Give the Dog a Bone, An Allie Babcock Mystery, by Leslie O'Kane, 2002, paperback, Fawcett/Ballantine/Random House
Lately, I've been reading 'outside the box.' Instead of dog training and behavior books (non-fiction), I've tried to sample canine mysteries and children's dog stories. I even waded through a romance novel that purportedly had dogs and spies somewhere in its pages.
I spied Give the Dog a Bone as I was leaving the library so I grabbed it. Surprisingly, it was good. I read it overnight.
Many dog novels barely mention the dog. Give the Dog had dogs in every chapter. The main character is a dog trainer who specializes in behavior problems and calls herself a dog therapist (though the back cover refers to Allie as a canine shrink) with three dogs herself (Sage, Doppler and Pavlov - and T-Rex is a changeling black lab).
And best of all, most of the dog references in the book concern positive reinforcement (reward-based training rather than force-based training). And, for 2002, that was more rare than today.
I held my breath at Allida's first session with Ken and his golden retriever Maggie when the trainer pulled two devices out of her bag (page 29). I was dreading the choke chain and shock collar. So, imagine my delight when she pulled out a clicker and Gentle Leader head collar! Yippy Skippy!
I would recommend this book for trainers to give their mystery-fan clients who can't finish a boring dog training manual. It's a quick read. Trainer and client can then discuss why Allida's gentle, dog-friendly training really works so well compared to popular TV shows.
This book has it all in Boulder, Colorado: a female sleuthhound, a dead millionaire, trailer park bodies and bones, stolen drugs (acepromazine and Chlomicalm), psychics in purple, a dead ex-wife who suddenly re-appears, separation anxiety, a neglected Akita, rambunctious JRTs, thunderphobia, desensitization, phosphorous pellets, HypnoReiki, stolen answering machines, an adversarial veterinarian - I can't wait for the movie!
As for me, I'm going to buy Ruff Way to Go and Play Dead for my next weekend at the beach!
(This review first appeared in GRREAT News, May-Jun 2011.)