated from what is happening outside, he makes the following suggestion:

“I have an idea. On our first day back in the tower, let’s all meet on the 78th floor at 8:45 a.m. and walk down the stairs as a way to lose weight.”

For a reading experience that will have you alternating between nail-biting suspense, the occasional laugh, and definitely a few tears, I recommend this unforgettable book as an absolute must read. Join Michael and Roselle on their walk to safety and share in their fear, uncertainty, mutual trust and eventual victory.

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