One of our recommended books is Oliver by Steven Carino

OLIVER


He Was Searching for a Lost Dog. He Found More Than He’d Ever Hoped For.

On Valentine’s Day 2019, someone stole Steven Carino’s dog, Oliver, from his car. Having lost his mother at thirteen and grown up with an alcoholic father, he could always count on his dogs for comfort and company. But now, with his beloved Oliver missing, Steven felt utterly alone.

Then, the miracle. In a series of near-impossible coincidences, people from different walks of life crossed paths with Oliver and with Steven. Hardworking immigrants, wealthy suburbanites, car mechanics, deli workers, old friends,

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He Was Searching for a Lost Dog. He Found More Than He’d Ever Hoped For.

On Valentine’s Day 2019, someone stole Steven Carino’s dog, Oliver, from his car. Having lost his mother at thirteen and grown up with an alcoholic father, he could always count on his dogs for comfort and company. But now, with his beloved Oliver missing, Steven felt utterly alone.

Then, the miracle. In a series of near-impossible coincidences, people from different walks of life crossed paths with Oliver and with Steven. Hardworking immigrants, wealthy suburbanites, car mechanics, deli workers, old friends, close relatives, street cops, gang members, a TV news reporter, social media followers around the world, and one very gifted hairdresser all played a part in Steven’s desperate journey to find Oliver. In the middle of it all, Steven realized that no one is ever truly alone–and that the power of community can be life-changing.

Oliver is not just a book about a stolen dog. At its core, it’s a story about kindness, friendship, and the power of faith. As Steven says, “This is more than just a dog story. This is an everybody story. This is a love story.”

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  • Thomas Nelson
  • Paperback
  • January 2021
  • 240 Pages
  • 9781400223237

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$18.99

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About Steven J. Carino

Steven J. Carino is the author of OliverSteven Carino was born in Huntington, New York. The youngest of five children, he graduated from SUNY Brockport with a Bachelor of Science in American History. He worked as a DJ in New York City before launching careers in advertising and real estate and starting his own employment agency. Today, Steven has his own driving business and lives in a cottage in Bedford, New York, with his best friend, Oliver, and an array of sheep, goats, chickens, a horse, a rooster, and a mini-cow named Anna Belle. Oliver is Steven’s first book.

Praise

“A lovely and inspiring story of how a community helped a man reunite with his very special soulmate, Oliver, and how their experience transformed the two of them. This book is a definite heartwarmer.” —Claudia Kawczynska, editor-in-chief at The Bark

Oliver is a love story of the most extraordinary kind. A man’s frantic journey to find his best friend in the world leads him on a soul-searching trek to find himself through forgiveness and love. It’s a story about feeling alone for so long, and then suddenly being connected to everyone. You’ll need some alone time for this read, and tissues—it’s a deep dive into our own hearts. And it’s what the world needs now.” —Genevieve Piturro, author of Purpose, Passion, and Pajamas and founder of Pajama Program

“As a dog lover and psychologist, I consistently witness the remarkable healing power of the unconditional love and companionability of wet noses and wagging tails. When all seems lost, dogs provide emotional support, stability, and hope. Steven Carino’s tender book is much more than a book about a stolen dog. It is about loss, despair, kindheartedness, friendship, and community. Steven and Oliver were inseparable; traveling companions through life. When Oliver is stolen, Steven is in crisis; forced to confront his beliefs about himself, his family, his relationship with others, and most challenging of all, with God (dog spelled backwards). Oliver is a story of loyalty, perseverance, transformation and renewal. Steven, with the consistent encouragement and ingenuity of his sisters, friends, and strangers, takes a journey to find his dog and unexpectedly, through compassion and empathy, finds himself.” —Dale V. Atkins, PhD, psychologist, media commentator, and coauthor of The Kindness Advantage

Discussion Questions

Prologue

1. Do you think animals can sense our feelings? Why or why not?

2. Describe a special connection you’ve had with an animal. What made it so special?

3. Do you believe that animals have thoughts and feelings? Why or why not?

4. Do you believe animals can “change the fundamental way we look at the world? Explain.

5. Do you believe animals can “fix what is broken inside us”? Why or why not?

Chapter 1

1. Describe a time when you were running late and could do nothing about it. How did you feel?

2. Are you the type of person who worries about what other people think of you? Explain.

3. Describe the most eccentric person you know.

4. Would you like to take your pet to work with you? Why or why not?

5. If you have a pet, how does he/she communicate with you?

Chapter 2

1. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did it come true or not?

2. How do you like to unwind at the end of a stressful day?

3. Have you ever lost something precious? How did you feel? Explain the situation.

4. Describe a time when something was taken from you. How did that make you feel?

5. If you had been in Carino’s situation, what would you have done?

Chapter 3

1. Describe a time in your life when you felt hopeless in a situation that was completely out of your control.

2. For Carino, driving was his escape. What’s yours?

3. Have you ever had to come to terms with something that you didn’t want to face? Explain.

4. When was the last time you were in deep shock about something? Explain what happened.

5. Carino’s sister Laura was his go-to person. Who is yours?

Chapter 4

1. Who brings order to the chaos in your life? You or someone else? Explain.

2. Where do you turn for help when you feel panicked or hopeless?

3. Carino second-guessed his decision to leave the parking lot. Why do you think he did that?

4. How often do you second-guess yourself and your decisions?

5. When you experience something traumatic, how much does it affect your sleep?

Chapter 5

1. Would you consider yourself more of an introvert or extrovert, and why?

2. When have you witnessed animals bringing out the best in people?

3. Describe a time in your life when you were angry at God or blamed Him for something.

4. When you are faced with a crisis, how do you handle it?

5. Who is the most determined person you know? How do they show their determination?

6. Who was your childhood hero, and why?

Chapter 6

1. Have you ever felt as though you would like to pack up and leave due to a negative or difficult situation? If so, what caused you to feel that way?

2. Have you ever changed your mind about something because of an animal? What happened?

3. Describe a time in which a stranger became like family to you.

4. What is your favorite verse to read when you are in deep despair? How do you help others who are in despair?

5. When have you experienced or witnessed deep anger over an injustice?

Chapter 7

1. Describe a time when you overreacted and lashed out at someone who was trying to help you. Did you end up apologizing for your actions?

2. Would you have had the courage to speak on television about your lost dog? Why or why not?

3. How can a little kindness bring hope to someone who is feeling desperate?

4. Do you agree with Alan that sometimes bad things happen in our lives to prevent even worse things from happening? Why or why not?

5. Do you believe that things happen in life for a reason? Explain.

6. What do you think Carino meant by “losing Oliver was not the end of something but actually just the beginning”?

Chapter 8

1. How do you prevent dark, desperate thoughts from overtaking you when you’re walking through a crisis?

2. Why are logic and reason important and beneficial in the midst of a disaster?

3. How does dealing with a crisis through our emotions help or hurt the outcome?

4. What are the pros and cons of overthinking a situation?

5. In what ways can you relate with Carino’s feelings of peace during a crisis?

Chapter 9

1. Why do we sometimes tell people we don’t need help when we really do?

2. What was your first real job? How did the experience shape you?

3. Why do you think that sharing our desperate situation with someone else who is in a similar situation can be helpful and even healing?

4. Why do you think that being around people—especially when we are at our lowest point—is so important?

5. Have you ever hidden your own pain or struggle out of concern or respect for someone else? Explain.

Chapter 10

1. If you have siblings, describe your relationship with them when you were younger and then when you were older. How has your relationship changed over time? How has it stayed the same?

2. Why do you think it’s important to surround ourselves with the “right people” when we’re facing a difficult situation?

3. What are the benefits of having many people work together to solve a problem?

4. Is it easy or difficult for you to show emotion? Explain.

5. Do you think it’s better to let your emotions out or hold them in? Why?

6. How can going through a difficulty help us see the good in our lives and the world?

Chapter 11

1. How can a “change of pace” to get our minds off things help us deal with difficult circumstances more effectively?

2. Have you ever felt “sapped . . . of purpose and desire”? What pulled you out of it?

3. Describe how you learned to drive a vehicle.

4. What were some of your childhood accomplishments? What were you good at?

5. Is it easy or difficult for you to accept a blessing from someone else? Why? Explain.

Chapter 12

1. Describe a time when someone contacted you unexpectedly, and it was exactly what you needed to go on, make a decision, or change your perspective.

2. How does knowing you’re not alone help you face a crisis?

3. Describe a time when a stranger showed you unexpected compassion or kindness.

4. Our self-talk is powerful. How do you talk to yourself?

5. Would you describe yourself as a patient person or an impatient person? Explain.

Chapter 13

1. What is your favorite type of music, and why?

2. Is there a song or artist that is especially significant to you because it’s connected to a memory or feeling? Explain.

3. Take a moment to consider all the people—acquaintances, friends, and family—who truly love you. How does this make you feel?

4. How do you think focusing on love and forgiveness serves us better than focusing on anger and resentment?

5. How does belonging to a community change your perspective and even change how you handle challenges?

Chapter 14

1. In what kind of community did you grow up?

2. What are the benefits of growing up in a close-knit community where people look out for each other? Have you ever experienced this? Explain.

3. When have you seen the members of a community come together to help one another?

4. Why do you think some people end up becoming troublemakers while others don’t?

5. If you realized that you had found someone’s stolen dog, what would you do?

Chapter 15

1. Consider a time when you were in a desperate place. Who or what helped you break through the desperation and find hope?

2. How can you relate to Carino’s description of two sides to the storm?

3. Do you agree with Carino’s statement that “inherently, we all want to be good”? Why or why not?

4. Do you think it’s possible to be too honest or vulnerable with others? Explain.

5. Have you ever been filled with hope only to be disappointed later? What happened? Did this make you more cautious to hope in the future?

Chapter 16

1. Why do you think some people believe in miracles for others but not for themselves?

2. Have you ever ignored all the warning signs and made a decision anyway? How did things turn out?

3. Have you or someone you know ever struggled with substance abuse? What were the results, and how did this affect your relationship?

4. Why do you think we can be so self-critical sometimes? How can we break this unhealthy cycle?

5. Many people search their whole lives for inner peace. How do we really find inner peace?

6. In general, how do you handle setbacks?

Chapter 17

1. Would you describe your current city or town as ethnically diverse? Why or why not?

2. How would you have felt about confronting a kid with a questionable reputation about your stolen dog?

3. When have you witnessed the power of teamwork successfully solve a problem?

4. Who do you know that looks rough on the outside but is actually a very kind person? Describe that person.

5. Who is a friend that you would do absolutely anything for? Why would you do so for that person?

Chapter 18

1. Do you think the chaos and stress in our lives also affects our pets? Why?

2. Did you grieve the loss of any pets when you were growing up? If so, how did your loss affect you?

3. Animals often offer us unconditional love and emotional support. Why do you think they do this?

4. Do you think animals can sense whether a situation is good or bad for us and try to communicate this information to us? Explain.

5. How do you think a special connection happens between a person and an animal?

Chapter 19

1. Have you ever helped a complete stranger simply because you were compelled by their need or their story? Explain.

2. Why is it unwise to make assumptions about people or places that we really don’t know? Do you have an example of this you can share?

3. How does changing our location and gaining a different perspective help change our attitude and outlook?

4. Would you have persevered as much as Carino and his friends in searching for your lost pet? Why or why not?

5. Does going down the road of “what ifs” give us hope or steal our hope? Why?

6. Why do you think love and compassion are more powerful than hate and judgment?

7. Describe a time when someone showed you extraordinary love and empathy.

Chapter 20

1. Do you think it was a good idea for Carino to put away all of Oliver’s things? Why or why not?

2. How do you think depression and desperation prevent us from seeing the beauty around us?

3. Why is it so important to dwell on what we have instead of what we’ve lost?

4. Do you agree with “the idea that life’s hardest challenges are, in a way, gifts from the Lord”? Explain.

5. Carino says, “It isn’t so much what you have but what you believe that defines who you are and how you live.” Have you found this to be true in your life? Explain.

6. Have you ever faced a mountain that completely challenged your faith and everything you believe? If so, what did you learn during that process?

Chapter 21

1. How do you think Carino’s attitude of love and kindness helped open the door in a very awkward situation?

2. Do you think Donna and Del would have been as willing to help if Carino had had an angry, spiteful, judgmental attitude? Why or why not?

3. What do you think compelled Carino to give Donna money? Would you have done the same? Why or why not?

4. Explain how wisdom helps us see trials as “opportunities to show [our] trust in God.”

5. Waiting for answers can be excruciating. Describe a time in your life when you were waiting for an answer or result. How did you hold off the dark, hopeless thoughts as you waited?

6. What are the benefits of emptying our hearts of hate?

Chapter 22

1. Do you tend to imagine the best or the worst case scenarios? Why do you think that is?

2. Do you think there are benefits to playing out “worst case scenarios” in our heads? Why or why not?

3. How can asking “what if” questions help comfort us? How can those questions lead to anxiety?

4. At this point, would you have given up hope of ever finding Oliver? Why or why not?

Chapter 23

1. Do you believe in love at first sight? Explain.

2. Why do you think some dreams and goals are fulfilled while others aren’t?

3. What do you think is the secret to achieving success in life, marriage, or business?

4. Do you believe in divine appointments or luck? Explain.

5. Why do you think Manny decided to keep the lost dog?

Chapter 24

1. What do you do when your faith and hope begin to waver?

2. Why do you think empathy is such a powerful emotion?

3. How does empathy bring people together?

4. Why is it so important to acknowledge the accomplishments of others?

5. Why do you think forgiveness is such a powerful choice?

Chapter 25

1. Have you ever shown kindness to a stray animal? What happened?

2. Would you have kept the lost dog or taken it to a shelter? Why?

3. Sometimes showing kindness costs us something. Describe a time when it cost you something to demonstrate kindness to someone. Was it worth it?

4. Why is it important to pay attention to how others feel?

5. Because of traffic, Manny took a different route than usual, which resulted in him seeing the flyer on the pole. Do you think this was divine intervention or luck? Why?

Chapter 26

1. How does keeping busy and productive during a crisis help one’s attitude and mood?

2. Have you ever been super close to achieving something, but you still come up short? Describe the situation. Did you ever get what you were striving for?

3. Why do you think addressing someone by name is so powerful and meaningful?

4. Would you have felt happy but also a little sad like Walaa upon finding Oliver’s owner?

5. Describe a time when you finally received or achieved what you had been yearning so much for.

Chapter 27

1. Carino’s reunion with Oliver was more than a private celebration. How did this make Oliver’s homecoming even more special?

2. How did the Mount Vernon community benefit from Carino’s unending search for Oliver?

3. How did Carino benefit from involving the Mount Vernon community in his search?

4. How do we benefit by inviting others to support and help us during times of crisis?

5. How do others benefit by supporting us and sharing in our victory?

6. Have you ever completely surrendered to God like Carino did after he got Oscar back? If so, what was the situation?

Chapter 28

1. Describe the importance of having and expressing gratitude, especially when you’ve been supported and loved during a crisis.

2. Why is it important to celebrate the victories in life?

3. Why is it beneficial to allow the difficulties in life to change us for the better?

4. How have the mountains you’ve faced changed you? Explain.

5. What makes you “feel like the richest [person] in town”?

6. How can experiencing a crisis help us appreciate the simple things in life more fully?

7. Would you have reached out to Del with kindness and offered to get him his own dog? Why or why not?

Conclusion

1. If you have a pet, do you feel you have a good understanding of its thoughts and feelings?

2. Do you think your pet understands your thoughts and feelings? Why or why not?

3. Have you ever felt abandoned or disconnected from God? Explain.

4. Do you agree that just being “alive means to face just such tests all the time”? Why or why not?

5. As you face future tests, how can you use “God’s tools”—wisdom, understanding, compassion and love?

6. What did you gain by reading this book?

7. How would you describe this book to a friend?