Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Review: George the Dog, John the Artist (staffy, London, homeless)

George the Dog, John the Artist: A Rescue Story, by John Dolan (Overlook Press, 2015, 303 pages, $25.95)

The plot: Man rescues dog - dog saves man. The End.

But it’s what’s in the middle that counts – drawings of George-the-dog that you may just want to frame.

Love the title! But, . . .

Of course, being a dog-book-reviewer, I love that the dog comes first (in the title). Unfortunately, the dog did not write the book. John-the-artist wrote the book and therefore most of the book is about him and other humans. (But, Dog does save the day)! I would have liked to get to know George more, however. “George, we hardly knew ya’!”

George may just be the most unusual book. . . .

What’s it all about?

Location: London, the neighborhood of street artists

Plot: When a convicted teen is released from prison, his family will not take him back: he spends the next 20 years in and out of trouble – when out, he is homeless. Without a high school diploma, he falls back on his childhood hobby, drawing, as he sits on the streets with his “found dog” George begging nearby.

Style: The prose so far is splotchy, replete with expletives and “British Englishisms” that Americans may not understand but can usually make a pretty guess at. However, when success comes to John and George, the prose becomes more educated, more professional, and less earthy. I wonder if the author was aware of this style change.

Ending: Can John-the-artist turn his life around, get off heroin and off the streets? Does he reconcile with his extended family sibs (a soap opera book in itself!)? George-the-dog tries hard to help just by being a dog who needs to be walked, even early in the morning, and to be fed regularly which necessitates an income – shades of Puppy Chow is Better than Prozac (Bruce Goldstein).

(Secret: I bought the book for the delightful drawings of George-the-dog, a Staffordshire terrier, one of the cutest dogs out there!)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book Review: Puppy Chow (black lab pup, NYC, depression)

Puppy Chow is Better than Prozac,The True Story of a Man and the Dog Who Saved His Life, by Bruce Goldstein (25.00$, 2008, 287 pp,

The Power of a Puppy

Not just another 'Dog Saves Man' book, this book also has photos of a black lab pup as adorable as yellow lab Marley in the movie and book Marley and Me, but in Puppy Chow, Ozzy saves his person rather than becoming the world's worst (but best-loved) dog. And some have purchased Puppy Chow just for the black-on-black lab photos!

The man is a twenty-something college graduate in New York City making a great living in the advertising world but dropping further and further into depression, unemployment, and drugs (chapter: Hurricane Bruce). He can only get out of bed if his good mother phones him in the morning and coaches and coaxes him for 30 minutes to get up and get living (chapter: Mom, I Don't Want To Go To Life Today). He has good friends who also try to save him and, incredibly, stick with him through thick and thin - even when he plays 'The Grinch Who Stole Memorial Day Weekend.' Bruce has a good psychiatrist who puts him on anti-depressants (chapter: Anti-Antidepressants) and he also has a good psychologist who helps save his life (chapter: Tuesdays With Dr. C).

But Bruce's actual hero-without-trying is a black labrador retriever pup he names Ozzy who appears about halfway through the book.

And so it begins, in the middle. . . .

Bruce, on the spur of the moment, decides to get a dog. So he goes shelter-shopping and shelter-shopping but, again, on the spur of the moment and in a hurricane no less, drives with a friend out to Long Island to pick up a black lab pup. Fortunately, the breeder is available 24 hours a day by phone when he panics about what to feed Ozzy and when to walk Ozzy and what do if Ozzy barks and where should Ozzy sleep, and . . . .

The Wizard of Ozzy (“Manic’s Best Friend”)

Ozzy becomes a “. . . Little Black Magnet” for the neighborhood. Bruce and Ozzy can't even walk a block without women stopping to 'ooh and ah' and cuddle the cute little pup (and chat with Bruce). Ozzy brings the whole neighborhood together and Bruce finally meets the people who live in his building (where he has lived for several years).

How Ozzy Saves Bruce (“Bruce, Heal”)

Ozzy saves Bruce by being himself - a puppy who needs someone (Bruce) to take care of him: to feed him, to buy him toys and food (chapter: How Much is That Pig Ear in the Window?), to fill his water bowl, to housetrain him, to take him for walks, to play with him, to pet him, to let him meet people who adore him on sight (chapter: Why Don’t You Call Him Blackie?). Ozzy needs a stable person, as all pups do, and, therefore, forces Bruce into stability. And stability begets love and survival. Bruce is one lucky man and Ozzy is one lucky pup.

With chapters like Diarrhea of a Sad Man and Life Sucks: Then You Die or You Take Lithium, if you can make it through the first third of the book (“Moodswing Memoirs”) to understand Bruce's mental ‘crappiness’ (he’s bipolar), the puppy photos and Bruce’s healing are your reward.

Bruce, when is the movie coming out? When is the poster of Ozzy coming out?

Monday, June 15, 2015

DVD Review: Puppy Culture (all about puppies and simply one of Dog Evals' Ten Best!)

Puppy Culture: An Expert and Comprehensive Video Guide – The Powerful First 12 Weeks that can Shape your Puppy’s Future, by Jane Killion (et al) (produced by When Pigs Fly Dog Training, 2014, 5 hours 17 minutes, [311 minutes], 4 discs – DVD/Blu-Ray/video on demand, $69.95/$99.95/$59.95)

Who: Anyone getting a puppy plus breeders; trainers, too!
What: Puppy Culture DVDs
When: Now (all you need to know about puppies from before birth to 12 weeks old)
Why: Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Learn how puppies develop and what they learn before they come home with us. Learn how we can help or hinder the process of who they are and become, as breeders in the early days and weeks, and as puppy-people once we start to share our home with a puppy. Learn from the experts.

“Expert and Comprehensive”- Absolutely!

This reviewer has reviewed books, movies, CDs and DVDs, primarily on canine topics, for more than 10 years: Puppy Culture is the most difficult assignment I have had, simply because it is so incredible! I want to tell you all about its wonders - everything contentwise, everything visual, everything style-wise, simply everything. I want to write the longest book review ever! (which is what this is) But, instead, I will write several so you may read them in different blogs, in different publications, to help spread the word that Puppy Culture is amazing.

I could write a book telling you how wonderfully life-changing Puppy Culture can be for you and your puppy (and breeder, of course, and trainer), but author Jane Killion has done a better job in creating this very informative yet entertaining video than I ever could – informative in that it covers the entire subject of best practices for raising puppies from prenatal to the powerful first 12 weeks, entertaining in that the stars – bull terrier puppies are, in a word, adorable.

“Rearing, Socialization, Training”

Watching even the first few minutes will convince you never to get a puppy mill (puppy factory) puppy.

You will take notes on this DVD series. You cannot watch it all at once – simply too much brilliant information to assimilate all at once, so, thank goodness, when your mind tends to slow down after incorporating enough super-material in one setting, you will be rejuvenated by watching the scores of delightful puppies as they grow up before your eyes. (As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if a few people besides myself watch the DVD at times just for entertainment and to get their puppy-fix!) Bull terriers are so stuffie-looking (stuffed animals, like teddy bears), they are simply adorable. You just want to squeeze them! Or watch them sleep.

Learn from the Experts

Dogs live in two worlds: ours and theirs. Let Killion take you on a tour through the puppy world. Experts featured in Puppy Culture, besides Killion, include veterinarian Kenneth Leal, puppy evaluator Diane Zdrodwski, the highly respected dog trainer Jean Donaldson, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Terri Bright, veterinary neurologist Dr. Noemie Bernier, AKC judge Carmen Battaglia, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Meghan Herron, and fellow breeders June and Irv Krukenkamp – virtually a Who’s Who in the Dog World.


Topics covered include socialization, early neural stimulation, problem prevention, developmental stages, and puppy training. Yes, training puppies – they soak it all up so you can’t NOT train a puppy.

Answer These Questions

What about goat’s milk? What is the Communication Trilogy? Did you know that if you treat the mother dog with affection prenatally, that her pups are more flexible and accepting when encountering stress? What is the startle reflex and how should the perfect puppy react? What about feeding raw? What is so special about weeks 3-12?  What’s a puppy pile-up (especially with sleeping puppies)? When is socialization complete? Why do puppies twitch when asleep?

Ah, everything now makes so much more sense – after Puppy Culture.

So, You Just Got a Puppy! Now What?

Congratulations! You have a new 8-week old member of the family. You’ve had a puppy before, but a long time ago and you are out of practice. You are wondering if there is anything new. Yes!

Killion has found a niche and filled it with information that you need and puppy videos you want. There is still so much you can do from weeks 8 – 12 to ensure your puppy has a great, nearly problem-free life.  How can you select the best Puppy Kindergarten class? Why train in two-minute sessions? Killion answers these questions and even questions you haven’t thought of before.

Who is Jane Killion?

Killion is the author of the vastly underrated 2007 book When Pigs Fly: Training Success with Impossible Dogs. Killion is a bull terrier breeder with years of experience. Killion is a dog trainer extraordinaire. Killion is an expert in dog agility circles as well as conformation, rally and obedience. Killion is a gem. Killion is not to be missed! As a matter of fact, I am considering driving four hours just to meet her.

She knows puppies, heat-seeking milk missiles, and has observed them and their growth and behavior for years. She notices everything and passes that knowledge on, never giving too much information to absorb, like the best explanation of colostrum I have heard and I am a biologist. She even demonstrates an excellent grasp of genetics and biochemistry.

Fads Aren’t Always Bad

Just as in the teen world of ‘fashion,’ the dog training world goes through fads. A few years ago, everyone jumped on the Aggression Bandwagon, then it was Dog Play, followed by Canine Body Language, SA (separation anxiety), and now, Puppies! Puppies! Puppies! (I guess we needed a break from the ‘exhausting stuff.’)

Fads aren’t always bad. As a matter of fact, dog training fads bring the dog world together and improve our level of education, to benefit all dogs. When so many trainers and other dog people are learning the same things at the same time, it only bodes good for the culture and the improvement of the species, and especially for our relationship with our best friends.

Yay! Retro is Cool

Take a good look at the cover of Puppy Culture – it will grow on you - peach, grey, turquoise, and tan. Produced by the super-trainer of the fantastic (but sleeper) When Pigs Fly: Training Success with Impossible Dogs, Puppy Culture is more than five hours of video expertise on four DVD discs. It has made this reviewer’s list of Top Ten Dog Books of All Time*. Yes, a DVD can be a book, but a book with pictures – moving pictures and a book you listen to AND watch rather than just look at.

Bonus: the always adorable bull terrier puppy demo dogs from the Puppy Culture litter (and that is coming from a reviewer who is partial to labs and goldens).

Visual Fun

Each disc has a different bull terrier graphic: the first one shows the head, the third shows the ‘other’ end with tail, the middle disc has the dog’s back (I guess) and the (fourth) Recap disc gives us a cute face shot.

With unique, creative topics titled Heartbeats, Fur Dumplings (0 – 14 days), Love Hurts (biting), Why Not Just Punish? and Career Choices, I still love Disc 4 best with its review of the three previous DVDs plus additional hints not found in the other DVDs, but I’m glad I viewed each disc first. 

Puppy Culture comprises constantly changing visuals but not so fast as to lose you, like many music videos do. An astonishing number of visual snippets will make you want to listen to the DVDs with ears closed and eyes open for the full effect. And, like one of my professors in graduate school, Killion’s every word has meaning.

And what “visual” paragraph would be complete without mention of the simply adorable puppies. Get your puppy fix here, clothed in a wealth of free and easy education.

Viewing Guide

Included in the set is a viewing guide (detailed table of contents - TOC) with each DVD’s titles and subtitles, presenter, and times, so you can go directly to the disc and topic you need at the time, over and over again. The only improvement I can think of would be a workbook!

What You Get – A Mentor in a Box

Fifty lessons in Dog! Enrichment, puppy parties, socialization, developmental and fear periods, anti-aggression, puzzles and games and problem solving, recalls, housetraining, crate-training, manding (what’s that?), play dates, handling, puppy kindergarten, vaccinations, preventing resource guarding, biting, and jumping.

Puppy Culture is a professionally photographed DVD set of four discs with an extremely well written script that comes across as being natural conversation – not too much information, not too little. Short sentences with plenty of visuals appropriate to the words almost like a slow-paced music video but with the visuals melting in to each other at just the right speed so you can grasp the cuteness of the pups, as well as the information.

Puppy Culture is a week-by-week plan and a timeline of what to do when and what to expect. From age-appropriate emotional resiliency exercises to basic skills training like loose-leash walking to practical instructions for new puppy owners to the science behind the recommendations, it’s all here. Even I learned a lot!

How Killion managed to reach so many of the very best trainers, vets, and presenters in the dog world, I have no idea. Might it be because Killion herself is so talented in dealing with people as well as dogs? She actually traveled the country to interview the best puppy and dog people.

Puppies Galore - Smiles and Giggles and More

Follow Daphne the bull terrier’s puppies through the first 12 weeks of their young lives starting even before they are born with emphasis on the importance of a relaxed, well-fed and comfortable mother dog – their puppies grow into dogs who enjoy being touched and learn more quickly so they are off to a better start. Killion is ‘up’ on the latest scientific studies on dog development and health, training and behavior, and explains it very conversationally. Her lovely low, slow voice seems as if she is reading but it is too natural to be scripted.

With her signature pony tail and baseball cap, NPR-poised Killion is a classic. Add to that her mellifluous, professional commentator-quality voice and genuine caring that comes across so easily, you will agree that Puppy Culture may just be the best educational and entertaining value you have ever come across. Author of When Pigs Fly, a magnificent sleeper, Killion too is a sleeper but, no more! Not after Puppy Culture.

What Next?

I am a lab and golden retriever person but now I believe that bull terrier puppies may be the cutest. After Puppy Culture, you will agree. You will want a puppy and not just any puppy but a Madcap Bull Terrier puppy! (

I was so enamored of Puppy Culture that I just had to contact the producer to suggest a sequel and, guess what? They have already started it! From 12 weeks to 2 years, it will be huge help to rescues, shelters and teenage-dog families. I can’t wait!

Where to Find Puppy Culture

You can purchase Puppy Culture directly from the website,, from or from – just do it! You’ll be glad you did.

*Other authors on my ‘Top Ten’ list include Dr. Ian Dunbar (Before You Get Your Puppy/After You Get Your Puppy), Karen Pryor (Reaching the Animal Mind), Dr. Sophia Yin (Low-Stress Handling), Katenna  Jones (Fetching the Perfect Dog Trainer), and Dr. Julie Reck (Facing Farewell).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: Willam Wegman Puppies (photo essay with words)

Puppies, by William Wegman (Hyperion Press, 1997, 96 pages, $24.95)

Classic Coffee Table

Everyone has coffee table books. What happens to yours? Do they get covered up with magazines, newspapers, other books so you eventually forget they are there, hidden in the bottom of the pile? Of course, you meant to look at the coffee table book photos often and eventually even finish the book, drinking a cup of coffee, feet up on the table – but life always interferes, right?


Even William Wegman non-fans will be converted with this early book and become inspired to look more closely into his work which now includes calendars, notecards, videos, even a sculpture (Portland, OR). This book, Puppies, will stay on the top of your coffee table pile to gaze upon often, and to open.

In The Beginning

Wegman took home a ‘Weim’ (weimeraner) puppy and immediately took a photo of little Man Ray (this first photo actually appears in the book) that started it all – a national career that has lasted more than 20 years, in TV and in academia, back and forth across the country.

Little Man Ray taught Wegman all about patience, laughter, creativity and more.

Next came Fay Ray, followed by her litter, and even more puppies – three generations of puppies in all, and each one different.

My absolute favorite set of four photos is titled, Rocks and Stones. As you know, puppies (and babies) can fall asleep anywhere so Wegman puts a few puppies on a beach of rocks the same color as the puppies. It is up to you to find the puppies and, since this is sometimes classified as a children’s book, I bet you will be slower to find the pups than your little human.

Puppies is More than Just Photos

Puppies follows Wegman’s litters through their first few weeks but is more than just adorable still photos (puppies sleeping) or ‘flying’ or running or piling up (on each other in puppy piles) or with-simple-props photos. Photos are small to full-page or larger, the best combination to prevent monotony.

Wegman is also a fascinating writer, one I would read more words by. A typical two-page spread may contain four different sizes of fonts with a long and large sentence following on the next page but the words take you into the world of not only puppies but also into the world of a man learning about loving puppies. And you learn, vicariously, how to help a mom-dog deliver, how anxious she becomes if you take one out of her sight, how she cares for her new family and teaches them to be independent.

We usually get our puppies at about age 8 weeks: in Puppies, you can experience the fun you missed.

I have never been a Wegman-fan until now, primarily because I don’t think dressing dogs up is fun. However, Wegman’s work of “just puppies” in different poses changed my mind. Some photos are outside, some are prop-driven, some are just puppies. I am now going to seek out his calendars and especially his children’s books.


I especially love the photo captions, nearly all one-word captions that are simply perfect. There are none that I could come up with to top his photo captions, and in just one word!

If you can get your hands in this Wegman book, you will be profoundly delighted. If you can’t, try another Wegman work.