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'Sit Stay Heal' Explores a Family's Journey Through Grief with Their Labrador

Mitch Teich

When Milwaukee writer Mel Miskimen's mother died, somewhat unexpectedly, a few years ago, it shook the foundation of her family.

At 57, Miskimen had not had to deal closely with the death of a loved one before. The loss left her, and her father, rudderless.

Enter: Seamus, Miskimen's cheerful Labrador retriever. Over the next year, Seamus played a key role in bringing father and daughter together, and getting each of them through their grief.

Miskimen chronicles that journey in her new memoir, Sit Stay Heal: How an Underachieving Labrador Won Our Hearts and Brought Us Together

"My dad was just beside himself and I was too, and so I thought, 'Well, maybe he needs a project,'" says Miskimen. As she was considering her options, she noticed her dog Seamus sitting under feet. "I got this thought in my head; I'm like, 'Well maybe my dad can help me with this stupid, idiot dog I have.'" 

"It sort of brought us out, literally, outside, and gave us something else to talk about," she says. Seamus was a bit of a trouble-maker, and not exactly her father's idea of what a dog should be. But through working with him, the two bonded and learned to live again, despite their loss. 

"You love and then you have to feel this pain, but it's all such a process that you have to go through and it's so hard," she says. 

Miskimen will talk about the book at an event on Wednesday, September 14, at Boswell Book Company and Seamus the Labrador will be there, too.