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How a Dog Helped Heal a Holocaust Survivor’s Heart

trusting calvin

How a dog helped heal a Holocaust survivor’s heart.

This is the summary of Trusting Calvin, the true story of a man who survived one of the most horrendous times in human history, The Holocaust, and the dog who helped to unlock his heart.  Written by Sharon Peters, the former “Pet Talk” columnist for USA Today, weaves a tale of love, hope, celebration, and ultimately being able to carry the weight of the past into the promise of the future— with a dog walking alongside.

As a teenager, Max Edelman was hauled off to one of the worst Nazi work camps, where he survived by keeping quiet and mounting an invisible emotional shield. He was beaten to blindness by two sadistic Nazi guards and carries his lack of vision long past his freedom from the concentration camp. At a time when very few survived, especially at the hand of such human terror and abuse, Edelman moved to America and began a new life.

“One morning he ordered the barracks where the sick were recovering emptied. Dozens hobbled, as ordered, to the edge of the ditch, and were shot, one by one,” Peters writes. “This was much more efficient than having to haul corpses across the yard when men died in their beds.”

The words are haunting, incomprehensible, yet coupled with a sense of hope and a stoic emotional barrier, Edelman somehow survived. He married, raised two sons, and became an x-ray processor at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. When the Holocaust survivor retired, his wife became afflicted with severe arthritis. He was no longer able to get around on his own without the assistance of his devoted wife. Edelman swallowed his pride, fear of dogs, and applied for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

It is the relationship with his guide dog, Calvin, that tugs at the heartstrings of dog lovers. The relationship does not immediately take shape; in fact, it is tarnished and made more difficult by Edelman’s fear of dogs in general. It becomes apparent that Calvin senses Max’s lack of trust and the relationship falters.

“Max, never able to reach out for comfort from others, didn’t want people around. His sons, brothers, and friends tried to abide by that wish, and they mostly kept the distance he demanded,” Peters pens.

One can imagine the leap of faith and the hesitancy of doubt that Edelman must have faced when expected to trust in a dog: he is without sight and his vision is blurred further by memories of a haunting past that leaves scars on the very soul of his being.

Trusting Calvin is 181 pages of a life that is nearly broken, slowly reassembled, and then placed into the ever-loving trust of a dog. Max Edelman is a survivor, and his trust into a canine companion is the heartbeat of this tale. Peters is a gifted writer who weaves emotion and fact into a story that could easily have been lost in translation if written by another.

In honor of April 8th being Holocaust Remembrance Day, Fidose of Reality salutes Max Edelman and Calvin and thanks Sharon Peters for bringing this story to life.

candle Winner of a copy of the book is Mimi Johnson! Congrats to you and thanks to all who entered. Highly recommended book!

We’d like to give a copy of this book away to one Fidose of Reality fan. Simply reply in the comments below and let us know the name of a dog that has had an impact on your life. We’ll select one winner on April 13, 2013. Contest opens now and closes at 11:59 pm on Friday, 04/12/13. U.S. and Canadian residents age 18 and over are eligible.

Complete Rules Here



  1. Mimi Johnson says

    I had just retired quite unexpectedly when I got laid off and found myself reinventing myself again! I still got up early, and went out walking in the condo community I had moved into two years prior, in preparation for retirement. I met a lot of dog walkers and one morning I stopped to talk to a man and he asked me why I was out walking so early if I didn’t have a dog! I told him I was practicing, because I didn’t know what else to say! Hehe! Then I got Guinness from a long time friend of mine. It wa an odyssey getting back home with her with flight delays and airports closed! What should have bern a down and back trip in one day from NY to SC turned into a two day trip back with a hotel stay in between! She was 7 weeks old, very curious and loved to go walking, so all my practice paid off! We have bern inseparable for the past five years and enjoy each other’s company very much! Guinness is a Black and Tan Cocker who thinks everyone she meets is there to play with her! Her tail and her whole butt wiggle when she spots someone coming toward us and she just stares them own hoping to get a hello or some acknowledgement ! It usually works! I have met more people with her than I would have otherwise. She is my reason for getting up and out each day and her antics provide laughter all the time. She loves to accompany me when I go on errands and is insulted when I have to leave her home! She is a delight to live with and is very well mannered in other people’s homes! She is my heart dog! I ❤ Guinness!

  2. Gizmo (@GizmoGeodog) says

    My family was deeply affected by the Holocaust and growing up most of my grandparents’ friends had numbers tattooed on their arms…It’s a part of history inextricably linked with mine…Each of my dogs has had an impact…they have each had something to teach me and I’ve tried to learn from them…Forgiveness, which comes so easily to dogs, is probably the hardest for me

    • Carol Bryant says

      Thank you, Gizmo, for sharing this. I cannot even imagine what they went through. Indeed what you said is so very true and so powerful, forgiveness does come so much easier to dogs.

  3. Megan says

    What a lovely story! Molly was the German Shepherd who changed my life. My family had a basset hound, not exactly an intimidating dog. Molly was the neighbor’s GSD who we passed when we went to/from the bus stop. I was shy and gullible & the older girls told me Molly was dangerous & had scratched them. Upon hearing this, I began taking the long way home. After a couple days, Molly’s mom realized this and asked me why I stopped coming through her yard. I told her what the older girls told me. Molly’s mom told me that Moly was very sweet and let me meet her. Molly & I became fast friends & every day I would spend extra time with her on my way home. I still remember the day she wasn’t there, the day I found out she passed…She was a wonderful ambassador of her breed, she taught me early on that it’s not the breed, it’s the owner.

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