Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Dog Days of Christmas, 2017 edition: 2. Holiday Classics

Every year we watch some of the same holiday movies – plus some new ones, some of which become classics to watch over and over again as children, then with our children and grands. The same goes for books. Today, DogEvals shares some of our favorites that we have reviewed over the years – some are little known, all are classics.

Movies (in order of our likes and preferences for the family)

Santa’s Dog (one movie, four different front covers) (yellow lab or lovely friendly talkative pit bull, orphan boy)

The Dog Who Saved . . . . (Christmas, Christmas Vacation, the Holidays, Halloween, Summer Vacation, Easter) (yellow labs, pup, Christmas, family) Reminiscent of those golden retriever pupster in “Air Bud,” this ‘series’ is lovable.

Kayla Not about the holidays but set in a Canadian winter (dogs, kids, Canada, dog sled, winter, growing up, 1920)

All I Want for Christmas is You, Mariah Carey’s cartoon based on her book of the same name

Golden Winter (pups, Christmas, loyalty, slapstick criminals)


The Dogs of Christmas  (Colorado, family, giving, puppies)
tied with

The Tale of Rescue  (dog, snow), an NPR pick for winter reading

Enjoy your family viewing and reading time the next couple of weeks!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Book Review: The Dogs of Christmas (Colorado, family, giving, puppies)

The Dogs of Christmas: A Novel, by W. Bruce Cameron (Tom Doherty Associates, 2013, 238 pages, $15.99)

“The Phone Rang.”

And so begins one of the best books of 2017 (even if it was written in 2013).  DogEvals wonders why it has not been made into a movie yet, like author W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose* (see below).
When The Dogs does become a movie, it will appeal to whole families in their entirety – from sentimental mothers to the guys they married to their little girls and even their young boys.

Although Christmas appears in the title and in the book, The Dogs of Christmas is an autumn book that needn’t be saved for December unless you want to read it at least twice, like I ended up doing!

Almost A+

Every once in a while – like once a year – this reviewer stays up all night to savor and finish a grand reading experience. The Dogs of Christmas was this year’s winner and it took until December to find.

What’s it All About?

First of all, The Dogs of Christmas seems so real that you have to come back down to Earth and think twice to realize it’s a novel: from the daily changing fall weather in Colorado you remember from growing up in the West, to the love interest-relationship (on-again, off-again) that everyone is constantly rooting for but realize ‘that’s life,’ to friends’ setting Josh up with one gorgeous blind date after another to the twists and turns of the futures of the dogs and puppies - and family and love – and giving up and receiving more than what was given – such a hard lesson for a computer guy.

Our Josh, a computer nerd living in his childhood home on a hilltop in Colorado is a dumpee – the reluctant recipient of a very pregnant dog - just a couple of days before the puppies are due: Josh who has never even had a dog in his life is now faced with several, including some very new and small dependent lives.

Josh researches everything on the internet: from cooking Thanksgiving dinner (a fiasco) to taking the temperature of his new and very pregnant dog.

Being a novice, he enlists the ‘help’ of a veterinarian and the more empathetic tutelage of puppy-lover and shelter-worker Kerri, the latter of whom is wise and wonderful – and vulnerable, too.

Five Puppies Later

Fortunately, five puppies with very different personalities (and names)(and even futures) came to land in the back of Josh’ pick-up and, fortunately again, Josh loses his job so he has the time to be entranced by the five little deaf and blind critters that he can’t keep his eyes off – and to learn “all about puppies” (thanks to the internet and Kerri).

Ah, what is better than to spend one’s days watching puppies sleep - and smelling that enchanting, intoxicating puppy breath.

Our Protagonist Proceeds to Fall in Love with . . . . Seven!

Five puppies, Lucy the dog, and Kerri the wise and wonderful dog-person. Enter Amanda, the former girl friend. . . . and Kerri must convince Josh to give the puppies up for adoption to good homes and then Lucy-the-dog’s owner turns up and . . . .

A Realistic Tear-Jerker You Will Want to Read Again the Next Day!

I did!

But, there is nothing sad about The Dogs of Christmas or, at least, should I say that everything has such a believable yet unforeseen happy twist that you will smile and keep reading through your tears.

Merry Christmas everyone – from The Dogs of Christmas! Enjoy the read - you may just become a better person for it.

*See DogEvals’ review of Ellie’s Story here.
Sterling quotes:

Page 86 “Why hadn’t anyone told him about this, about having a dog? That it made every moment more important, that it somehow brought the best stuff to the surface of the day?”

Page 95 “Lucy [dog] forgave him though – that seemed to be what dogs did, they immediately cancelled any grudges, forgave any offense just because it was so much more fun to be friends.”

Page 180 about puppies coming in from playing in the snow: “. . .feet leaving tiny puddles of melt water that glittered on the floor like jewels.”

Page 207 about separating litters of puppies when adopting them out from a shelter: “We’re not breaking families. We’re making families.” and “. . .being with us is a dog’s purpose,” because “living away from humans. . . is unnatural for them. They aren’t happy.”

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Dog Days of Christmas, 2017 edition: 1. Collars Galore!

For a few years, a few years ago, DogEvals would publish The Twelve Dog Days of Christmas, with every day focusing on the best dog collars or dog leashes or dog toys or dog artists or dog books. This year we are resurrecting it a bit with today featuring the best dog collars. Our choices have not changed over the years, which means we selected wisely in 2014 and 2013 and before and since.

So, Here They Are!

In no particular order DogEvals loves Comfort Flex and Spiffy Dog collars for their light-weightness and dry-ability. For preppiness, we like Black Dog and for cozy comfort, Planet Dog. For style, we like the sporty and classic Preston collars if you can find them, and for saving the earth, the Good Dog Company. Finally for safety, nothing can beat the PlaySafe and KeepSafe collars.

An excellent choice for both safety and comfort, this lightly padded nylon collar slips over Fido’s head. Reflective strapping makes this collar easy to see in low light, like at dusk. We like blaze orange, bright purple (the new color of the year) and, of course, burgundy but Comfort Flex calls their colors hunter orange, purple and red, neon pink, berry, saffron, kelly green, blue jay, mariner, raven and Bordeaux. This collar will last at $18.50.

Spiffy Dog makes a quick-drying air collar that is lighter than air from $15.99. In 26 different colors and patterns, this Colorado company also has key chains to match the dog collars (or to function as zipper pulls or luggage identifiers).

My lab looks spiffy in his navy snowflake Spiffy Dog collar.

Born in 2001, Steamboat Springs serves as the perfect four-season testing arena for the Spiffy Dog products. Spiffy also make discs, dog beds and blankets, and three-foot leashes.

What would a black dog want but a Black Dog collar! The Dog on Dock collar can be either a standard collar or a limited slip collar ($28).

The classic collar ($28) has a plastic buckle and bones that shine when light flashes on them.

The striped collar features a black dog on the metal buckle for $32.

The Black Dog, founded in 1971, can be found on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts but Black Dog clothing and mugs are seen all over the world. Originally and still today a tavern, the Black Dog was named after a character in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and the proprietor’s best friend.

Planet Dog, Eco-Friendly and Comfortable

Planet Dog uses hemp, a strong fiber that stands up to years of salt-water swims, mud puddle bathe, snowy romps and rolls in the sand – medium and large collars are fleece-lined. It softens with age like a favorite pair of jeans – just what you would want to wear if you were a dog.

The 17-year-old store is worth a side-trip to Portland, Maine, if you there for LLBean which also has classy classic dog stuff.

The Good Dog Company of North Carolina

Another eco-friendly Colorado-born and North Carolina-living company, The Good Dog Company has super soft corduroy hemp collars in nine luscious colors with matching leashes and key chairs. This chocolate lab on the right
is modeling a pink hemp corduroy harness and below, the pupster is wearing basic red.

And, Finally, . . . Safe Collars!

We all know that, for safety reasons, dogs should take off their collars when they play and when they are home alone, in case the collar gets caught on something. But how many dogs take the time to do that? With a break-away collar like the KeepSafe collar, below,
you need not fear: the collar will release itself. And every dog should also have a PlaySafe collar
(a bit harder to find online  but worth it), right, which is easy to remove by a dog day camp staff member with the quick-release Velcro release.

And Now, . . .

Go shop for your best friend. Doesn’t he deserve a spiffy new collar? 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Book Review: The Prince and the Pooch (Wishbone, kids)

The Prince and the Pooch (book 3 of 21 in the series, The Adventures of Wishbone) by Caroline Leavitt (Scholastic, 1997, 144 pages, ages 8 and up, grades 3-6)

Everyone younger than a high school graduate grew up with Wishbone, that lovable Jack Russell Terrier (Parsons Russell Terrier now) mutt who talks (but nobody listens), gets into trouble and out of it again, and saves the day, solving the mystery.

But, did you know that Wishbone also helps teach the literary classics? And makes them fun for kids (and a quick review for parents).

We picked up The Prince and the Pooch and can’t wait to get the others!

Two Stories in One!

In The Prince and the Pooch, Wishbone is the star – actually both stars – of Mark Twain’s fun story about a prince and a pauper who look so much alike that they can change places for a few days. Each soon learns a double lesson: there is no place like home, and one can improve the lives of others. Somehow we have no trouble with the fact that only Wishbone is a dog while all the other characters are human: they can all understand each other’s ‘speech.’

Wishbone narrates and acts in a currentday story of young Joe thrust into the position of coaching 5-year-old girls at T-ball, which drives him crazy. They run away from balls, they braid their hair during games (really? A 5-year-old can do that?), they get distracted and would rather pet Wishbone than try (and fail) to hit when it’s their turn to bat.

Or, Three Stories. . . .

Chapters alternate between the nowadays story of coaching the girls with the olden-day story of British royalty and poverty but they all manage to come to a successful conclusion at the same time.

Now, we can’t wait to read Hunchdog of Notre Dame, A Tale of Two Sitters, Be a Wolf!, Gullifur’s Travels, Digging to the Center of the Earth, Moby Dog, Robinhound Crusoe, The Pawloined Paper, Homer Sweet Homer, A Pup in King Arthur’s Court, Ivanhound, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Dog, . . .

Bonus for Parents

Can you remember the actual title of the classic, after Wishbone has ‘modified’ the names of some of them? Even the front book covers are familiar.