For generations of my family, the late 19th century novel “Beautiful Joe” has served as a model for morality

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Penn libraries

It’s high summer in Georgian Bay, and I’m with my cousin on the verandah at the cottage. The air smells like history with a dash of vanilla, or maybe that’s from the book I’m holding. The kids — now adults — are down at the smooth granite shore, swimming, diving, laughing, playing stick with the dogs, when Bella takes off again. They shout for her, but the dog doesn’t respond. A black lab with a year under her belt, Bella’s swimming across the bay, trying to catch the bubbles created by her paddling, impervious to the fact that each stroke takes her further from shore. If we let her go off on her own, she’d drown, but that would make us negligent and cruel. …


Catherine Parnell

Communications consultant

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