Friday, April 28, 2017

Book Review: The Places in Between: Afghanistan, Rory Stewart and a dog

The Places in Between*, by Rory Stewart (Harcourt Publishing, 2006, 299 pages, $14.00)

A New York Times Bestseller (and, yes, it’s about a dog)

Born in Hong Kong, brought up in Malaysia, student at Eton and Oxford, tutor of both British princes, this British military veteran and MP (member of Parliament not military police) walked through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and India, and wrote about part of his travels in The Places in Between.

Someone I Would Love to Meet

Rory Stewart’s solitary trek through Afghanistan in 2002 was something you could never imagine: it seemed to be more possible during the 1950s but Stewart did it in 2002!

2002 was just after the fall of the Taliban** in Afghanistan when the country was still in transition. However, small villages often escaped the political upheavals***.

His second book, Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, tells of his experiences in the marshes of Iraq after the war when he served as a post-war governor.

A Road Book, Romantic and Exotic

You’ve heard of “Road Movies,” a genre populated with the likes of Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, The Motorcycle Diaries, Bonnie and Clyde, It Happened One Night, and The Road pictures of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope (Road to Singapore/Zanzibar/Rio/Morocco

Road books include Travels with Charley (Steinbeck), On the Road (Jack Kerouac), and now, The Places in Between.

Take one young person, 18-30, not yet ready to settle down in a real job, who goes out on his own or with a buddy – preferably on his own and preferably with a knowledge of the language.

Ah, the travels, the adventures, the exotic places to write about at the conclusion, so we, the readers, can live it vicariously and voraciously and dream it happened to us. The Silk Road, the Turquoise Mountain, Buzkashi, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, . . . .

A World Apart: "There is no Government Anymore"

One village has 82 inhabitants - male – they don’t bother to count the women. Villages are often a two hours’ walk from each other – women have never taken that trek. Streets are womenless. Children play with their cousins and when they are about 15, they marry them.

Ah, Afghanistan!

If you were deployed to Afghanistan you will be dumbfounded by Stewart’s adventures. If you haven’t, it still is a book you will read and take with you to read another chapter or page whenever you can.

If you are a dog person, you will understand how a huge dog named Barbur adopted Stewart and traveled with him.

“The Kindness of Strangers. . . . “

In drawings, photographs and words, you will meet village elders and mullahs, Taliban fighters, NGO workers (the latter two being quite idealistic), Hazaras and Bamiyan and more.

You will come away with a new-found respect for a road trip and for the villagers of Afghanistan. You will understand their sense of cordiality and hospitality. You will eat their food, sleep in their homes, chat over tea, and come to understand tradition.

You will want to read this book again.

The Places in Between would make a marvelous film!

*available in the Howard County, MD, public library system
**December 7, 2001, was the date the Taliban laid down their arms in Kandahar, Afghanistan

***When I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007-08, one of my fellow troops who went out into the villages overheard this comment: “When did the Russians change their uniforms?”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Review (OT): It's What I Do (female war photographer)

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, by Lynsey Addario (Penguin, 368 pages, 2015, $29.95, Amazon Best Book of the Month for February 2015)

Stunning Cover Photo Catches Your Eye and Mesmerizes Your Mind

Michael Goldfarb’s cover photo - simply stunning: A side-view silhouette of a woman photographer standing atop a vehicle (Range Rover perhaps?) looking through a camera lens. In the background we see a mountain range but most of the photo is filled with ominous clouds.

Head in the clouds. A lonely photo?

How fitting to have a book written by a photographer with a cover photo of the photographer taken by another photographer to whet your appetite for what’s inside.

What Would You Do?

What would you do if you could live your life over but, this time, start it now? I think many women would opt for the life of an international journalist or war photographer. That is what Linsey Addario did and lived to write a book about it.

“It’s What I Am. It’s What I Do.”

Argentina. Cuba. Afghanistan under Taliban control. Iraq. Darfur. Congo. Haiti. Chad. Pakistan. Israel. Turkey.

Time. Newsweek. National Geographic. The New York Times.

Anthony Shadid. Stephen Farrell. Tyler Hicks. Tim Hetherington.

Pulitzer Prize. MacArthur Genius Grant.

You've Seen Her Photographs

Some photographs are strikingly beautiful;
all are so real that you could be there, in person*. In the desert, in the mountains. Wearing body armor. Going on patrols with the troops in Afghanistan.

The Story of a Career

Read how Addario grew up in what might be called a fascinating hippie home or how she survived a gypsy childhood. One of four girls, Addario falls in love with photos and learns what she can on her own. Then she starts at the bottom and convinces great photographers to tell her all they know.

On the job, she shows us that first one must gain rapport of one’s subjects: only when they forget you are there, can one take the photo.
On the job, she must be a team player, with translators and drivers and print journalists and other photographers. And her subjects.

A Quick Read of 368 Pages

And yes, the book is a spellbinder that you will quickly read – all 368 pages of it.

However, if you have more familiarity with one part of the world, perhaps you will start there. If you are not interested in another specific country, you may skip that chapter. That is fine if you read for the vicarious thrill.

But if you really want to know how a photographer develops (no pun intended), and why one finally gives up a profession, you must devour the entire book. You will not be disappointed.

Two Different Worlds

And, yes, she was kidnapped. Twice. And ambushed. And through it all, she returned to the States and her childhood family on a regular basis, perhaps the most difficult transitions of all.

We were amazed that a photographer could write such a moving story. We were there, along with her, holding our breath.

You can be, too.

*the only weakness, if one can call it that, that we found in It’s What I Do concerns the photos, of course – it’s a book about photos and their creator after all. However, not all the photos have captions and some have no paragraphs explaining their placement in a particular book section. A small weakness, indeed.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review: GG's Journey (stray dog, Detroit)

GG’s Journey: From Lost to Loved*, by Cheryl Lyn Phillips (McNaughton & Gunn, 130 pages, 2015, $19.95, Amazon Kindle eBooks at $2.99)

An intriguing title for a “mostly-true” tale describing 31 weeks of a former street dog’s life, from the dog’s point of view and in her own words.

Before GG was GG

The dog, a bulldog-terrier mix, somehow survived on the streets of Detroit, eking out a stark life by finding warm places to sleep at night (when she could) and hunting for scraps of food by day.

Then it Happened!

One day the dog saw a nice lady who, miracle of miracles, was not afraid but stopped to pet her and say sweet things. The nice lady (whom the dog calls “Aunt” Cheryl) returned with food – lots of food, wonderful food. Then the dog’s “Aunt” Cheryl returned with a man in a truck with crates. The dog was put in one of the crates and taken to a shelter  -and thus began the first day of the rest of her life.

The Dog was Saved

GG’s Journey relates a week-by-week account of the next chapter in GG's life: how she came to find her forever family and what her new name really means.

What’s a Shelter Really Like – for Dogs?

The dog was first called Maryland because she was found on Maryland Street in Detroit, Michigan. In the shelter, she was a good dog but sometimes barked at other dogs and a few times even frightened people. Maryland was “not dangerous, just scared and lonely” like many other shelter dogs.

How Maryland Becomes GG

Read Maryland’s/GG’s fascinating, spellbinding story and learn about all the good dogs in shelters who try so hard to find a family. Discover how Maryland almost died – once she was off the streets! Why was a Maryland Fan Club created? Read emails to the club from GG’s foster mom and Aunt Cheryl. Learn about fostering** dogs for rescues and shelters. Find out why a dog named Marshmallow is so grumpy and how he ‘saves’ GG. Can you find the GG on every page?

And, guess what? GG even becomes an ambassador dog! Read about GG’s journey to a new life – with a job!­


* 15% of net sales of GG’s Journey are donated to animal rescue. GG’s Journey is available at Amazon. Read more about GG on her Facebook page, GG’s Journey, and check out the newsletters. You can even donate to the Foundation.
**Read How to Foster Dogs, by Pat Miller (check out the review here) and purchase the book at

Read More About It: She made the newspaper!

Caveat: This book was sent to DogEvals for reviewing; however, all DogEvals’ reviews are objective. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

EverythingDogBlog: Take Care of Fido this Weekend

Have a Safe Easter, Dear Little Puppy Dog

Most Dangerous Day for Dogs

According the ASPCA,“Easter is typically the top day for chocolate intoxication calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center*, topping Christmas, Valentine’s Day and even Halloween. Why? Pets often find candy hidden around the house and yard or Easter baskets left unattended.”

Yup, chocolate tops the list of forbidden things for our canine friends (along with raisins, macadamia nuts, xylitol [in sugarless gum], and alcohol). So, be careful out there, Fido.

Second on the no-no list is plastic Easter grass which is quite abundant this weekend. Fortunately, I found edible Easter grass in the Ft. Meade commissary and tried it. Yup, it was edible and comes in flavors but really tastes like paper. I tossed out the packaging so I cannot vouch for its safety.

And, in the Spring, . . . .

Next to be avoided by Spot are the lilies and spring-blooming bulbs.

And, Finally. . . .

This is the time of year we start our gardens and fertilize them so please keep Fido away from stored bottles of the ‘stuff’ and keep him inside when you apply them. Follow the instructions and don’t let Fido out until the ground is dry or the product has been watered.

And, so, . . . .

Following these simple, easy steps can help keep Fido in the family for many years to come. However, just in case, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can be reached at 888.426.4435.

Let’s hope you never need it!


ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center - Phone Number: (888) 426-4435

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24/7/365 days a year. If you think Fido may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: The Great Dog Disaster (girls, big dog, England)

The Great Dog Disaster (Companion to The Great Hamster Massacre) (one of The Great Critter Capers*), by Katie Davies (Simon and Schuster, 200 pp, 2013, $13, grades 3-7, ages 8-12)

Everything’s Big About Beatrice
Best friends in England, Anna and Suzanne, live next door to each other. When Suzanne inherits a dog from her great aunt Deidre, the girls are ecstatic, planning on training and fetch and fun and games like agility!
That is, until they meet old Beatrice, a big big black dog with big big problems.
Beatrice, Suzanne’s mom’s dead aunt Deidre’s dog, doesn’t like to move very much so the girls have to “lever her up” to go for the slow walks that she doesn’t like very much either.
Beatrice smells, has bad breath, abscesses, brown teeth and cavities. Beatrice smells and has sores so she has to wear an Elizabethan collar so she won’t make them worse by scratching. Beatrice smells and has lumps and bumps and matted fur in between the bald spots. Beatrice has arthritis and fleabites and. . . . Beatrice smells.
And with a big dog comes big poo, too.

. . . and not just because it’s about girls, rather than boys!
The Great Dog Disaster is similar to the Wimpy series except for location, main character, plot, style, theme, lessons learned – just about everything - but the two books are similar: both books are about kids (Anna and Suzanne are 9 years old) and both books have kid-type illustrations on every page.
Reading The Great Dog Disaster will turn your daughter (and son) into a vocabulary whiz, thanks to the “big word” definitions that are so much a part of the story, seemingly cut out of the dictionary and glued onto the pages – words like depression, disaster, and incontinent.
And the lists go on, oh my! Daily schedules and things to do for Beatrice and things to stock up on for Beatrice’s escape and plans and secrets and codes and locks and passwords.
Read About. . .
Attack ducks and wellies and Blu Tack and Spy Club and the truth about Barney. Find out why Beatrice is rejuvenated when the girls give her a bath.
And find out how Beatrice saves the day by saving someone and thereby saving herself!
PS - I think Big Beatrice is rather adorable – at least the drawings of her are cute (but then the book is rather small).
PPS – Although the book finally accelerates to the exciting climax, I didn’t want it to end (and I’m not even a 9 year-old girl)
*Other great critter capers: Great Animal Antics, The Great Cat Conspiracy, The Great Rabbit Rescue
Dog Evaluation (from a dog's point of view): This book is fiction. It takes place in a different country so it doesn’t have to be “right.” People don’t love Beatrice or treat her nicely, at least in the beginning when everyone makes fun of her, but everyone comes to love her in the end. Beatrice, however, still lives in the garage. . . .

Sunday, March 26, 2017

EverythingDogBlog Book Review: Finley Finds Heaven (boy, dog)

Finley Finds Heaven*, by Jackson and Janie Smith (Dementi Milestone Publishing, 36 pages, 2015, $18.99) with illustrations by Gail Butler

We never really recover from the death of a loved one. The hole in our hearts never closes: it becomes smaller but never totally goes away.

Every once in a while, we need a book to cherish, keep and learn from, especially if we have children and pets, and especially when a pet dies.

A book like Finley Finds Heaven helps the child in all of us because it really happened to a young boy. That young boy is author Jackson Smith who loved Finley, his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in life and after. Finley will always be part of Jackson just as your dog (or cat) will always have a place in your heart.

The Story Behind the Story

Would you believe Finley Finds Heaven is a true story?

Picture a family of three, with a dog for each. Picture a story written by one of the dogs, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Finley. (The official author, however, is Jackson Smith, aged 8, Finley’s boy on earth.)

When Finley’s young heart gives out, even the house he lived in seems to miss him. But young Jackson has a dream and then another, where he sees Finley in heaven,
healthy and having fun. Jackson can't wait to bring that hope and joy to his family so they, too, can believe. He wrote this book to bring hope and joy to you, too.

Many dog people see a special star in the sky after a beloved pet passes away: others feel a breeze at an odd time (even odder - indoors) on their face (a kiss, perhaps?).  Jackson saw his dog Finley in his dreams and once even felt Finley sitting on his lap.

Butterflies Abound

Finley’s book is not just for boys, however: the butterflies bring girls into the story, too. Cavaliers love to chase butterflies here on earth and in heaven, too.

You will be charmed by this story of Finley having a simply heavenly time and by the real-to-life illustrations of Cavaliers by Gail Butler.

Bonus after bonus after bonus after bonus: Find out what a “shath” is. Learn why Finley’s bed in heaven is a triple-decker bunkbed. Discover who the ‘three amigos’ are. Watch this adorable video of Jackson reading his Finley book to some of his canine friends. (Jackson is in his pj’s and the dogs are on their dog beds. Look closely to see how one of the dogs thanks Jackson!)
Barnes & Noble, Richmond, VA

*Available at bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and in libraries. Check out Finley’s website, too. And Finley is even on Facebook! (One of the other books in this photo, Underwater Dogs, is reviewed here.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

EverythingDogBlog: Book Review, Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Hard Luck (#8)(middle school boy, dog)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (number 8), by Jeff Kinney (Abrams Publishing, 217 pp, 2013, about $8.00, ages 8-12, grades 3-7)

Dear Author, . . . .
There are so many Dear Author letters that need to be written by dog trainers about potentially dangerous or just unwise dog situations in books for children: this is one.
I am a dog trainer but not just a dog trainer. I’m a positive-reinforcement dog trainer. That means I don’t use force, or any methods or equipment that are not gentle and dog-friendly (I have no need to use choke collars or electric fences, etc.).
So, imagine how my interest was tweaked when I read a FaceBook post about dogs who help kids read better by being good listeners: a trainer friend posted that she takes her dogs to libraries and schools for this wonderful service, and one day a book was being read aloud to her dog that mentioned electric fences and shock collars. Fortunately, the trainer-volunteer was listening and managed to have a conversation with the child about equipment that can hurt dogs.
So, I simply had to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Third Wheel (number 7 in the series).
I managed to make it through the entire book only to realize I had been given the wrong title. I should have been reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (number 8)!

So, back to the library I went to check out and wade through another Wimpy book.
Hard Luck
Yup, Hard Luck was the book in question - the title refers to not only a certain period in character Greg Heffley’s middle school life but also refers in the early pages (page 11) to the bad luck of one poor dog.
This dog, Rebel the Rottweiler, is misunderstood. In earlier books, I guess, he would get out of his yard and chase our “hero” to school, so “Rebel’s owner had to install an electric fence to make sure he couldn’t get loose. Now Rebel can’t chase us, because if he takes one step out of his yard, he’ll get a shock from his collar. (illustration of dog showing teeth, caption: “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP”)
“Ever since me and Rowley [friend] found out about Rebel’s electric collar, we’ve been having some fun with him. (illustration of two boys: one saying “OOPS! LOOKS LIKE I DROPPED MY SANDWICH” while the other boy is on all fours saying “MEOW! MEOW!”)
“But Rebel figured out that as long as his COLLAR doesn’t cross over the property line, he won’t get shocked.”
A Teachable Moment
Is it too much to ask parents, teachers and librarians to engage their young readers in a discussion about electric shock, about teasing animals who can’t respond, about ways to ‘have fun’ that aren’t at the expense of others? It’s too late to ask the author to include a better lesson about how to treat animals, unfortunately.
However, DogEvals did write the author about this. We hope to print his reply in the near future. If we don’t receive a reply, we will post that information, too.
Who Doesn’t Remember Middle School? (or junior high school)
I believe that inside each of us is a wimpy kid that explains the success of the series.
The Wimpy Books
Jeff Kinney, author, has struck a gold mine in his series starting in 2007 about a ‘wimpy’ kid in middle school: each page looks like a kid really printed it by hand and drew a couple of stick figures on every page to illustrate the story.
An Unlikely Story
Kinney, a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Book was also named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He currently owns a bookstore in Plainville, MA, named An Unlikely Story.
Other Wimpy Kid books:
The first one

Number Four, Dog Days, which I tried to read a couple of years ago but I guess I was just too old at the time. I’ll try again.

Number Six, Cabin Fever – snow days. Can’t wait to check this one out.

Number Seven, The Third Wheel, the book that got me hooked on the Wimpy Kid! (see cover above, in article)

Number Nine, The Long Haul – family vacation by car. This should bring back memories!