Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book Review: A Dog Like Daisy (shelter, PTSD, service dog)

A Dog Like Daisy, by Kristin Tubb (Harper Collins Publishing, 2017, 177 pages, $17, ages 8-12 and adults)

A Book for Everyone!

Kids with dogs, kids who want dogs, military kids, troops who have been deployed, military wives, service dog trainers and wanna-be’s – and the list goes on.

The Cover Snagged Me!

That smile - and the flag. I'm a sucker for patriotism - and pit bull type dogs.

The Story

A colonel with PTSD selects a dog with a bad ear from the shelter and has 10 weeks to train her with the help of a service dog trainer: if they are successful, the VA will reimburse their expenses.

Daisy the dog has an incredible backstory that slowly oozes out, but she also is a brilliant dog who picks up on the duties of a service dog quite quickly – and makes “friends” with the family pet, a bearded lizard, along the way.

Even though Daisy has a quick mind for learning, will her backstory prevent her from passing the service dog test? How many attempts will she be given?

And who needs her most – the colonel or his son Micah who lives attached to  headphones (ear muzzles) (a twist ending here!). And is Daisy a pet or a tool and which would she rather be? Useful, handy, practical but also metallic, flat, unalive.

Daisy’s Story in Her Own Words, Juxtaposed

Daisy narrates her own story and tells it with sensitivity for all. (The reader actually feels he or she is a partner in Daisy’s world.)

And just how Daisy tells her story is delightfully memorable: the taste of anger, butterfly words, the fast waterfall of freedom, disobedience tasting like dry leaves, bird chirps so beautiful a dog could just gobble them up (except feathers taste like gloom), yellow sunshine full of joy, swimming through each individual smell and splashing through each scent, . . . . .

Sounds have colors, too: when the colonel claps in delight, he claps happy purple flowers. “The shades that color their speech and shine on their faces are usually pale, like a cold-weather sunrise.” (p. 2)

Bridging Two Worlds

When Daisy first arrives at her new home, she smells the former canine occupant and, fearing the family and their dog will come back, she needs to protect her new family – she marks her indoor territory - but quickly finds out that this is the wrong thing to do! This is just one of the creatively funny episodes that bridge the gap between what is appropriate in a dog’s world vs what is acceptable in the human world that dogs have to learn to live in.

Kids with Dogs

Kids with dogs will love the effortless learning about dogs that Daisy illustrates. They will also understand the sometimes jealousy between kid and dog.

Kids Who Want Dogs

Kids who want dogs will want a dog even more after meeting the lovely yet normal Daisy – a Daisy who thinks and sometimes arrives at the wrong decision.

Military Kids

Military kids will totally understand having a dad (or mom) with PTSD and the difficulties inherent in that. They will, however, finally realize that there are solutions out there, in time. And there are people to help.

Troops Who have Been Deployed

Troops who have been deployed, if they are not like the colonel himself, will know of someone like the colonel (and his family) and will have tried to help. They may also question why someone of such a high rank was selected to be the protagonist. Daisy could well become the subject of family counseling sessions.

Military Wives

The oft-forgotten military wife will see herself in Daisy’s book and perhaps some brilliant solutions may come to her. Her job is always difficult to fulfill and even to understand empathetically: she needs our support – and maybe her own emotional support dog! Or, at least, some time off!

Service Dog Trainers (and Wanna-be’s)

Reward-based dog trainers will love the mention of the SAFER assessment but will flinch at just about every scene with service dog trainer Alex. For example, Alex is a clicker trainer (a clicker is a small hand-held toy that makes a clicking sound when pressed to mark a dog’s behavior as being correct), but he does not explain the purpose of the clicker before bringing it out and using it – he also does not notice that the colonel and our Daisy dog are startled by the clicking noise over and over again, to the point of becoming stressed – to them, the click sounds like bones breaking - and it echoes, doing more harm than good. A good clicker trainer would be able to explain and modify the training for his clients.

Clicker trainers will balk on page 70: “We use the clicker in conjunction with the treats when the dogs do something good. Eventually we just have to click to reward them.” ‘Nuff said? This is simply wrong. Why? Because our author unfortunately gets clicker training backwards. It is crucial that the click come before the treat. And the click must always be followed by a reward – to be used without a reward following it, would weaken the power of the click.

Reward-based dog trainers will also cringe at the terms, pack and alpha dog because they are no longer used.

Service Dog Situations

Service dog lessons include not only Daisy’s task training* (not always realistic) but also a couple of Public Access situations centering around service dog vests and certifications – and the public who are not aware of the rights of service dogs.

Does Daisy Succeed as a Service Dog?

Our Daisy-dog wants to help so badly. She is a bright, caring canine who sometimes wonders which person she is meant to help more – the colonel or his son. What is her job in the end? She wants to do good, to do her duty, to be useful. “Uselessness is the highest dishonor. It is the ultimate cone of shame.” (p. 40)

Surprise Ending

With all its foibles, A Dog Like Daisy has many lessons to teach all of us and does so with sensitivity, creativity and


*“I nudge the knob with my nose. It’s not pain-free , but  hey! The lights come on! So that’s how that works. Now I can make my own personal sunrise.” (p. 68)

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.”