Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Reviews: You Had Me at Woof, and, Love at First Bark - Excellent and Not (dogs, memoirs)


Some authors have only one book in them – but what a book! A good, best-selling author writes magically, has a unique story to tell and knows to go home when the party is over.

Some authors write more than one book but have only one good book in them. Julie Klam is one such author. I simply adored You Had Me at Woof so I eagerly picked up Love at First Bark and found out she has written other books as well. Unfortunately, Klam has only one good book in her – Woof. At least it saved me from the others.


Below you will find both books reviewed, Woof, first.

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness, by Julie Klam (228 pp, 2010, $24.95, Riverhead Books [Penguin])

Whoever said that you can’t tell a book by its cover was right! I passed right by Woof many times in my local bookstore and, frankly, just wasn’t interested after seeing the cover – wrong breed and a little dog at that. I am not a BostonTerrier person (like the cover dog): I’m a Golden Retriever and Lab person, a big dog person.

Fortunately for me, my local library has Woof so I could read it but now I am going to buy it so I can reread it – and keep it!

A 30-something woman working part-time in New York City living in a small apartment, without a boyfriend, gets a dog and, by Chapter 2, is married with a little girl on the way.  She eventually becomes involved with a Boston Terrier rescue organization as well as the ensuing hilarious characters and situations that will have you laughing out loud.

Woof is funny, heartfelt, well-written and just about perfect – in other words, charming.  And if you want a tear-jerker, Woof is that, too. From the senior dog the vet believes has Cushing’s disease but turns out to be pregnant, to the author’s daughter Violet naming the new puppies Wisteria and Fiorello, you will laugh until you cry.

But you will also learn about the trials and tribulations of having a dog and that being involved in dog rescue teaches us how dogs make our lives just a little livelier and lovelier and more worth living.
Somehow, Klam weaves just the right word-pictures to describe her family and their dogs’ antics and her new-found volunteer work rescuing Bostons.

Even when one of her own dogs dies and she waxes eloquently about the human-animal bond, her words fit brilliantly well together to explain what others can only attempt.

Woof is another 24-hour book. You will read it non-stop and wish there were a sequel!
- - - - - -
Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself, by Julie Klam (2011, Riverhead Books, 170pp, $22.95)

Since Love at First Bark was written by the same woman who wrote You Had Me at Woof — almost the funniest and most heart-warming book of 2011 — I had high expectations for Love. My expectations were dashed.

At her best, Klam is hilarious when writing about mundane everyday things: she makes us feel nice and warm and fuzzy inside with her magic prose. She makes doing the laundry suspenseful.

And Klam has a daughter you will love - Violet names her dogs after flowers!

Klam also has the relaxing knack of opening a book or chapter with pages of lovely word-pictures that have you guessing at what the chapter will actually turn out to be about!

Love is a small book with three chapters, each about a different dog “rescue” situation in New York City (author Klam fosters Boston Terriers and has three “interesting” Bostons). I read the shortest story first, which was the third one. I don’t remember what it was about. The second, “My Darling Clementine,” was quite good, but the opening vignette, “Morris, The Pit Bull – Couples Therapist!” quite literally took the cake. It was that good — Klam at her best like she was in Woof.

An interesting cover photo of a (probably) Chocolate/Yellow (depends on which cover you buy)

Lab is especially interesting since neither the dog in story one, a Pit Bull, nor the dog in story two, a Boston Terrier, resemble the cover dog. There is no one dog in story three — just a trip to New Orleans and visits to dog shelters there.

I have often thought that everything has a cover photo of a Golden Retriever or a Lab because those breeds are so photogenic and popular and, yes, it works. I buy just about anything with one of those two breeds on the cover! I guess I’m just the average American sucker of a dog-person for good advertising strategy.

However, besides a great first chapter and a good second one, the immediate inside front and back pages sport a colorful collage of dogs, including a Pit Bull, a Boston Terrier, and, yes, the requisite Lab and Golden!

It seems nowadays that almost all books cost the same, no matter how many pages or how well written. This is a short book in more ways than one.

(This latter review first appeared in GRREAT News, Jan-Feb 2012.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reading to Rover


EverythingDogBlog #50

A New Twist!
Scooter in the Outside
Scooter in the Outside




EverythingDogBlog: Reading to Rover
By Skye Anderson, MS
A New Twist on a Great Program!

What do you see in your mind’s eye when someone mentions ‘Reading to Rover’? Do you picture an elementary school aged child with a book sitting on the floor with a special dog, reading an hour a week to that dog in the school library? Such wonderful programs do exist: one is called READ (Reading Education Assistance Dogs).
Or do you, as I do, picture an adult (like myself) under the covers with a couple of dogs on the bed, reading aloud to the dogs before turning out the light?
Do You Remember. . . ?
Remember how you used to s-l-o-w down at the end of the day (sometimes against your will and fighting the sandman) and savor being read to by Mom or Dad or your favorite babysitter (or Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird)? How even if you had read the same book many times, it was always different? How each time you heard it, wonderous new images appeared in your mind? How you hardly ever stayed awake long enough to hear the end of the story (but knew it anyway because it was your favorite)?
As you grew older, you read to yourself (sometimes under the covers by flashlight), or talked to your brother or sister in the next bed until one of you stopped answering.
Permission Granted
Now, you can once again frequent the Children’s Section at your favorite library or bookstore. You have permission to get the familiar The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy (1958) or the Biscuit Learns To Read books or the Carl The Lovely Rottweiler Babysitter or Clifford The Big Red Dog books. Or discover new ones.
Talk with the children’s librarian, a specialist. Scan the list of dog books scheduled for Story Time. Visit during Story Time! You can eavesdrop and stand just out of sight if you like. Act like you are doing research and take notes.
Check out a half dozen of these familiar old friends or make new ones. Nobody needs to know they are for you (and your dog). Perhaps you can say your grandchildren are coming to visit if you feel an explanation is necessary (It isn’t. Trust me).
The Beginnings of My Reading to Rover
I attend a couple of dog camps where we stay in a cabin or tent with other campers and our dogs. After a hard day of playing and swimming, we chat from our beds, perhaps over a glass of wine. One night, I pulled out a children’s book that I had snuck in my suitcase and tiptoed over to the dogs chewing on their goodnight antlers and stuffed kongs. I sat on the floor and began to softly read to the dogs.
Soon, the chatter in the cabin ceased and everyone listened. One by one, the lights went out and my cabinmates lay there in the dark, transported backward in time a few decades. The dogs also stopped masticating and stretched out. Of course, I was slow turning the pages because I had one hand on my own dog doing a gentle massage.
I finished the last page, turned out the light and went to my bed, followed by the silent pitter patter of my dog and others. They jumped up on their people’s bed and snuggled.
The next thing I knew, it was a bright sunshiny morning and we all woke up refreshed, stretching snugly in our sleeping bags and smiling to our dogs.
You can have this same feeling at home, simply by reading to your dog. Not necessarily every night, just every once in a while – but every night is fine, too. Perhaps on the 4th of July or Halloween or any night in between. Your dog will easily get used to the new routine, even if it is not every night. But, why not? There are a lot of good books out there!  And sometimes, Rover can use some help settling down.
We know dogs and two-year-olds thrive on routine so, when you get out the books at night and climb into bed, you will be followed (or proceeded) by dogs who stretch out, looking at you, then closing their eyes and just listening to you, then, perhaps, snoring gently, totally relaxed.
Ah, the sound of your voice, rhythmically voicing the words and phrases and sentences. At first, using good acting techniques of voice variation, then softly intoning.
Your dogs love the sound of your voice. They live for it. This will be a gift to them, the last of this day. Sweet dreams to puppies of all ages!
PS – I used my poetic license in this blog.
My favorite read-along books at night include -
The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy (1958 by Jane Thayer),
I Didn’t Do It and Once I Ate a Pie (2000 by MacLachlan and Charest),
“Let’s Get a Pup,” Said Kate, and “The Trouble with Dogs. . . “ Said Dad (2001 and 2007 by Bob Graham), and
Scooter in the Outside (2010 by Anne Bowen).
Read More About It (some real Reading to Rover programs!)
(This blog first appeared on ColumbiaPatch.com on 24 June 2013.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Every Dog Has Its Day and Friday May Be Yours!


EverythingDogBlog #49

Why? Friday is Take-Your-Dog-To-Work-Day
Kong dogs work hard every day at the office (photo courtesy http://www.kongcompany.com/2013/06/17/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-kong-office-dog/)
Kong dogs work hard every day at the office (photo courtesy http://www.kongcompany.com/2013/06/17/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-kong-office-dog/)
EverythingDogBlog: Every Dog Has Its Day and Friday May Be Yours!
By Skye Anderson, MS
Why? Because Friday is Take Your Dog To Work Day
Lucky pups and lucky peeps (people) can work together (see photo: courtesy Kong) all day Friday, June 21.
This annual June event was created in 1999 by Pet Sitters International and has been a great hit nationally ever since.
How to Take Your Dog to Work
The first step is to ask your boss, supervisor or manager. With education, you may receive permission. Of course, co-workers need to be in on the planning, too. They may be fearful, concerned that you will not do much work, be allergic (or jealous!).
Here are some FAQ that will help alleviate your boss’ concerns:http://www.petsit.com/tydtwday-planning andhttp://www.takeyourdog.com/About/faqs.php
What To Take Besides Your Dog
You will want to make a list of your dog’s necessities to bring along and include a leash and collar, treats (maybe a stuffed Kong or two) and food, a toy, a blanket or mat, water bowl, maybe a baby gate to enclose off your area, poop bags and clean-up supplies. But most of all, a sense of humor and acceptance for this once a year event.  You might even need a clipboard so colleagues can sign up for a cuddle or snuggle session or a relaxing walk in the great outdoors.
How About Half a Take-Your-Dog-to-Work Day?
If it is not possible to take your best friend to work with you all day, how about half a day? And spend the other half at the park?
Other Activities
Or encourage your office to sponsor a dog at the shelter or hold a “Funny Photo (K-9)” contest or organize a donation bin - bring in a toy, leash, or bag of treats and drop them off at the shelter on the way home.
Maybe the shelter can bring some dogs in for a lunchtime walk and, ahem, petting session.
PS – and have a great day with your best friend!
If you aren’t lucky enough to work in a dog-friendly environment, this might just change everyone’s mind.
Read more about it:
Friday even has its own webpage with song:http://www.takeyourdog.com/About/
Kong, that great dog enrichment company, give us a full day’s report of what one dog does who goes to work every day at Kong! Phoebe goes to work at Kong every day – lucky person!http://www.kongcompany.com/2013/06/17/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-kong-office-dog/
Pet Sitters International (PSI) -http://www.takeyourdog.com/About/
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) -http://www.petsitters.org/
(This blog first appeared on Columbia.Patch.com on 19 June 2013. Photo credit: Kong)

Looking for a New Best Friend?


EverythingDogBlog #48

Dog adoption days on Saturdays at Clipper's Canine Cafe! Come find your lucky dog!

EverythingDogBlog: Dog Adoption Day Schedule at Clipper's Cafe
by Skye Anderson, MS
Thinking of getting a dog? Does your dog want a dog to play with every day? Why not this summer? There is more time in the day for the family to bond to a new best friend. More fun things to do!
And Clipper will help you! Clipper is a yellow lab with a dog store all his own in Savage Mill (Clipper’s  Canine CafĂ©). On Saturdays Clipper invites a dog adoption organization to meet prospective families and then he helps match the available dogs with new forever families. Come on in and meet your new best friend (and Clipper)!
Here is Clipper’s summer schedule:
June 29, 11 am to 2 pm - Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue
July 20, 12 noon to 2 pm - PG County Animal Shelter
July 27, 11 am to 2 pm - Adopt a Boxer Rescue
August 3, 11 am to 2 pm - Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue (Meet and Greet)
August 24, 1 pm  to 3 pm - Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland
August 31, 12 noon to 2 pm - Lucky Dog Animal Rescue
For more information, see www.clipperscaninecafe.com under Events for the calendar. And while you're there, pick up a new toy or treat for Kitty. 
Just tell Cipper that Skye said, "Hi!"
(This blog first appeared on Columbia.Patch.com on 14 June 2103. Photo courtesy of Clipper's Canine Cafe)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Reviews: Lost and Found, and Picture This (dog, chick-books)


Lost and Found by Jacqueline Sheehan (Avon Books, 2007, 307 pp, $13.95 PB)

Picture This by Jacqueline Sheehan (Avon Books, 2012, 400 pp, $14.99 PB)

Definitely chick-books but archery does play a major part, especially in the first book, Lost and Found. A 39-year-old psychologist is widowed (lost) and relocates to an island off the Maine coast, becomes the animal control officer, and finds the dog who ‘heals’ her. Just how this all occurs takes a few hundred pages and will result in a third book in the series, I’m sure.

Picture This features a young photographer and a ‘possible’ new member of the family (not a baby) as well as plenty to be scared about – in a good way.

Chapters oscillate among the half dozen or so female characters of all ages (bravo!), and the dog. The reading is fairly slow but you will continue, hoping it improves which it does: about 50 pages from the end, the narrative becomes quick and quite suspenseful.

The dog chapters – just a few – add something new and charming to the literature of dogs but mostly the human characters live parallel lives. And perhaps the best feature of each book is the cover!

I have decided not to read any more of Sheehan but I’m sure she has a devoted following. Just look at the reviews on Amazon. Who knows – you may just become one of them!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Garden Fresh Plush Toys, Product Evaluation


Product Evaluation: Garden Fresh 'Green' Plush Toys a Hit with Fido and Good for Pets, People and the Planet
 EverythingDogBlog #47
(Photo credits: PetPlay. "Lab-Happy Over Garden Fresh Plush Carrot." "Labbie Works Hard for Garden Fresh Plush Fruits and Veggies."
EverythingDogBlog: BlogPaws* Find! Garden Fresh ‘Green’ Plush Toys for Fido
By Skye Anderson, MS
When is a green toy not green? When it’s a carrot!
(Reminds me of this joke: Question - How do you catch a rabbit? Answer - Hide in the bushes and make a sound like a carrot!)
At the BlogPaws conference I attended recently, I was handed a couple of new Garden Fresh (“Inspired by Healthy Food”) toys to try out, or, rather, to have my dog try out - a pumpkin ($13.50) and a carrot ($8.50) (see photos courtesy of PetPlay).
They are so incredibly soft and big (life size, perhaps, or bigger?), machine-washable, durable, non-toxic, and they have a squeakie inside.
These plush toys are made by PetPlay (www.PetPlay.com) whose website is so full of great information about this green company that it cannot be ‘mined in a day.’
For example, the eco-friendly, certified-safe PlanetFill® filler is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. (I’ve never understood how glass can become so soft.)
As a human, I like the fact that the tag is attached to the toy with heavy string, not a plastic tie. The tag is also made of recycled heavy-paper and includes a carrot cookie recipe for dogs along with information about why carrots are good for you and Fido. Or, in my case, for Mia (the dog). The pumpkin tag included a recipe for PB & Pumpkin cookies for canines. Both recipes are edible by people, too (especially kids), but preferred by dogs.
Also in the new Garden Fresh collection are an apple, a zucchini and a peapod (see photo). The Under The Sea set includes a king crab, a giant clam, a starfish, a giant squid, and a green sea turtle. What fun!
PetPlay (P.L.A.Y. – Pet Lifestyle And You) products are available locally at all five Bark! stores ( www.barknatural.com ) including the Clarksville original store, The Big Bad Woof in Hyattsville (http://www.thebigbadwoof.com/hyattsville), and the Pet Barn in Maple Lawn/Fulton (http://petbarn.net/ ).
*(BlogPaws was a conference I attended recently for dog bloggers and cat bloggers and. . . .)
(This blog first appeared on ColumbiaPatch.com on 10 Jun 2013.)