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Chancer: How One Good Boy Saved Another

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  672 ratings  ·  83 reviews
When a devastating diagnosis tears author Donnie Kanter Winokur’s family apart, a service dog may be their best hope to stay together.

Donnie Kanter Winokur and her husband, Harvey, never could have imagined the heart-wrenching struggle that becomes their new reality after they decide to adopt two infants from Russia. As Iyal and Morasha grow, it becomes clear that Iyal’s d
Paperback, 284 pages
Published August 22nd 2017 by Grand Harbor Press
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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Who loves dogs? I do. So give me a story about a dog and you better believe Imma gonna read it and love it.
And the fact that this is a true story just made it more amazing.

First, let me say that this book did teach me a lot about her son's condition, and just how horrible it is.
Second, the writing was very well done, and the way she presented her story is heart wrenching. There were parts with comic relief, and then there were serious parts. A very good balance.
Oh, and did I mention dogs?

Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
An uplifting story about a dog and the boy he helped. Iyal and his sister Morasha were adopted at a young age from Russia, by loving Jewish American parents Donnie and Harvey. They knew they wanted a family, and the adoption process allowed them to meet and fall in love with their future children. Afer becoming a family, they realized that Ilya was having problems with development, not unusual with adopted children. But it turned out to be something more, and Ilya is diagnosed with FASDs. His br ...more
This is the story of a family in crisis, and the dog who brought help, hope, and healing to the family. The crisis was an adopted son afflicted with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) (which is what it sounds like - the pregnant mother consumed alcohol during the pregnancy (no idea how much, but presumably a lot). In many ways this is a courageous story, as the author lays bare all the difficulties and sleepless nights that come as part of the package of raising a child with a disability. If ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Now that my vision is not blurred by tears, I want to say that this book is wonderful. It is life affirming and persistence personified. I love the way the author opens up about the family struggles of raising a child, who looks so right, whole and healthy, yet whose behaviors and speech make it quickly apparent that this child is different in some way. I never realized that FADS behaviors were so challenging. I ignorantly thought that FADS just caused cognitive disfunction. Now I know different ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book to have written. The message of the potential devastation of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is so important and the author is a skilled writer. The story about the amazing benefits of a support dog is also important and this story is the first time in know circumstances that a support dog has been trained for and used for FASD. I recommend the book for anyone who has an interest in "invisible disabilities" and canine support. However, personally, I started to lose inte ...more
Arlene Gutierrez
A special read

This book was excellent for many reasons. It gave great information on a developmental condition that is not widely known. It told about the services provided by therapy dogs, which is astounding. It also highlighted the life of a family living through their struggles, but overcoming many of them along the way. I enjoyed reading this book and I believe most people will, as well.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chancer: How One Good Boy Saved Another is what reading is all about. I could give it 10 stars.

Golden Retrievers are miracle-workers and Chancer was no exception. His contributions to Donnie Kanter Winokur's son and family were what I consider gifts from heaven.

This memoir should be read by those dealing with children experiencing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder as well as those who love dogs. There is so much to be learned from the facts Winokur shares as well as by the emotional trauma experi
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was given this book to read by my CASA supervisor.
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is an orginazation that works with children in the various Department of Family & Children Services around the country.
All of the children I come in contact with have experienced some sort of trauma.
Many of the children I care for seem unruly, hard to reach, difficult to handle, and sometimes just plain mean. I always contributed these issues to neglect in upbringing, or past trauma.
Since I read the book,
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nature
This is a story of how the service dogs trained by 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, OH can turn things around for a family in chaos. The author and her husband adopted two children from Russia, one of whom would develop profound challenges due to being exposed to alcohol while his birth mother was pregnant with him. Winokur draws a very clear picture of the implications of FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) and how it manifests itself in her son, Iyal. Enter Chancer, the well-trained, loving Go ...more
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dogs, memoir
I read this book on my iPad that I was able to choose free from a hotel chain benefit and I started reading this after finishing another physical book right as COVID-19 hit and my library was closed.

It took my almost 6-months to complete this book, and I read many other books during the time it took me to read this book, because it just wasn't that interesting.

The book provides scant evidence about how Chancer really helped Iyal other than a few stories from the author that lacked any detail ab
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Warning. This book will tear your heart out. Donnie Kanter Winokur conveyed with great feeling all the challenges of raising a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, or for that matter, raising any child that is mentally challenged. She depicts the emotional toll to the family and the strong emotional ties that are developed between the members of her family truly and deeply. I felt her bone weary exhaustion and grieved for her pain. But I also was inspired and amazed at the strength and persistence ...more
Tomomi Landsman
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I received this as part of the IHG Rewards program.

It's a sweet story, and I learned a lot, but I really did not like the tone of the author. The story is also told non-linearly, and the time jumps seem very sudden and frequent. I guess it was cool that this takes place in Atlanta, where I grew up, though.

Winokur seems to be trying to tell the story of her adoption and Chancer in a very casual voice. There are frequent interjections that I found grating. I know this is a matter of taste, but I f
Alisha K.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a giveaway, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to read it. Thank you!

On to my review:

Oh this book.... I cried, and then I cried some more. Don't take that in a negative way. This book, taught me a lot, and fired up my mom senses.

When I first started this book, I was not sure that I would like it. That feeling didn't last long. I soon fell in love with this family, all of them, right down to the 4 legged ones. The writing style kept me at every turn, and I loved how she p
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Struggled with the writing in this book. But a really interesting and important discussion about service animals and FASD and how animals can bring people together and heal. “When is a dog not just a dog?” I’d say, “When it’s an anchor for a little boy or a young man whose life swirls around him like tidal waves of confusion and fear threatening to pull him under; when a dog’s very presence releases the boy from the grip of unforgiving nightmares that flood his brain, numbing his ability to feel ...more
Vanessa D. Richmond
A family story

Thank you for your wonderful story. Your writing style enabled me to enjoy your love, challenges and sorrows of your family. As a retired nurse and a believer that God created dogs to comfort our souls here on earth I appreciated the knowledge you conveyed concerning FASD and how Chancer helped Iyal and all of you. My son gave me your book as a gift for Christmas this year. I have spoken about it as we have shared our family holiday time. I would recommend your book to anyone who w
I didn't like this as much as I thought I would. The story jumped around back and forth in time and that made it very confusing as to when things happened. For most of the story, I planned to give it 2 stars or even 1.5 stars, but the ending was rather touching and raised it to 3 stars on Goodreads, although overall, I can't actually give it more than a 2.5. it has actually been several days, since I actually finished this book and the time that I'm writing my review and details of the story are ...more
Deana St. John
Sometimes more than I wanted to know about FASD and less than I wanted to know about the service dog training and Chancer. Based on my expectations, Chancer is less than a major character in this book. You totally empathize with the Mother and to a lesser extent, the rest of the family. Unfortunately, so much of the book is hand wringing, heart wrenching, tear-jerking and, really a downer. I don't expect every story to have a happy ending, but the happy parts, were too few and far between for m ...more
Barbara Faris
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing story

I learned so much about children with disabilities! I have two seasons with autism, and though the one with Asbergers was prone to meltdown, there is no comparison between them and Iyal. I am amazed at the strength of the narrator in this touching story. Our two are now "mainstreamed," with one at Ft. Benning, going into special ops, and the Asbergers son is premed between junior and senior year of college. I cannot fathom the lifelong commitment a child with DAD requires.
Patricia Paling Paul
As a dog lover (currently owned by a golden retriever Maggie) and a former volunteer for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind/ America's Vet Dogs, this is a book I could relate to. I've know for a long time how special dogs are and how their ability to help us humans knows no bounds! I loved the author's humor and her raw emotion in dealing with her sons disability! Her writing brings you right there into her home and life. A great writer and a topic that I would guess, is not much discussed o ...more
Patricia Matuschak
Informative and Touching

I wondered, at first, if I would keep reading after I realized there was a lot of “technical” information, but it was intertwined into the story so that it was both interesting and informative. I had expected the book to be about a dog’s life - but it was so much more. I couldn’t put the book down and my heart was sore at the end. I had also lost an oversized Golden that was the love of my life, so I found this story touched me in unexpected ways.

It is well worth the rea
Bruce K. Beyer
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emotionally invested in this story

This story is a heartwarming and heartbreaking description of the complexities of a family coming to grips with an unfamiliar disorder, FASD, and it's effects on both their affected son and their entire family. The introduction of a therapy dog restored their family and allowed each of them to blossom as best they could. I have newfound respect for the selection and training of these dogs and the vital role they play. This story is superbly written and wonderful
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tells a very human story about a family and their assistance dog

Be ready to cry and laugh. Well told, and emotional telling, but in the end it is a story about a family with a young man with a disability , his assistance dog, and it's impact on the whole family.

For families with a special needs child, you will recognize the love and pain, the good days and challenging ones

For others it is a love story in multiple ways, and a lesson in unrestricted parenting.
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing and informative book, written by a Jewish mama-bear who, along with her husband, adopted two infants, one of whom has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder. The object of the story is Chancer, the first therapy dog for a person affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder. That doesn't mean it was easy, however. The book is filled with alarming statistics about FASD, along with the issues created by ignorant people who don't understand what therapy dogs are for. ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I didn't know much at all about fetal alcohol syndrome or trained service animals, but reading this book written with such frankness by the adoptive mother of a child living with FAS brought incredible and poignant insight into both. I've always been an animal lover, but this book gave me such deep appreciation for the incredible empathy and assistance a dog can be trained to provide to people (and their families) suffering from such a wide range of disabilities. Really great read! ...more
Mary-Lou Owen
Mar 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The journey expressed by a mother devoted to her children is inspiring and educational!

This story really brings to light the difficulties of navigating through life with a hidden disability. Donnie Winokur brings to light the effects of FASD and how it affects the entire family. She educates , while telling the reader a heartwarming story of a family's journey through life. Such a well written story.
Jodee Kulp
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thank you, Chancer, for moving hearts and minds of so many people. And thank you to the Winokur family who graciously and honestly told a story of truth, pain, challenge and love. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath as I read your words, Donnie Kanter Winokur. Thank you for you and your families courage to share this so important story. I did not put it down!
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More about FASD than Service Dogs

Interesting book that speaks to the trials and tribulations of raising an adopted Russian child with FASD more than service dogs. The families lives greatly improved with the first FASD Service Dog. Might also be pertinent to those dealing with any type of severe Invisible Disability.
Mary E
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well done

While a child with ADHD does not pose the same degree of problems, this book brought back many of my experiences. It takes a very strong person to cope with the challenges of raising a child with disabilities. The story of Chancers impact on the family dynamic was awesome. Thank you.
Dorothy Wood
This was a good book, informed me on FAS, a subject I was not familiar with and how the training of these beautiful, loving animals can change a child and their family's lives, amazing. I anticipated reading the next page until, the language the author was using began to change, the colorful words were very offensive to me. A great story but, I would not recommend the book to friends. ...more
Joseph Dineen
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an enlightening account of how helpful a service dog can be to assist youngsters and adults to live with such challenging disabilities.

I learned so much about training and needs for such service dogs and how they can be so faithful for the patient as well as all family members. This was a true learning experience.
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Donnie Kanter Winokur is among the Amazon Top 50 Most Popular Authors in Biographies and Memoirs and the Top 100 Books in Biographies and Memoirs.

Donnie was featured as an Emerging Author at the 2017 AJC Decatur Book Festival, the largest independent book festival in the country. Her story will not only resonate with families who live with similar struggles, but demonstrate the power of uncondi

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