When Dogs Heal

Powerful Stories of People Living with HIV and the Dogs That Saved Them

  • Interest Level: Grade 8 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

The best medicine may not always be found at a pharmacy or in a doctor’s office. Sometimes it comes in the form of a four-legged friend.

Three well-known leaders in their fields—award-winning dog photographer Jesse Freidin, adolescent HIV+ specialist Dr. Robert Garofalo, and LGBTQ advocate and journalist Zach Stafford—offer a refreshing, beautiful, and unique portrait of HIV infused with a deep message of hope. Each extraordinary profile shows the power of the incredible bonds between humans and their canine companions, whether that means combating loneliness and stigma, discovering the importance of unconditional love, overcoming addiction, or simply having a best friend in a time of need.

When Dogs Heal shares the stories of a diverse set of people who are thriving and celebrating life thanks to the compassion and unconditional love of their dogs.

A portion of the proceeds from this book benefits Fred Says, an organization dedicated to financially supporting HIV+ teen health care.

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Interest Level Grade 8 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 8
Genre Social Studies, Young Adult
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Diverse Books: LGBTQIA+, Diverse Books: #OwnVoices, Diverse Books: Physical Disability & Illness, Diversity, SEL: B Self-Management, Social Emotional Learning
Copyright 2021
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Zest Books ™
Language English
Number of Pages 152
Publication Date 2021-03-02
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS YAN024030, YAN003000, YAN006150
Dewey 362.19697/920092 [B]
Dimensions 8 x 10
Lexile 970
Features Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews

Author, Photographer: Jesse Freidin

Jesse Freidin is a fine-art dog photographer whose dog portraits are in private collections throughout the United States and have been exhibited in galleries from coast to coast. He's based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Author: Christina Garofalo

Christina Garofalo is an L.A.-based TV writer and journalist. She's covered travel, food, and culture for more than a dozen publications, including Afar, Huffington Post, Jetsetter, Paste, Resident, Robb Report, and ShermansTravel. Previously, she's served as an editor for ShermansTravel, Robb Report, and Gilt.com. Christina is also the voice of Fred Says on social media.

Author: Robert Garofalo

Robert Garofalo is a professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University and physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. He is founder of Fred Says, a non-profit charity that supports HIV+ youth

Author: Zach Stafford

Zach Stafford is an award-winning journalist who currently serves as editor-at-large of BuzzFeed and co-host of the daily news podcast News O'Clock. Zach regularly provides commentary on television and has appeared on the BBC, CNN and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. He's based in New York City.

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  • Booklist Top 10 Health and Wellness, Winner, 2022
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books, Winner, 2021


People Magazine

“Take HIV/AIDS away from the book’s 36 first-person profiles, and it’s still a remarkable collection of stories about how pets, dogs in particular, can transform lives. But the resilience those particular stories convey is intentionally, inextricably linked to the sometimes deadly disease, although one that’s now more often chronic and treatable.”—People Magazine

School Library Journal

“A unique collection that is unflinchingly honest and infused with hope. These valuable lessons of empathy, self-care, and acceptance will inspire all readers . . .”—starred, School Library Journal


“[D]eals affectingly with a subject that remains too absent in books for young readers. It deserves the widest possible readership.”—starred, Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

“[T]he stories are uplifting and well written . . . connecting a range of HIV-positive queer experiences with dog ownership.”—Kirkus Reviews