Pet Connections


An Unlikely Tale of Unconditional Love

In THE WRONG DOG, New York Times bestselling author David Elliot Cohen tells the humorous, engaging story of what happens when puppy pick-up instructions go disastrously awry and a boisterous rough-and-tumble ball of energy bursts onto the family scene. So begins the chronicle of the unexpected love between a big family and their giant lug of a high-spirited Lab that culminates in a once-in-a-lifetime road trip, revels in the glories of the human-canine relationship and, along the way, ponders the crucial difference between a good death and a bad death. In a memoir as poignant as it is funny, Cohen shares the true story of Simba II, a ninety-pound white Labrador retriever with honey-dipped ears and a proud bearing.

Simba enjoys most of his fourteen years living with his large blended family in bucolic Marin County, California. But then, when he is old and ailing, the family has to relocate across the country. The initial plan is to fly Simba to New York but when the vet examines the ancient dog two weeks prior to the prospective flight, she nixes that idea, citing Simba’s failing health. With the rest of his family already in Manhattan, Cohen and his best friend Erick decide that their only choice is to load Simba into the back of the family station wagon and embark on a 3,291-mile road trip across America. The goal of the journey: to reunite Simba with his loving family while hitting some of the high spots along the way—a mission complicated by the fact that Simba can only ride in the car three hours at a time without getting sick.

Together, this trio of unlikely adventurers motors coast to coast encountering mobs of Las Vegas tourists who want to shower Simba with affection, his sheer delight as he romps through the Petrified Forest and a host of wacky Route 66 oddities, including the world’s tallest thermometer, Meteor Crater, Cadillac Ranch and Graceland. The constant question is: Will Simba live long enough to make it to New York City?

Cohen stopped along the way in his home town of Pittsburgh to visit his ailing parents. Traveling east bound into the city he describes his homecoming: “By noon, we found ourselves emerging into eye-blinking daylight from Pittsburgh’s half-mile long Fort Pitt Tunnel. The tunnel deposited us directly onto the Fort Pitt Bridge. And from there, we had a magnificent view of the Steel City’s dozen or so skyscrapers, which occupy a compact triangle of land bounded by two wide rivers—the Monongahela and Allegheny—that merge at that point to form the mighty Ohio. For my money, it’s the most beautiful cityscape in America—but I’m a born-and-bred western PA guy, so take that with a grain of salt.”

Cohen’s arrival in Pittsburgh is bittersweet when he quickly finds that in the six months since he had last visited, his mother’s health had declined drastically.

They leave the city after a sad couple of days, and it would ultimately be the last visit Cohen would have with his mother. He later reflects on this poignant realization, making the contrast in the book regarding his mother’s difficult passing and Simba’s meaningful transition.

THE WRONG DOG is an insightful story filled with historical and geographic trivia and told with self-deprecating wit and mature perception. It lovingly reminds readers that a good death is our final blessing.

Without giving up more of this heart-warming story of this must read, it continues as Cohen travels on to New York city with Erick and Simba to reunite with his wife and their family.

The amazing trip across the country and personal journey, brought about an acute awareness of the Human-Animal Bond in Cohen, inspiring him to share his story with us. 

A friend of Cohen sums it up at the end by saying, “…we don’t love our dogs because they give us unconditional love—even though that’s what everyone says. We love our dogs because they show us that we, ourselves, are capable of loving another being unconditionally.”


Author and editor David Elliot Cohen has created or co-created more than 70 books that have collectively sold more than six million copies. Most were in the very popular Day in the Life and America 24/7 photography book series. Four of Cohen’s books have been New York Times bestsellers. Seven others, including his 1999 travelogue, One Year Off, were national bestsellers in the US or abroad. Cohen has been profiled in The New York Times, People and other major periodicals. He has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered and many other major news programs. He grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania and graduated from Yale University. He lives in Manhattan and Tiburon, California and is married to corporate attorney Laureen Seeger. Together, they have five children…and a dog.


By David Elliot Cohen

Published by Yellow Pear Press


December 14, 2023
December 14, 2023


November 22, 2023