Tom and Ashley Farmen and their dog Bessie visited our school this week. Our students and teachers enjoyed hearing the story of Bessie and the challenges she has overcome. Bessie has adapted to blindness without missing a beat. Her perseverance and playful demeanor reminds us to make the most of difficult circumstances. Tom's presentation about Bessie's journey to blindness was positive and uplifting. Our students loved seeing the pictures and videos of Bessie. Having the opportunity to meet and play with Bessie was a huge hit!!

Andrew Chouinard, Principal, Kearsarge Regional Elementary School at Bradford, May 3, 2019


Thank you for sharing Bessie's Story with the world.  My eight year old daughter, loved meeting Bessie and hearing her story.  She went home and instantly opened her autographed book (she proudly showed her dad) and became enchanted.  She has put it down only to eat!  Thank you again for taking the time to bring Bessie's teachings to us all!  

Sarah G. May 2, 2019


I just read, “Bessie’s Story-Watching the Lights Go Out,” while on vacation in South Carolina and give it 5 Stars! I love how the author cleverly combines both humor and empathy throughout the story while he brings us along on Bessie’s journey. This is an inspirational book with a great message for us all to remember, which is to appreciate what we have, be brave, live in the moment… and have some fun!

S. Linberry, April 27, 2019

I LOVED the book! It was very touching. As a longtime Lab person myself with an older dog who has had an eye removed, it held a special meaningfulness to me. 

Sarah Sherman, editor, ELF (Enjoy Life to the Fullest)  -  March 27, 2019

Well written book. Really makes you think.

JoAnn M. Lyon - March 15, 2019

Thank you so much for the incredible story of your beloved and remarkable dog, Bessie! My niece sent me the copy you signed! The magic is your story about the incredible gift Bessie gave you and that you are sharing with us! What a gift- to learn courage, dignity, and inspiration from your dog! Ours, a yellow lab and a beloved little Cairn keep us humble every day!
Thank you!

Birgit Deeds - March 12, 2019 

Such a lovely book.  Bessie is a neighbor who we love.  This book is a work of Zen.

Midwife75 - March 11, 2019

What a treat it has been to read Bessie’s Story. As the proud dad of four Labs, including two Chocolates, I have shared many of the good times that you describe.  The photos are wonderful; thanks for sharing.  Your life-lessons are especially powerful.

Jack Maguire - March 10, 2019

This is a wonderful gem of a book about an older dog who is going blind, and how the author, Thomas W. Farmen, learns some very important lessons about growing older with both grace, fun, and dignity. Written in simple, focused, and clear prose, he employs his expert pedagogy and his experiences of almost four decades of being a teacher and then Headmaster of a small New England boarding school in rural Connecticut to show that his relationship with his blind dog is not what it seems. It is actually Bessie the Dog who is teaching him some of the lessons that must move him forward through the immense and delicate difficulties of older age. The love he has for his dog and his family are touching. There is even the subtle admission that Farmen may be approaching Buddhism in his older age, as he discusses his trips to the peaceful countrysides of South Korea. While his knowledge of biology is a bit antiquated, and perhaps some of his readers may prefer a fuller discussion about his amazing football career rather than baseball, these negligible flaws never encroach upon the message that this book is trying to convey: that there is a way to age gracefully, if we only start to look at it differently. For those of us who have heard about this legendary teacher and Headmaster from Connecticut, this book is an exquisite collection of his thoughts and philosophies of life and his progressive movement towards older age. For those who have not, I would definitely recommend this book. 

Harvey Havel - February 15, 2019

A heartfelt, fulfilling read! Bessie is a great reminder to us of how to approach what we've been given in life - with our tails wagging - blessings or difficulties. The difficulties are part of our genuine story. I also loved her lesson to never quit just because she gets a bump or a scratch - do any of us really want to be perfectly preserved when we get placed in our graves? As for me, I plan to use up all that I've got and slide into my grave. Live your best life!

Sharon Mikucki - February 5, 2019

Beautifully written. Bless Bessie, her mom and dad and all of the people who love and protect her. Anyone would love this book and Bessie. 

Sherry Kramer - January 8, 2019

Some of life's best lessons are learned by loving our dogs. An inspirational story about an amazing dog and a wonderful man. You'll enjoy this easy to read story. 

K A Kennedy - December 30, 2018 

At the risk of being ostracized by all, I did not love this book because I am a dog lover. Rather, I loved this book because of what Tom Farmen has done in this book. He has thoughtfully journeyed with Bessie, and extrapolated strong messages about how we can face our own physical declines. I appreciated his well-chosen quotes that headed each chapter, and the gentle way he leads the reader to share his insights.

Lyn L. - December 22, 2018

This book is an amazing story of Bessie and what we can learn from her “living in the moment” to the words the author provides for us to realize how blind we can be to what life has to offer us. Read it. Enjoy it. And then go on and live your life like “a Bessie”.

Lauriatn - December 17, 2018

I really enjoyed this book! You don’t even need to be a dog owner or dog lover to appreciate its insightful message!

Zoe A Graboski - December 15, 2018

Best read as a series of short parables, this book provides entertainment and inspiration to both dog-lovers and anyone who is dealing with the slings and arrows of advancing age. Love dogs and getting older? This book is a must read.

Paul L. - December 5, 2018

The writer's intuition on dealing with his canine best friend's progressive blindness is inspiring. A must read !

Lum Cook - November 28, 2018

This was lovely to read. Inspiring message that anyone can relate to. Uplifting. Was relieved at the end to know that Bessie is alive and doing well.

Jen C. - November 28, 2018

Fear not, this is no sob story. Nor do Bessie’s lessons feel like lessons. Tom has conveyed her example of dignity with a “Live in the now” enthusiasm. If Bessie could read she would be pleased that her owner both got the point and expressed it well.

Dane Dicke - November 25, 2018 

The book was amazing, my husband read it in a day. I read it almost in one day myself. The story was very touching if you love dogs.  You can see how the Author and his Wife just love Bessie so much and they are learning so much from her.
We have had dogs in our life and can't imagine having one that goes blind so early, or at all, but they seem to be coping and so is Bessie. I highly recommend this book for anyone, owner of a dog or not, young or old reader.

Steve Foster - November 18, 2018

My husband and I sat side by side and read this book together. A poignant tale of man and his best friend growing older side by side, this book is sure to strike a chord with all who read it. The next “Marley and Me” with the sweetest of chocolate labs as the main character facing her world going dark. This book will touch the hearts of lab lovers and dog lovers everywhere!

Rod MacLeod - November 17, 2018

Wonderful book to curl up with on a cold, windy, late fall afternoon. Heartwarming and poignant yet uplifting at the same time with great messages throughout.

Michael K. - November 10, 2018

This book deeply touched me on several different levels. I personally witnessed Bessie’s journey from next door. Tom did a masterful job telling her story with love, compassion and wit. Tom and Ashley’s dedication to Bessie is truly amazing. I hope that I can apply many of the important life lessons presented in the book in my own struggle to stop mourning the person I used to be in my youth to accepting the person that I am now, including coping with my own physical decline.

Sensei - November 2, 2018

Highly suggest this book to anyone, whether they are dog people or not. It’s a story about life. I read it on the Kindle and couldn't put it down!

Mark Twain - October 24, 2018

This story will capture your heart, inspire you and offer so many inspirational life lessons! The coolest part is we have watched this story unfold over the last several years. Bessie, Tom and Ashley are friends from our lake community and we couldn’t be more excited for them. 5 star read for sure!

Shelly B. - October 23, 2018

In this beautifully written story, Bessie is constantly being challenged as she makes her way through her environment. Bessie's deep trust in Tom , Ashley and dear friends solidify her happiness and confidence as a dog. Just as humans, we need to be able to believe we live in a safe, trusting environment to live a happy life. With positive thought and action we can then appreciate the moment and enjoy the experiences. Trust is one of many themes one can get from this exceptional book. It is a book for all ages, especially those who are dog lovers!

Brenks - October 23, 2018

Even if you don't have a dog, never have had a dog, not a fan of dogs, you will love this story. So just imagine if you have loved a dog; your heart will melt. Wish I could give it 10 stars!

Nancy L. - October 21, 2018

I ordered this book in hardcover but the delivery schedule was so slow (c'mon, Amazon!) that I bought the Kindle version too. Started reading last night and finished early this morning. If you're a dog lover (I just adopted our fourth chocolate lab), if you're human, if you happen to be getting older, if you anticipate getting older, if you know someone who's older, if you're facing retirement or if there's any kind of challenge in your life, Bessie has wonderful lessons for you--and the author articulates them with powerful insights and gentle grace. This book will be my go-to Christmas present for many loved ones--young and not so young--this year. Wishing Bessie a long and continually fulfilling life.

Ccaftan - October 21, 2018

I found "Bessie's Story" to be a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful book. As an owner of a 12-year-old English bulldog who is now almost totally deaf, I also found the experiences of the author and his wife to be similar to our experiences. In our case, we now utilize hand signals to communicate with our dog instead of new forms of verbal communication employed by the author to communicate with Bessie. Any pet owner who has experienced the joys and challenges of caring for an aging or elderly pet will relate to this book.

G.C. - October 13, 2018

I finished your book last night after reading it for the past two evenings.  I enjoyed it very much.  The past two work days have been very busy for me, and the early evenings before I started reading were accompanied by challenges that having a 8th grader sometimes bring.  The perspective, message, and reminder to focus on the positives in the story came at the perfect time for me – thank you!  I also really enjoyed the quotes you selected to start every chapter.  I hope you write another, and that your message in Bessie’s Story hits other readers at the perfect timing that it did for me.

Well done, thanks.

A reader from Manchester, NH

Watching the Lights Go Out is the best book I have read in years.  Each chapter had fun and meaning.  Thank you so much for putting your thoughts down on paper and sharing them.

A reader from Walpole, NH

I have read your book and think it’s great. Thanks for sharing your incredible story with all. It’s funny and moving especially being a dog owner and lover as well.  I really liked the reflective thoughts you included and I admire your love of Bessie as well as your patience. All in all, nice piece of work!

I have hundreds of questions to ask you about how you created such a masterpiece. Fun ready and thought provoking!

Thanks again and I want you to know that I share many of your thoughts as presented throughout the story. 

David Moriarty, Campton, NH

Watching The Lights Go Out by Tom Farmen is a lovely book. It is about a dog who is losing her sight and how she impacted her owners in thoughts of growing older.  I highly recommend this book to all readers.

Polly, Cornish Flat, NH - an email to New Hampshire Public Radio for their 2018 Annual Holiday Book Show

Watching the Lights Go Out is a wonderful first-hand account of living with a pet who is going blind. The stories the author tells of his dear dog Bessie’s struggle with diminishing sight are amusing, heartfelt and uplifting.  This book is also a story of how an innocent, brave canine companion taught her human guardian how to live life to its fullest potential without prejudice or fear.  Keep on fetching, Bessie.  There are still plenty of balls to find!              

Ira Stone, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

I’ve read many inspiring stories about people who never gave up.  Now I add BESSIE’S STORY – Watching the Lights Go Out to the list.  This wonderful dog’s creeping blindness compresses time.  In the process she unknowingly provides a vivid example of how important it is to ‘give it a go’ no matter how many years we have under our belts.  We all know time will bring the inevitable, but right now is all we have with each other and that is good.  Throw the ball one more time, Bessie seems to say.  I’ll find it.                                                                                 

Frank Malone Jr., Father, Grandfather, Godfather, eighty years old

Many know and understand the bond between dogs and their people. Fewer experience the total trust between a sightless dog and her humans. Watching the Lights Go Out beautifully describes the fierce, unwavering love for a dog whose gradual transition to blindness never hampers her enthusiasm for each new day.  This charming, poignant story teaches readers that aging, even with deficits, can be a joyful adventure.  Written with humor and insight, the author leaves you wanting to learn more about his beloved pal Bessie.                                                    

Martha Fairbairn, RN, geriatric nurse