Category Archives: dog books

The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs – book review

Patron saint of lost dogs

In this first novel by Dr Nick Trout, the main character – Dr Cyrus Mills – returns to his hometown to run the veterinary practice of his late father.  Already in financial difficulties himself, Cyrus finds the the practice is also in dire straights and the local banker has given him a week to come up with a good faith payment on debt.

On his first day in the practice, he meets a Golden Retriever named Frieda whose owner wants her to be put down because she is having accidents in the house.  Frieda becomes something of a stowaway in Cyrus’ apartment as “Missing Dog” posters start appearing around the town featuring Frieda, whose full name is Frieda Fuzzypaws.

Then there are the other characters that make up the story.  The x-ray of a Persian cat with digestive problems reveals that the owner’s fiancee isn’t as doting and devoted as he seems.  An elderly female dog named Clint (one in a long line) tests Cyrus’ ability to work with emotional owners and brings him closer to his own love interest, a local waitress.

Clearly Dr Trout has used his own veterinary background to make this story realistic and, hailing from New England himself, he’s used a small Vermont town in winter as the setting for the story.

I enjoyed this novel.  I wouldn’t say I loved it – but it’s a good one for taking on vacation with you to the beach.

And you have to find out what happens to Frieda Fuzzypaws!

I’ve also reviewed Tell Me Where It Hurts by Dr Trout.  Read my review here.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

The Genius of Dogs – book review

The genius of dogsI have just finished reading The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.  It’s a keeper!

I’ve always felt that many people don’t give our dogs the credit they deserve; they are not ‘dumb animals.’  This book outlines research into dog cognition and what it means for your relationship with your dog.

Hare, who is the founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, started his research at the young age of 7 with his dog Oreo.  He used a basic cognitive test involving two cups and a treat to test whether Oreo would respond to hand signals.  Later in life, as part of his research, he travels to places like the Congo to work with bonobos, Australia to observe dingoes on Fraser Island, and New Guinea to test a group of New Guinea Singing Dogs.

Here are a few of my favourite excerpts from this book:

  • People who own pets tend to be more extroverted, less lonely, and have higher self-esteem than people who do not own pets.
  • Breed-specific laws based on appearance as opposed to bad behavior are doomed to fail in protecting the public because it is difficult to judge a dog by her cover.
  • In return for a lifetime of loyalty, they (dogs) depend on us for food, the warmth of a loving family, and a good home.  It is up to us to uphold our end of the bargain.

This book is thoroughly referenced with 67 pages of end notes, something I believe is as an indicator of quality.

Enjoy this book, from its first page to last.  I found the book’s dedication particularly poignant…

For all dogs

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

rin tin tin book cover

I have just finished reading Rin Tin Tin:  The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean.  Having previously blogged about the Dogs on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I was intrigued when this book made the New York Times bestseller list.

If you like biography, you will like this book.  It has been expertly researched by Orlean who spent weeks reviewing the archived personal files of Lee Duncan, the owner and trainer of the original Rin Tin Tin.  Duncan fought in France during WWI and found the young ‘Rinty’ in an abandoned kennels.  He was able to secret Rin Tin Tin away on a ship returning servicemen to the United States along with his sister, who unfortunately died shortly after arriving in the USA.

Duncan bonded with the dog like no other individual (human or otherwise) in his life and found the dog exceptionally bright (although cranky with other humans).  In the 1920s, he was certain that Rinty was movie material.  Orlean does a superb job describing old Hollywood – before sound was even introduced to films and Duncan’s efforts to make his dog a film star.

Rin Tin Tin’s popularity is the main reason why German Shepherd dogs became a popular breed in the United States.

During this period in American history, dog training was not even recognised as a discipline.  In large part thanks to Rin Tin Tin’s popularity, the benefits of dog training were introduced to the American public.  Orlean again does a superb job in explaining how trained dogs were exhibited to Americans as entertainment, eventually spawning an entire industry.

It is very entertaining to read about Rin Tin Tin’s early success and the challenges posed by the introduction of sound to the movies.  Duncan, perhaps in denial, didn’t make provisions for a successor to Rin Tin Tin and – as was inevitable – the original Rinty died.  Rinty’s son was not up to scratch for acting duties and there was a time before a suitable successor was trained.

From there, the story becomes one of how Rin Tin Tin became a legend and an industry.   Other dogs, including subsequent descendents, take on the role of Rin Tin Tin and he is even transformed to a television star in the Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.  At this point, there are spin-off benefits of merchandising.

So many people invested emotional energy (as well as lots of money) in keeping Rin Tin Tin in front of the American public, well into the 1970s.  By the 1980s, however, American tastes had changed.

This book is well written and with a good pace throughout.  I recommend it  particularly if you have a German Shepherd in your life, or someone who is a German Shepherd fan, this book would make an excellent Christmas gift.

So ugly, they’re cute

The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest has been held annually in Petaluma, California as part of the Sonoma-Marin Fair for 25 years.   This contest has grown in popularity and is now featured on cable television channel Animal Planet.

Although dog moms and dads who enter their dog mainly come from the United States, anyone can enter.  The Chinese Crested, a largely hairless breed, has figured prominently amongst the winners.

This year (2013), the title was awarded to Walle, a beagle, boxer, basset hound mix with a large head and a duck-footed walk.  He beat 29 other contestants for the title.

Walle, the World's Ugliest Dog 2013

Walle, the World’s Ugliest Dog 2013

Vicki DeArmon has written a book about the contest which profiles winners, other entrants, and their owners.  The pictures really do prove that some creatures are so ugly that they’re cute.
World's Ugliest Dog Book

Maybe the dog lover in your pack would like this book for Christmas, or perhaps you should treat yourself?

Using the internet to share information about dogs

The internet is now the preferred resource for dog owners looking for information.  But did you realize the creative ways people are using the medium?

Here are two of my favorites:

a)  Hope for Paws, a charitable organization involved in animal rescue, has compiled beautiful photos of their rescue dogs into a book.   With every download of the book, Hope for Paws earns 10 cents.  It all adds up.  Why not click today?

b)  Author Colleen MacDougall is publishing the first ten chapters of her book,  The Patron Saint of Dogs, online – one chapter at a time.  I’m really enjoying reading the book and can’t wait for the email that lets me know another chapter is ready for reading.  You can visit Colleen’s website here to join her mailing list.

Tell me where it hurts

Tell me where it hurts
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Tell Me Where It Hurts by Dr Nick Trout.  Appropriately subtitled “A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon,”  this book tells the story of one very long day in Dr Trout’s professional life.  As the day unfolds, a range of human-animal stories are revealed with wit and compassion.

The book opens in the wee hours of the morning with the story of Sage,  a German Shepherd who requires emergency surgery on her stomach.  We later meet her devoted elderly owner whose daughter isn’t so impressed with Dr Trout’s efforts to save ‘just a dog.’

There’s also the owner of Belle who, as a demonstration of how much the dog means to him, has legally changed his middle name to Belle.  (You read that right, a man with the middle name of Belle.)

This book reads a little like the veterinary version of ER, since the Angell Memorial Animal Center where Trout works is a teaching hospital.  If you liked the television show ER and you love animals, you’ll like this book.

Appropriately, the cover of the book features a Boston Terrier.  The Angell Memorial Animal Center is located in Boston.

Roam by Alan Lazar

RoamThis novel, Alan Lazar’s first, is a must-read.  Roam is the story of Nelson, a Beagle/Poodle cross who enjoys and experiences his world through his sense of smell.

Mr Lazar does an excellent job at describing Nelson’s story from Nelson’s point of view; for example: ‘The first thing Nelson smelled was grass…The smell had many layers to it.”

Nelson’s cross-bred litter was an accident to an elderly breeder who would sell poodles and beagle pups for extra income.  Nelson is sent to a Boston pet store to be sold and he experiences his first ‘bad’ person – the store owner who resents having to sell a cross-bred pup.

And then Katey, a pianist, enters his life.  Katey becomes Nelson’s Great Love and for a time, they enjoy a happy life together with a routine that includes daily piano practice, with Nelson sitting contentedly under the piano.  “Here Comes the Sun” becomes a special song for Nelson.  Nelson particularly enjoys the flowers in the garden:  “His favorite of all was the beautiful white tuberoses that Katey had planted a few months earlier.  Their scent was pretty during the day, but Nelson particularly loved inhaling them at night, when their true, mystical fragrance emerged.”

Then, as Katey’s marriage is in trouble, a gate is left open one day and Nelson follows his nose.   He roams far from home, living on the streets where a homeless man quickly steals his prized collar to sell for a dollar.  Since Nelson is not micro-chipped, he loses his only means of identification.

Roam tells the story of Nelson’s eight years on the run.  We meet his truck driving companion, Thatcher; his girlfriend, Lucy; a wolf family; and other characters.  Nelson, as a stray dog, narrowly escapes being euthanized in an animal shelter on two occasions.  And he loses his leg to a vehicular accident.

The e-version of this book comes complete with a musical score consisting of original pieces by Lazar, who is also an accomplished composer.

Throughout Nelson’s eight years, he thinks of his Great Love.  Although he bonds with other people, it is Katey that has won his heart.

Will he ever see Katey again?  I’ll leave that for you to find out, when you read Roam.

Chandi

Chandi book cover

I have just finished reading Chandi:  The Rescue Dog Who Stole a Nation’s Heart by Tina Humphrey.  Chandi is the story of Humphrey’s rescue dog who she trained for Heelwork to Music.  Published in 2012, the book opens when Humphrey meets her first dog, Pepper, in 1994.  Chandi is adopted from a shelter in 1998 and, for a time, Humphrey trains and competes with both dogs in Heelwork to Music and Freestyle competitions.

Tina, who teaches piano and violin, has a natural ear for music and is able to choreograph routines for her dogs that emphasize the stories behind the music.

Chandi is a love story.  It is about the bond that Tina shares with both of her dogs and the devotion she has for both of them.  She is an advocate for a raw diet and natural health care (no wonder I was attracted to the book),  in part inspired by her mother who fought cancer for many years using natural therapies.  (Part of the book tells the story of how Tina suffers the loss of both of her parents, at separate times, with her dogs there as emotional support).

We also share in Tina’s heartache when, in 2007, she and Chandi suffer the loss of Pepper.  Anyone who has had to say goodbye to their beloved dog understands Tina’s pain when it is time for Pepper to be put to sleep.

Chandi and Tina win many competitions in their years together including several trophies at Crufts.  In 2010, after almost 12 years of competing and sharing their lives, they audition for Britain’s Got Talent and go all the way to the finals, ultimately finishing in fourth place.  By then, they are celebrities and enjoy a nationwide tour of the show’s finalists plus other interviews and promotions.  And that’s where the book finishes…on a high note.

On 26 April 2013, Chandi died at the age of 14 years 10 months.  She developed a condition that was thought to be pyometra.  However, during surgery to remove her uterus and spleen, it was discovered that Chandi’s body had many other tumours that could not be removed.   Tina made the heart-breaking decision that it was time for Chandi to go and was there when she was put to sleep on the surgical table.

Today, Tina is training a new puppy named Grace and is blogging about her experiences with her new canine companion.    You can follow them on Facebook.

 And through the wonders of YouTube, here are Tina and Chandi’s performances on Britain’s Got Talent:

Auditions

Semi-Finals

Finals

Pukka’s Promise

Pukka's Promise coverIf I had to choose a byline for this book review, it would be ‘Ted Does It Again.”

Author Ted Kerasote has delivered another great dog book following the success of Merle’s Door which I have previously reviewed.

This book, inspired in part by the large volume of correspondence Ted received after releasing Merle’s story, documents Ted’s extensive research into the health of dogs and the factors that may determine longevity.   So many ‘dog people’ contacted Kerasote asking variations of the same question  – ‘why don’t our dogs live longer?’  And since Ted felt the same way, he did what any professional journalist would do – he asked lots of questions.

In Pukka’s Promise -The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, Ted tackles subjects including nutrition, the politics behind the pet food industry, and what diet is right for dogs.  Ted lays out the facts about raw food and commercial diets, the concerns about grains  and whether they are appropriate for dogs and a favourite topic of mine – variety in the diet.

Because Kerasote observes his dog so well, he realises that there are times when Pukka (pronounced PUCK-ah) rejects the food that is laid before him.  Pukka lets Ted know that he prefers something else one day when he follows him into the pantry.  Having rejected raw lamb, Pukka readily accepts some dried elk chips.  Ted then listens more often to what Pukka would like for his meals noting, “Today I do not want sardines, I want chicken.  Yes, I do love elk, but this evening I prefer dried elk.”

And just as he did in Merle’s Door, this communication between Kerasote and Pukka is not contrived nor do these moments come across as a story book type of anthropomorphism.  Kerasote is a keen observer and dog aficionado.  When he listens or hears Pukka, it’s because he understands what his dog is trying to tell him and translates it into words.  Few authors could achieve this in such a natural way.

An example of the communication between Ted and Pukka comes when Ted is frustrated by Pukka’s excessive barking.  Dog trainers should be prepared that Ted’s solution doesn’t come from clicker training or positive reinforcement, although Ted tries these things.  Ted’s solution is a direct result of understanding dog behaviour and putting that knowledge to good use.  It helps that Ted can communicate in dog.   Enough said; you’ll have to read the book for the ending of this tale.

Kerasote covers a range of health topics including vaccinations, the history of the ‘annual vaccination’ recommendation, and the latest research on why over-vaccinating is a concern.  A good message to take away from reading the book is to enquire with your vet about having your dog ‘titered’ to determine the amount of immunity they still have from previous vaccinations.

Still other issues that are tackled in a thorough way are the effects of neutering and alternatives to the traditional spay/neuter operation that may help our dogs retain the health-preserving effects of their natural sex hormones.  Kerasote also questions the spay/neuter philosophy in a constructive way and whether you agree with his conclusions or not, he does lay out the facts very well.

Another topic that I hold dear is the issue of cancer and the simple message – if you find a lump on your dog, don’t let anyone (including your vet) tell you to ‘wait and see.’  Some lumps, if caught early and tested, can be removed before the disease takes over the comparatively small body of a dog.  Take heed!

As a backdrop to the book’s hard facts, we also get to enjoy a wonderful story about Ted’s search for another dog and his choice of Pukka.  Once Pukka’s is on the scene, we share some of their adventures.

My only criticism of this book is its lack of photos.  Other than the cover photo of Pukka, we don’t get to enjoy any photos of Pukka, Ted, or their other dog friends (A.J., Burley and Goo) nor any of the great scenery from Ted’s camping and hunting trips with Pukka.  I don’t think photos would have detracted from the contents and scope of the book, but I guess that’s the publisher’s decision.

With 49 pages of references, this is a thoroughly researched book that took five years to complete.  Add it to your book collection and refer back to it as the basis for a conversation with your vet (your dog will love you for it).

Well done, Ted!  What are you cooking up for us next?

Pets’ Letters to God – recommended read

Pets' Letters to God

This little gift book is an ‘oldie but a goodie.’  Published in 1999 for Hallmark Cards, you can easily find this small, hardcover book in good condition in used book shops (a favourite haunt of most of my family and some friends) and of course online through used book sellers.

I think this book is particularly appropriate at this time of year, as the glow of the Christmas holiday period fades into the past fairly quickly and we return to work, with all of the stresses of commitments and demands on our time.

This book will give you heart! 

It looks at the major questions that our pets want have to ask God (in English, so we can understand)

Here are just a few of my favourite doggy letters:

Dear God,

Must I bark, or can you hear my thoughts?  – Flo-jo

—————————–

Dear God,

When I get to Heaven, can I play Frisbee with my halo? – Nicky

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Dear God,

Is it true that in purgatory there are 10 million cashmere sofas with porcupines sleeping on them? – Shannon