Saturday, August 31, 2019

Movie Review; The Secret Lives of Pets 2

The Secret Lives of Pets 2 (Illumination/Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 2019, PG, 1 hour 26 minutes). On 4K, Blu-Ray, Digital, and DVD.

First of all, a question for you: can you really enjoy a Movie, Part Two, without having seen the Movie, Part One?

And the answer is a resounding Yes!

The Secret Life of Pets 2 is full to the brim of things to watch and learn and do, but on with the story. Or, rather, three stories. Three interweaving stories make Pets 2 a movie you will want to watch more than once. You’ll have to!

The Stars

You, kid or adult, will fall in love with Duke the big bear of a dog;

Here he looks like a brown Cookie Monster

with Max (the Jack Russell (JRY or PRT) perhaps who is a 'bit' of a neurotic worrywart);

Our Star, Max

with Captain Snowball, caped crusader (Mollie’s bunnyrabbit with his partners Paw and Order);

Super Hero (?) Bunny

with Gidget who learns to be a cat (watch a preview of Cat Lessons) (the Bichon perhaps, in love with Max – Max asks her to look after BusyBee, his favorite toy, and so begins one of our three adventures and ends with a new tiger kitty for the cat lady [doesn’t every apartment building in New York City have a resident cat lady?]);

Gidget, The Dog-Cat

with Daisy (an adorable little brown and white Shih Tzu, a new character with a southern accent who turns the tables on Captain Snowball);

Daisy, The Real Superhero!

with Sergei the Bad Guy who looks like the Wicked Witch of the East – or, on the other hand, maybe you won’t fall in love with him;

with Pops who teaches Puppy School and has back wheels for legs;

or with my personal favorite, Rooster (not “Chicken”!)(a big big cool border collie voiced by Harrison Ford but reminiscent of The Fonz).

Mr. Rooster

The Plot Thickens

Max and Duke live with Katie. Max is not a kid-person. Then Chuck meets Katie.  Then Chuck marries Katie. Then along comes little Liam
Little Liam and a Reindeer Cookie
who sleeps most of the time. But then, he learns to speak so Max and Duke have to be a good influence, teach Liam to walk and stay out of danger! And keeping Liam safe is a full-time job for Max. 

Max, our resident worrywart, starts to scratch as a means of coping with his newly-found responsibilities and becomes fearful of storms so he is taken to the vet – the veterinary behaviorist - and comes out in a cone.

And then the three stories begin with a train and a circus and a car ride! To the farm, to t he farm, to the farm – oh, boy!

The Characters Grow

Watch Daisy reach deep down inside to find the courage to save the day and become her own superhero. Watch the farm work its wonders on Max. Love how the tiger cub finds a home – and with whom. Experience the bond between the pets, and between the pets and their peeps (people). Even Max becomes more lovable, and relaxed. Live the emotional lives of pets - yours, included.

Get Your own Pet!

Look around. You can find Pets wallpaper, Pets stuffies

Max, the Stuffie
- you can carry pets (backpacks), you can even sleep with Max (bedspreads)(see photo).

Sleep with Pets 2


Try your hand at drawing Max, Snowball and Chloe! Lessons included. Free.

Watch a couple of music videos.

Have a Ball! Or, a Party!

Have a ball making Captain Snowball’s super hero cape, Pop’s pupsicles, dog treats (recipe included for Duke’s doggy donuts), Daisy’s happy party hats (ditto), and Gidget’s goody bags.

The digital and Blu-ray versions have a documentary on Dogs with Jobs (a service dog and a police dog, as well as a therapy pony) plus a session on feline massage (for cats) and shows you how to tell if an animal is stressed.

Dog Training?

Kids will love this short segment but if you are a dog trainer, you might just want to skip it: Kevin Hart does everything wrong!

And, Now, . . . .

Excuse us as we go to watch The Secret Lives of Pets 1!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Book Review: Needled to Death (social worker, death, dog, Wisconsin, fraternity)

Needled to Death: A Helping Hands Mystery, by Annelise Ryan* (Kensington Press, 2019, 327 pages, $7.99, paperback)
Adorable Cover

How to Sell a Book

The best way to sell a book is to put a dog on the front cover – better yet, a Labrador or Golden Retriever. And a cute one. 
The Cover of the Book DogEvals Read

Even better is to have a dog in the title and to have the dog appear in the book – he need not be a major character. Unfortunately, like many books, Needled to Death does not have a Golden Retriever as a major character. Dogs may be the primary reason some readers will purchase Needled, only to be disappointed.

Never Fear!

Needled is still a darn good (dog) book mystery, who-dun-it, crime story, whatever - and the first in a new series. Hopefully with each new title, the Golden, Roscoe, will play a more prominent role.

The Plot

Needled is near and dear to my heart. Would you believe therapy, a bereavement group, a hospital and a police station, a gym at 5 am, foster kids, social workers, two boyfriends, plus Wisconsin and a college fraternity, a homicide and a suicide and blackmail and Asberger’s? What more could you ask for? (Well, maybe graduate school and the military and Idaho, but I guess I can’t have everything in one book!) If you are not interested in all of the above or most of the above, you are surely connected to at least one of the topics that will draw you in.

A Bit Unrealistic, Perhaps, but a Darn Good ‘Yarn’

We have a ride-along (with a detective) that seems to last forever and breaks all the rules of ride-alongs in my experience. A new job without even an interview. And, of course, an ending where the guy saves the girl (with the help of the Golden).

And, speaking of ‘yarn,’ Needled caught our eye because of the dog on the cover, because we thought the book might be about crocheting or needlepointing or knitting, and because the Golden is referred to as a therapy dog on the back cover.

Acceleration of Action

Thirty-six chapters - yet the reader has to read up to chapter six before meeting the Golden Retriever on the cover.

If you can wait, the action does accelerate quite rapidly plus author Annelise Ryan ‘weaves’ in a plethora of facts about the internet and autopsies. The twists and turns all are ‘tied up’ in the end very adroitly.

Starring Deputy Coroner Ex-RN Mattie Winston
The reader will also discover a couple of characters from another series by the same author, the Mattie Winston deputy coroner series, and we suspect they will reappear in future titles. Perhaps therapy dog Roscoe will be given more to do in his avocation of being a therapy dog himself – I can’t wait to find out which of the two new boyfriends wins out, how the new job turns out, and if our protagonist, Hildy, ever finds her own mother’s murderer from 30 years ago!

*Eleven Mattie Winston books (ex-RN now deputy coroner) (Working Stiff, Scared Stiff, Frozen Stiff, Lucky Stiff, Board Stiff - you get the picture and some may have striped cats or golden dogs in them) and six Mack's Bar mysteries

Friday, August 9, 2019

Book Review: Is That a Dead Dog in Your Locker? (kids, hilarious)

Is That a Dead Dog in Your Locker? by Todd Strasser* (Scholastic Press, 2008, 192 pages, $3.99, 8-12 years, grades 3-7)

And the characters are. . .

Ulna Mandible and Fibula Mandible, her daughter (AKA Fibby) who is allergic to milk, eggs, animal fur, nuts, chocolate, vegetables, berries, dust, pollen, smoke, math and gym and probably more

Daisy, a hippie peace-and-love child who wears baggy yellow tie-dyed sundresses and whose parents give great parties every Friday night but who has to bring an old stinky dog to school one day and take him out and feed him stinky cheese every hour and a half and whose best friends are . . .

The Tardy boys: Leyton, handsome but seemingly not as bright as a light bulb – or so says his fraternal twin, Wade. They are the stars of the book, along with the hippie girl.

Wheezy, an old stinky dog, who has to go out every hour and a half and eat French cheese (learn why at the very end), not to be mistaken for toe cheese, about which there is too much in this book including a debate and an experiment

Wheezy who has to spend a day in school (the reason is forgettable – I forgot it!)

An assistant principal to strange to be true

A school with no name but with an NFA rule (No Furry Animals) and a secret door to the outside and a janitor named Olga Shotput

And Dr. Seuss appears not-really-incognito on page 166

Characters? Plot?

With characters like these (and more) who needs a plot? And yet, each chapter is a cliff-hanger. Will Weezy make it through the day without being caught? How far does the stinky stink travel down the halls at school? Will they have to evacuate?

To find out these and other fascinating and important tidbits, read Is That a Dead Dog in Your Locker?

*Strasser also wrote The Wave, a book every American must read.

And other books like Is That a Sick Cat in Your Backpack? And Is That an Angry Penguin in Your Gym Bag? And Is That an Unlucky Leprechaun in Your Lunch? And Is That a Glow-in-the-dark Bunny in Your Pillowcase? 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Great Day at the Fair! (county fairs*)

A Great Day at the Fair!

Tuesday we went to the Howard County, Maryland, fair and loved it! The food was fabulous, we walked through the rides before they opened so didn’t have to fight the crowds, saw pigs and cows and chickens, bought fresh fruits and veggies, made bubbles, . . . Here are some pictures.

Dogs Rule

Wherever we went, we saw dogs. Dog cakes like the service dog cake below

A Service Dog Cake

Well Decorated Service Dog Cake
The Cake Dog on the Left was so Excited, He Lost his Head!
and dog photos
and dog artwork

and a display by the 4-H club, Happy Hounds (below).

That night was the Dog Bowl where Happy Hounds members answered questions for the winners to win the chance to go on to the state fair’s competition. And several days saw a herding dog demonstration with real sheep and border collies.

Big Cows and Bigger Cows and Little Horses and Seven Pigs-A-Napping in the Heat

Cute Cow
We saw fake cows
Big Cow
about the size of a real cow and we saw real cows

Real Cows
– both ends.
Rear Cows
These Mini Horses don't Look so Little
A Kid and her Mini-Horses
And huge tractors.
Watch pigs nap.
Eight Pigs a Napping
Or watch a chain saw sculptor in action.

Chain Saw Sculptures

The Midway

Have you ever ridden in a teacup? Here’s your chance!

Or would you prefer something more scary? Like a helicopter . . .

or the ever-present Ferris wheel?

Air Fun

Win a unicorn or free a blue elephant or a blue dog or even a huge huge snake.

Can you Spot the Unicorn?
Blue Dogs and Pink Bears and Loooong Snakes

Or the Blue Elephant?
The Midway is Waiting for You!
Whatever you do, it will be fun and maybe even educational. The fair takes place until August 10. For more information (and better photos) click on this link for schedules, hours, tickets and entertainment. (

Oh, and don’t forget to check out the worm race!

*Even though this is about the Howard County, Maryland, fair, it is also about many if not all county fairs. If you haven't been in a few years, grab a couple of kids and, go!