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 development is drastically lagging behind his sister’s. By age four, he has a devastating fetal alcohol syndrome. But naming their battle provides little relief as Iyal and his family try to cope with the lifelong impact of his invisible disability. As the Winokurs’ marriage is unraveling, Donnie and Harvey hang on to the last shreds of their own promise. Desperate to alleviate her son’s constant rages and their crushing toll on the family, Donnie comes up with an innovative, untested, four-pawed a golden retriever service dog named Chancer. Chancer is specially trained to give Iyal a unique love he desperately needs. But in this true-life tale infused with moments of despair, tenderness, and humor, Chancer turns out to be what the entire family has needed to stay―and grow―together.
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 unconditional love and perseverance from a family and a dog that you will never forget. Donnie is an award winning writer, international speaker, and human rights advocate. She has contributed to Reader’s Digest, Guidepost, Marie Claire, and Adoption Today. Donnie’s story was featured in “Wonder Dog” for the New York Times Magazine in 2012 and became one of the ten most shared and searched for articles that year. Chancer- How One Good Boy Saved Another, is her first full-length book after publishing two award-winning children's books. A native of New Jersey, Donnie studied theater at Catholic University (“because being a nun was out of the question”) before transferring to Emory University in Atlanta, where she graduated with a degree in psychology. There her passion for drama evolved from repertory theater to commercials and voice-overs. After honing her skills writing and producing advertising campaigns for clients throughout the Southeast, she then created award-winning projects for Discovery, The Smithsonian Institute, and Broderbund/Random House. >In Chancer – How One Good Boy Saved Another, Donnie brings you into her world of developmental disabilities with her poignancy, unashamed honesty, and often-irreverent humor, especially for a rabbi’s wife. She doesn’t mind being upstaged by children or dogs, especially her son, Iyal, and his service dog, Donnie shares her journey to adoptive parenthood along with her son’s devastating diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome, the most severe expression of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). After an exhausting pursuit of medications, therapies, and interventions only left Iyal more frustrated—and their family more desperate—Donnie tried something outside-the-box. Consequently, in 2008, Donnie’s son, Iyal, obtained an intelligent and irresistible ninety-pound golden retriever named Chancer, the first certified FASD assistance dog in the world. A dynamic and in-demand speaker, Donnie is committed to preventing what she calls “the perfect storm,” the failed opportunity for our justice system to support challenged individuals in dire need of compassion and protection. She remains a dedicated champion for shifting our cultural paradigm and changing public misperceptions about marginalized individuals. Donnie and her husband, Harvey, the founding rabbi of a reform synagogue, live north of Atlanta with Iyal and their daughter, Morasha. Their family unexpectedly lost Chancer at eleven years old, to an aggressive illness. But his successor, Quinn, also trained as an FASD service dog was well mentored by his older brother. Autumn, their cat, tolerates the Quinn, while enjoying an occasional swat.
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?
There were a few things that were off putting, like the fact she cursed quite a bit. Don't get me wrong, I don't care about the cursing, but it surprised me a bit and I know to some people it is a no-no, so warning about that. And sometimes she got a little petty and self indulgent, in my opinion, but not too much.
I don't want to say to much so you will read it for yourselves.
Mostly, this was a heart warming, and sometimes heart breaking tale that I think everyone should read.
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 brain is damaged, and he may never be able to care for himself or make safe decisions. Donnie becomes desperate for a service dog, a move her husband opposes, and this book is their journey to Chancer and the difference he makes in their lives after.
Of course there are tears, how can it be a dog book without getting emotionally invested in the characters? There is the small frustration of Chancer not appearing as much as I'd like, but the Winokur family are at the forefront of this story throughout. Really apart from this I had few complaints. It's also available on Kindle Unlimited, so that's a bonus! Four stars.
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 you have a child with a disability, many parts of this book will ring true for you. This book doesn't sugar-coat it or try to play down the difficulties, everything is laid bare. But the bigger story is how a dog with a generous heart helped out - not just in calming a boy who can't control his temper (due to effects of FASD) but also in helping that child become grounded and connect more to those around him. That dog is Chancer, and he was the first service dog trained to assist someone with FASD.
The tone of the book is engaging, at times it felt like the author and I were sitting at a kitchen table and she was sharing her story with me (there were times when I felt like saying "Honey, I know exactly what you mean" when she was talking about her experiences).
In the course of reading this book, I also learned a TON about FASD (which in the way some of the symptoms presented themselves, reminded me of autism spectrum disorder). The CDC has estimated that 1 in 20 US schoolchildren have FASD. Besides sharing the story of a wonderful dog, this book also helps publicize FASD . I can see this book being cathartic reading for someone raising a child with FASD, to know that they are not alone in what they are going through, and that help and hope are available.
Full disclosure: I received this book through a Goodreads Giveaway.
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 differently. My child did not have a diagnosis of FADS, but rather ADHD and possible ODD, along with Dysgraphia and unspecified learning disorder. I remember well the soccer team of 5 year olds, who lined up for drill, spaced so closely together that my child soon discovered the hilarious, (only to my child), game of leaning back against the child behind and taking down the whole line, like a row of tumbling dominoes. This did not go over well with the other parents or coaches. One irate mother even yelled, “ Don’t you take that! Shove back!” I was mortified, and angry that an innocent game, though very disruptive, should be met with such venom from another mother. T-ball games resulted in only sitting in the outfield playing with the dirt, grass, rocks, bugs, and anything but the ball. Group sports were definitely out! To read a book about the honestly shared joy and despair, angst and sadness that such disabilities in children bring to families, especially the mother’s view, was cathartic for me. I am glad that this book is informative and may lend understanding to the parents with children that don’t have these struggles. Other children, with or without disabilities, each have their own struggles and I would not want to say which is harder. Life is hard sometimes, but worth it. I in particular, felt like some of these stories mimicked my own. Only a really good author is able to invoke such a response. Well worth the time to read.
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 interest about 3/4 of the way through. I think the book could have been 50-100 pages shorter as it seemed there was a lot of saying the same thing in different phrasing going on by the last part of the book. The author tried just a little too hard to be a "creative writer" and used the f-word a little too frequently for me. All in all I'm glad to have read the book.
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.
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!
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 experienced by her son and their family.
The book explains that one in twenty school children may have FASDs. (p. 2) I suspect that many educators label children as autistic while failing to attribute the disability to the mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Donnie's son, Iyal and daughter Morasha were adopted in Russia by Donnie and her husband Harvey Winokur. Harvey was a Jewish rabbi. I enjoyed learning about the Jewish culture and customs of this family.
I laughed and cried with this family. I learned a lot about this disability. Most important, I learned about the challenges from the mother's perspective. I appreciated her approach to dealing with the challenges of working with Iyal. One of Donnie's most perceptive comments was, "Most people have difficulty seeing beyond the behavior and realizing that the brain is the culprit." (p. 62)
I was interested in the definition of "pressured speech." Rapid machine-gun fire, nonstop verbalization with repeated sentences and phrases is characteristic. (p. 60) I overheard a student communicating with a computer in just this way. I also identified with Morasha's struggles with Iyal. It's difficult when observers conclude that a person with FASD is bullying a family member.
Donnie Winokur is a talented writer. Her words draw pictures in the mind of the reader. An example was when she described the aftermath of an event with these words. "I was anticipating the next encounter. Anxiety lodged itself inside me like a bullet, blood bubbling through my veins as I listened for the opening shots of the next battle." (p. 63)
The term "external brain" was coined by Teresa Kellerman, an FASD expert. An external brain is a person who helps another with decision-making. It may be a family member, caregiver, or educator. (p. 69) This person acts as a bumper-guard with hopes of preventing unwanted experiences. This is often achieved in a public school with the assistance of a certified special education teacher and a full-time aide. As evidenced by some seriously inappropriate behavior by classmates in the memoir, one learns that a student with challenges such as Iyal's cannot be left alone for any amount of time. This is to assist with his own behavior as well as to protect him from others.
"Dysmaturity" was another word and definition that grabbed my attention. It is characterized by impulsivity and a lack of understanding of cause and effect. (p. 70) I assume that educators place these children in regular classrooms to encourage the sense of community that supports positive outcomes. Donnie questioned how this sense of community can be developed when a person is unable to interact with others in a meaningful way. Research and reality sometimes feel incompatible. It is difficult when disabilities are invisible until behavior is displayed that is characteristic of a much younger child.
We had a young lady at our school training a service dog. Students and staff knew of the hands-off policy concerning the dog. When he was in training, his tail was lowered and his head down. I understand the value of service dogs but felt like someone had stolen his soul. I was pleased that because of Iyal's disability that contact was an allowable component of Chance and Iyal's relationship.
I was shocked that Chance wasn't the "perfect" service dog. There were incidents in the story when Chance actually got into some mischief. I like to tell the kids I work with that we are human and that we all make mistakes. I guess these were Chance's opportunities to be just a little bit "human" like the rest of us.
Donnie's description of Chance in a photo that the family received before they met him was another example of how her writing touched my heart. "The picture was of a gorgeous, generous, huge, blond golden retriever with a coal-black nose and deep reflecting eyes. Something in his expression made me suspect he harbored an old soul inside." (p. 92) After they met Chancer, she described him as a giant golden boy who was regal as a lion.
Iyal's mom explained how his hearing would shut down during his neural storms. (p. 118) She explained how during a fight or flight crises our sense of hearing shuts down. For that reason, we must find different ways of reaching the person we are trying to help. (p. 117) This is an important lesson to learn. Donnie demonstrated by her effective actions how the instinctive reponses by others though well-meant can be entirely ineffective.
For me, Chancer: How One Good Boy Saved Another was a truly wonderful reading experience. Yes, Iyal and Chancer were both very good boys!
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, CHANCER, I have a new and different view of what makes some children act the way they do. I also can now advocate services for some of these children depending on the results of testing for Alcohol Fetal Syndrom, or Alcohol Fetal Spectrum Disorder. Bsfore I read CHANCER, I did not know much about this debilitating condition, and the devastation it can bring on a family. Even though I was familar with the ability of dogs to detect medical issues in humans, and react to those issues, I have never thought about a dog that can detect a symptom of FAS, or FASD, and then react to treat that symptom. This book has not only taught me a lot concerning the disease, but has taught me a lot about the extreme difficulty of a family who lives with someone who has this disease. The ability of the author to open up her and her familiy's lives in such a straight forward and honest way opens up a broad door of opportunity to bring the terrible effects of improper use of alcohol use to light. This book also brings to light the wonderful God-given ability of dogs to be trained to be more than loyal companions. This book shows me that the role of dogs in our lives is just getting started. CHANCER is the story of a dog that is certainly more than "Man's Best Friend".
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 Golden retriever, who gives them all hope and some key tools to cope. Though placed with the family to specifically help Iyal with his behavioral and emotional challenges, Chancer helps each one of the family members. In the course of the story, the author addresses the stress that disability in general, FASD in specific, places on family life, and also public perceptions of a service dog (both positive and negative). At times, I had a little bit of a hard time following some of the back-and-forth of the time line in the narrative. But I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in what service dogs can do. Or just generally anyone who likes memoirs of strong families. Well worth reading!!! (Another book about the fantastic service dog agency 4 Paws for Ability, and its founder Karen Shirk, is Underdogs: children, dogs and the power of unconditional love by Melissa Faye Greene.)
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 about how Chancer helped Iyal and his FASD.
The author also talked about challenges with her husband, Harvey, and how her caring for two children with FASD strained their marriage and really painted Harvey in a bad light, and then only lightly mentioned that perhaps they had improved their marriage though not much.
This book is disjointed and jumps around and during one chapter a story was inserted about a cruise to Greece she and Harvey took, sans children, and how they saw a member of their congregation (that they appeared to not like), and then returned to the theme of the chapter.
The Epilogue of this book was great, as the owner of my third Golden Retriever, and having two pass away I was in tears about how Chancer had to be put down at the age of 11.
It is difficult for me to recommend this book unless you have a child with FASD or are a lover of Golden Retrievers.
Such an emotional story. I cannot imagine that with all Donnie and her family went through, she was able to go through it all over again to create this amazing story. This is based on her life, and the lives of her husband, two children, and Chancer the service dog that saved them all.
After several failures, Donnie and her husband decide to adopt, so they adopt a boy and a girl, that are the same age. The children are Iyal and Morasha. They begin noticing challenges that the Iyal has compared to his sister. After many doctors and tests, it is determined that Iyal has FASD (Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders).
Donnie bears her soul in this story, and it is both heart-wrenching, and uplifting. It is the story of how the family navigates this jungle. After so many therapies, and therapists, and trial and error, Donnie decides that Iyal needs a service dog. The story is about how they go about getting, and training Chancer, the service dog. While at the same time, Donnie goes into detail about dealing with Iyal's different challenges as he grows up. The story is also about how Iyal's issues impact each member of the family, including extended family and friends.
It is a great story, but it will take an emotional toll on you.
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 which she mustered to raise her son. It was a stroke of genius that she realized and persisted in getting a dog trained to meet her son's special needs. The beautiful surprise was that no one anticipated just how much this dog would help everyone in the family. I thankfully received this book as a Goodreads giveaway.
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 found it rather childish.
I really disliked how she portrayed Harvey, her husband, when he disagreed with her about getting a service dog. The fact that he seems to be irredeemably stubborn is not at all mitigated by how he comes to appreciate Chancer. It seems to go straight from his rage that Chancer chewed up cell phones and remotes to love.
Since I am acquainted with Donnie, through Russian adoption and fetal alcohol groups, I had to read her book as soon as it came out. I loved Chancer. He was a great pup! I read bits & pieces of the Chancer antics in the Facebook groups, but the book put all the good, hard & funny together. Donnie is very open about their family life in this book. I felt like I was reading a book of my own life at times! It was so comforting to know others have had this same weird, yet normal to us, life.
Chancer is a great calming force for Iyal. Chancer was trained to be a wonderful calm support dog. Support dogs are trained to take a lot of pain away from their person, keep them from getting hurt or eloping, and more. The support dogs are matched very carefully by Four Paws for Ability. They matched Chancer and Iyal perfectly. Thank you for the fun, sad, angry, real book. I know the life.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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 put it all together, the highs, the lows, and the teaching. I love this story. I loved that it made me cry, that it touched my heart and soul the way it did.
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 safe; when a dog’s canine calm opens a gateway to words locked away in a neuronal safe, yearning to be freed; when a furry paw reaches around the boy’s sleeping body, embracing his charge; and when a dog’s love penetrates the barriers of others’ unrealistic expectations and misinterpretations.”
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 would like to learn more about FASD and how a dog and his family shared life together. Thank you again
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 already becoming hazy. This is definitely a book that will not be remembered for long, other than the cute dog on the book cover.
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 me.
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.
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 or known about. Highly recommend this book!
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.
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 to read.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.