Monday, December 28, 2020

Book Review: A Home for Goddesses and Dogs (new girl, two dogs, Connecticut farm, fitting in)

 A Home for Goddesses and Dogs, by Leslie Connor (Harper Collins, 385 pages, 2020, $16.99, ages 10-12, grades 5-6)

An intriguing title and cover of the new book by the award-winning author of The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, A Home for Goddesses and Dogs made for a book we didn't want to miss. We love the cover - a house on a hill (Pinnacle Hill Farm) with silhouettes of two women and a dog, trees, a car and shed, with several moons above as they change phase day by day, and, in the foreground, a young blond girl kneeling and petting a yellow dog. So much to tell!

A long book and slow-reading but, fortunately, with fairly large print.


What are goddesses anyway - are they really the photos that Lydia and her mom 'improve'? Are they Aunt Brat, her wife and Lydia? Maybe Lydia's two new girl friends? 

The Plot?

Rather plotless until way way into the book, but, nonetheless, the story of a young girl whose father left the family years ago and whose mother recently died goes to live with Aunt Brat and the aunt's wife - and a grandfatherly person and an old dog. Chelmsford is a small town in Connecticut with only a dozen students in Lydia's 8th grade class. Within a week, they get a yellow dog but our hero, Lydia, is not a dog person.

She brings a box of goddesses with her to the farm in Connecticut. Goddesses are cut-out photos of women that Lydia and her mother improved with paint and crayons and lace and names like the Goddess of Three Hearts and the Goddess of Spring Planting.

The Meaning of Family

Lydia enlarges a mouse hole in the wall of her upstairs bedroom and then falls through the floor. The new dog has to undergo expensive surgery. Both incidents, and more, show family values in action.

And, with dogs in the picture, DogEvals must comment on how they are depicted. Housetraining is drawn out unnecessarily and not correctly but, otherwise, the dogs are real dogs.

And Secrets

"I hadn't hidden it from her. . . Was not telling her the same thing as keeping it from her? Or was it choosing not to share? Was there a difference?" (page 257)

Writing Style

Like many books for elementary and junior high students, this book is very slow from chapter to chapter; however, author Leslie Connor writes very well on a micro level and every once in a while the reader comes across a gem of a sentence or paragraph. It is a long book and we would have preferred more action or a shorter read. 

Caveat: This book is available in the Howard County public library system.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

DogEvals' Book of the Year, 2020 Style

 And the winner is. . . . (actually we picked it in July!)

Once a year, along comes a (dog) book we simply love. We keep it. We turn to it often and, if it is a coffee table book, even more often. Sometimes it is an inspiring book that goads us into action, whether it is to volunteer at our local shelter or to write to our representatives. 

This year, it was Dogversations.

Dogversations: Conversations with my Dog

If these dogs could's precisely what Eva, the Brittany spaniel; Bruno, the golden retriever; and Agnes, the genetically diverse rescue dog, would say. Photographer David Leswick flawlessly captures the fun, quirky, clever, curious, and witty personalities of his family's three canine companions in this collection of heartwarming photography - plus the hilarious 'dogalogue' that comes along with it. 

The perfect literary and photographic treat for the eyes, heart, and sense of humor of any animal lover, Dogversations is a laugh-out-loud hysterical glimpse at how this canine crew tries to make heads or tails out of their daily lives with the human family that loves them....From

From Lovely photos, creative conversations between man and dog, great coffee table book

5.0 out of 5 stars
Dogversations is DogEvals "Book of the Year for 2020" and we read it way back in July! I would call it simply delightful!
The author-photographer dearly loves his dogs (and kids) and includes the reader in the conversations they have, each of which is totally believable and cutely entertaining.

Ever wonder what your dog is thinking? David Leswick tells us with the help of dog number one (Eva, a Brittany), dog number two (Bruno the golden) and dog number three (Aggie, 'All-American'). Dogs explain what they are thinking in canine conversations and ask questions about what humans do and why they do them. And we meet the author's dogs first as cute little puppies then watch them grow through pictures and words.

Eva Pup: Dave, Why is this cardboard keeping me in the kitchen?

I think my favorite two-page spread is the one of Puppy Bruno climbing out of his X-pen - "Can't talk - busy escaping!" And, of course, rules (to Bruno the dog) are merely loose guidelines!
"Dave, can't talk now. Busy escaping."

You will love Dogversations to read, to keep, and to gift!
(Photos courtesy of DLeswick)

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Book Review: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs

Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, by Cara Sue Achterberg (Pegasus Books Ltd., 256 pages, 2018, $25.95) Listen to a sampler here.

Not Just Another Dog Memoir

The cute puppy cover and title, Another Good Dog, had attracted my notice a few times. I had seen the book cover in my friendly neighborhood independent bookstore (lucky me) but I always passed it by, thinking it was just another dog memoir, memorable, but still I needed to review a more serious dog book this week, I kept saying to myself. Many of my dog trainer colleagues do not read dog memoirs but I dearly love them and I also love reading books 'written' by dogs (also in the minority there) so I passed it by for a couple of years. Until now, when I happened to read the subtitle and - glad I did!

Once or twice a year, I read a book that is truly remarkable and, what I like to call, a 24-hour book - so good that I read it in nearly one sitting although you can easily put it down and pick it up again without losing the flow (if you carry the book with you because you won't be able to wait to get back to it).

Another Good Dog is just such a book: funny, sensitive and, about dogs!

I didn't want this book to end. I want to meet the author and read her other books*. I even took the time to peruse the website of the dog rescue she fosters for, Operation Paws for Homes**, and am considering becoming a volunteer trainer for the organization: it certainly sounds like a great organization making a difference for dogs. And, to find she only lives about 50 miles from me!

Addicted to Fostering Rescue Dogs?

Our author was ready for another dog - almost. So, she and her family decided to foster until the right dog came along. Two years and 50 dogs later. . . they were all the 'right' dogs for them but the family kept finding other perfect families for the dogs (besides them, of course). And they slowly realized they were meant to foster. They also came to realize that if they adopted one of their foster dogs, then they would not be able to foster any more (after all, their house was only so big). And they were meant to foster. Author Cara Achterberg soon became addicted to dogs. Or was it addicted to puppies? Or maybe addicted to dogs needing a temporary home?

Operation Paws for Homes brings dogs (and cats) up north to Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and DC from an underfunded and overpopulated shelter in South Carolina (among others) on a weekly basis. View the 13-minute documentary here - "600 Miles Home".

About Another Good Dog

Along with her stories and photos of her 50 foster dogs over two years***, Achterberg welcomes us into her small village, her six country acres replete with chickens and horses, her traveling patient husband whom she dearly loves, and three rambunctious teens who cry along with Mom every time they have to say goodbye to a dog. "We're running low on puppies," said the youngest teen (page 242). Thankfully, they have a resident dog who stays.

There is the dog they have less than 24 hours before he is adopted out. There is the dog who stays with them for six weeks - until the scared, shy dog comes out of his shell, and finds his forever family. There is the dog who is 'theirs' for four months. There is the dog who ate a baseball, the dog who is afraid to go outside, to eat, or to drink for the first two days. 

Love Means Never Having to Say You're. . . . 

Fostering rescue dogs means loving them and then letting them go, watching them leave. It never gets any easier but the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing you have made another family inordinately happy and another dog deliriously happy even if the dogs generally undergo a name change once they leave you behind. An email with photos from the forever family in the following few days seems to settle the deal and put you at ease, that you have done your best. And on to the next foster dog or two (or litter).

Style (Writing, that is)

A great book has a great storyline plus great writing, writing that shows you rather than tells you. Writing that puts you in the story so it is happening to you and around you. I call that, magic.

Achterberg has that magical writing style apparent with the first page. Although one word seems to flow effortlessly after another, I'm sure each paragraph was written and rewritten and rewritten once again. The end product is a book that will endear you to the author and her foibles and perhaps even inspire you to become involved in dog rescue.

"I loved the both. How could I not? And the risk was part of that love. It's unavoidable when you open your heart to anyone - dog or human." (page 97)

Achterberg even uses footnotes! Plus, she sneaks in bits and pieces of canine husbandry facts and other information about man's best friend, but she does this so skillfully you don't realize you are being subtly educated.

A Great Book Review

Every once in a while, a book review seems to almost write itself - this one didn't even wait until I had finished reading! It just "grow'd" like Topsy from Uncle Tom's Cabin as I read. I simply couldn't wait for the review, even as I didn't want the book to end. Fifty stories about dogs is just the right number to read in one sitting.

You Can Do It, Too!

Yup, you too can foster with a good sound organization behind you, like Operation Paws for Homes. The author includes FAQs from her years of fostering experience and the critical need to transport dogs from the American south to points up north: different cultures, different weather which may perhaps account for part of the culture differences, different ideas of spaying nd neutering (or not). . . but Achterberg also writes that "dogs are pretty understanding and more than patient with us. We offer them stability, food, safe shelter, medical treatment, and most of all - love. That's five things they may never have experienced in their lives. (page 250) And then she goes on to reveal what dogs give us in return (you'll have to read the book to find out).

To Foster or Not To Foster. . . . 

Achterberg debunks the reasons for not fostering. Fostering will be the hardest, most fulfilling job you will ever do for free (all expenses paid and assistance freely given). Just do it!

And finally, Achterberg won my little old dog trainer's heart when she talks about what you need to do before fostering a litter: "Get a crate. Find a trainer. Clear your schedule." (page 242) Puppies could "easily takeover [sic] a life" [ibid] but you will love them for it.


I wish I had read Another Good Dog the year it came out: it would probably have been my Book of the Year for 2018. My only suggestion would be for photos to accompany each dog-story rather than be stuck together in the middle of the book.

Read More About It: Operation Paws for Homes sounded familiar plus the logo was one I had seen somewhere so I thought and thought, then, on a whim, searched through my seven years of weekly blogs at - and found not just one but two blogs I had published about Operation Paws for Homes and their logo.

* Blind Turn (2021)

One Hundred Dogs and Counting (2020)

Another Good Dog (2018)

Practicing Normal (2017)

Girls' Weekend (2016)

I'm Not Her (2015)

Live Intentionally (2014)

**Operation Paws for Homes has a plethora of BLMs (black Labrador mixes) but also numerous hounds and even a chihuahua-dachshund mix and a bloodhound on occasion. "Lab mix was the default breed for rescue dogs with short hair, ears that didn't stick up, a curving tail and a medium-large size." (p. 181)

***more than 25 foster dogs a year at one location in Pennsylvania requires more paperwork, licenses, inspections and headaches.

Caveat: I found this book at my local county library since the copy I had purchased long ago has disappeared.

(photos from Achterberg's website)

Friday, December 11, 2020

The COVID Cough (Part 2 of 'C is for Coronavirus')(OT)

Our previous post (20 November), "C is for Coronavirus," covered terms to help you remember how to act safely in the COVID Era: Closed Spaces, Crowds, Close Contact, and Clean Hands. Of course, as soon as I posted it, another C-word immediately popped into my head - Cough!

C is for Cough

An infected person breathes out viral particles that travel a bit horizontally before falling to the ground. When we talk, our breath and viral particles leave our mouth and nose with more force so they travel farther horizontally. When we talk loudly, even farther. When we shout, even farther. When we sing, even farther. When we cough, the farthest yet.

Distance traveled is a function of how much force is used to expel the air.

Therefore, stay away from someone with a cold, especially indoors. Remember to use your 'indoor voice.' Listen to others with care and respect so they don't have to shout when masked. 

In Summary

Photo: zhangshuang/Getty Images

C is for Coronavirus.

C is for Closed spaces. Avoid them unless for less than 10-15 minutes or in a well-ventilated room.

C is for Crowds. Avoid them, especially indoors. Remain at least 6-20 feet from others, especially indoors. Better yet, stay home! If you must go out, remember that 6 feet is the length of a dog leash or two golden retrievers.

C is for Close Contact with people you don't live with. Be prepared - have extra masks by the door when a delivery arrives, in your car when you forget to wear or bring one or someone else does or you sneeze or. . . . 

C is for Contact with objects and for Clean hands. Wash those hands well - with warm (or cold) water and soap (or sanitizer with 60%+ alcohol) at least 20 seconds before and after doing just about anything. Then put on some hand lotion!


Finally, if you live in Maryland (or Maine or Massachusetts or Mississippi or Montana or Missouri or Minnesota or Michigan), don’t forget your mother – MOM: Mask up, Maryland! Mask up, Maine! Mask up, Massachusetts! etc.) 

Read More About It: 
How to Determine if You Will Contact COVID-19 (a light-hearted look with some seriousness)