Cowboy & Wills

A Love Story

Cowboy & Wills

Christened “charming” and “winning” by the Washington Post and “touching” by Publishers Weekly, celebrated author Monica Holloway’s deeply moving memoir shares the unforgettable story of an extraordinary little boy and the irresistible puppy who transformed his life.

The day Monica Holloway learns that her lovable, brilliant three-year-old son has autism spectrum disorder, she takes him to buy an aquarium. But what Wills really wants is a puppy, and from the moment Cowboy Carol Lawrence, an overeager and affectionate golden retriever, joins the family, Monica watches as her cautious son steps a little farther into the world.

With his new “sister” Cowboy by his side, Wills finds the courage to invite kids over for playdates, conquer his debilitating fear of water, and finally sleep in his own bed with the puppy’s paws draped across his small chest. And when Cowboy turns out to need her new family as much as they need her, they discover just how much she has taught them about devotion, loyalty, and never giving up.

Sometimes it’s what you don’t know to hope for that saves you. For Monica and Wills, salvation came in the form of a puppy with pale blond fur, chocolate brown eyes, a fondness for chewing the crotch out of underpants, and a limitless capacity for love.
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416595045 | 
  • June 2010
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Cowboy & Wills includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Monica Holloway. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. 


Wills is a bright young boy whose developmental difficulties reveal a diagnosis of high-functioning autism.  Wills and his parents Monica and Michael are almost entirely alone in dealing with this upsetting news—with the exception of Monica’s sister—and so they build their support system from a different place: the pet store.  Soon the house is filled with fish, hermit crabs, turtles—even a rabbit.  Finally, there is only one pet missing: a puppy.  After years of promising Wills a dog, one Christmas a gorgeous golden retriever named Cowboy comes home to the Price family.  Cowboy’s presence by Wills’s side begins to make the world feel safe to him, and he progresses with a speed his parents only imagined.  Within a year, however, Monica and Michael realize that their beautiful and supportive puppy is terminally ill with Lupus.  And soon Wills will have to cope with the thought of losing his very best friend.

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About the Author

Monica Holloway
Photo Credit: Russell Baer

Monica Holloway

Monica Holloway is the critically acclaimed author of the memoir Driving with Dead People. She has contributed to the anthology Mommy Wars, from which her essay "Red Boots and Cole Haans" was described by Newsday as "brilliant, grimly hilarious." She lives in Los Angeles with her family.