"A delight, full of heart and hijinks and humor . . . McDougall is a gifted storyteller who gets to the heart of the human-animal connection." --John Grogan, author of Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog
From the best-selling author of Born to Run, a heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America, and, in the process, discovering the life-changing power of the human-animal connection.
When Chris McDougall agreed to take in a donkey from an animal hoarder, he thought it would be no harder than the rest of the adjustments he and his family had made after moving from Philadelphia to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. But when he arrived, Sherman was in such bad shape he could barely move, and his hair was coming out in clumps. Chris decided to undertake a radical rehabilitation program designed not only to heal Sherman's body but to heal his mind as well. It turns out the best way to soothe a donkey is to give it a job, and so Chris decided to teach Sherman how to run. He'd heard about burro racing--a unique type of race where humans and donkeys run together in a call-back to mining days--and decided he and Sherman would enter the World Championship in Colorado.
Easier said than done. In the course of Sherman's training, Chris would have to recruit several other runners, both human and equine, and call upon the wisdom of burro racers, goat farmers, Amish running club members, and a group of irrepressible female long-haul truckers. An entire community comes together to help save Sherman and, along the way, Chris shows us the joy of a life with animals.
In this tenderhearted memoir, McDougall (Born to Run) tells of his adoption and rehabilitation of Sherman, an ailing rescue donkey. Neglected by an animal hoarder near McDougall's farm in Pennsylvania's Amish country, Sherman is nursed back to health by Tanya, a local veterinary technician: "You need to give this animal a purpose. You need to find him a job," Tanya tells McDougall. So McDougall, an accomplished runner, sets his sights on the annual World Championship Leadville Burro Race in Colorado, an eight-decade-long tradition that includes an uphill run half the height of Mt. Everest. McDougall is a charming, enthusiastic storyteller as he describes how, with less than a year to train, he enlists Tanya; his wife, Mika; and Zeke, a troubled Penn State student who draws strength and purpose from training Sherman. The team, which also includes donkeys Flower and Matilda, wends its way through wooded mazes, creeks, and other obstacles in preparation for the high-altitude race. As the event draws closer, several setbacks challenge the team, including Tanya's horse-training accident, Zeke's broken foot, and McDougall's shattered finger. Despite these setbacks, they arrive in Leadville in 2016 ready to race, and complete the 15-mile "short course," with Sherman finishing 29th out of 52. Runners and animal lovers alike can find inspiration in this story of the ways in which humans and animals connect.