Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

How a Rescue Dog Saves Her Human Told in “Gabby”


Gabby: The Little Dog That Had to Learn to Bark

By Barby Keel

Citadel Press  – Kensington Publishing Corp., 2020

Genre: Biography/Autobiography/Animals

The true story of the unbreakable bond of love and loyalty between a woman and the little rescue dog who rescued her.

Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“Sometimes, a human and a dog find each other and fit together like two jigsaw pieces…”

The founder and director of the Barby Keel Animal Sanctuary in Sussex, England, Barby Keel makes the observation when she finds a Yorkie terrier mix cowering on the floor of a car as Gabby’s dropped off at the sanctuary.

She Doesn’t Know

Upon Gabby’s arrival at the Sanctuary, the honey-colored Yorkie mix doesn’t seem to know she’s a dog. At eight years old, Gabby has:

  • Never been outside in her life.
  • Never traveled in a car.
  • Never been house-trained.

Gabby doesn’t know:

  • How to chase or play. 
  • Basic commands like “sit” or “lie down.”
  • How to interact with other dogs, play, or bark.

In short, little Gabby doesn’t know how to be a dog.

(Kimber’s note: Dogs are not house pets! We need fresh air! Exercise! Room to roam and explore. We are not cats!! Hello?!)

“Taking in a rescue dog, or any animal, is an act of faith. It’s an instinctive, from-the-heart decision, that overrides any shred of practical or rational reasoning… You never know what lies in their past and it’s pointless guessing. “


Gabby: The Little Dog That Had to Learn to Bark chronicles how infinite patience, perseverance and kindness coupled with the help of a sturdy Spaniel, Harry, (aka: Gabby’s self-appointed “sentry”) slowly teach the sweet little terrier how to be a dog. In turn, Gabby teaches the author how to be fully human. And fully alive.

“That is the power of caring for animals – as I’ve said before, they heal us in so many more ways than we can ever care for them. By looking after them, we are helped, maybe even saved.”


A gentle and uplifting story rimming with empathy and honesty, Gabby is also informative and educational. You can learn a lot about dogs and other animals from this book. Additionally, the author pulls no punches when describing her reaction to getting her cancer diagnosis. “Cancer could throw its worst at me,” writes the author, “and I was more than ready to face it – with my beloved Gabby at my side.”

The author also describes how the sweet-tempered and sensitive little terrier seems to understand Keel’s distress and fear regarding the cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery. And Gabby becomes the author’s greatest source of solace and succor as the author battles self-doubt and depression, post-surgery.

“Darling girl, it was you who rescued me” writes the author about her stalwart little dog. Keel continues:

“The last few months had been bleak. There was no denying it – she (Gabby) had gotten me through all of it. I’d faced my own demons and come out the other side.”


Told in the first person in lilting prose, the text is cross-hatched with astute introspection and personal reflections in a way that will connect with anyone who’s ever loved an animal, faced a major health challenge, or been afraid.

Anyone who’s vertical and breathing will enjoy this delightful, heartwarming story. We loved it! (Check out our review of another Barby Keel book: Will You Love Me?)

Our Rating: 5.0

2 thoughts on “How a Rescue Dog Saves Her Human Told in “Gabby”

  1. This is my kind of book! I have three shelter dogs, and they have saved me many times.

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