Category Archives: dog books

Buddhism for Pet Lovers

Within the last seven weeks, I have seen several dogs in my practice reach end of life. This is never an easy time, as I work in the energy field of a dog that is leaving while supporting their parents who often do not recognise that their dog is failing. Eventually, the family acknowledges the reality that they will soon face a decision about euthanasia.

For Christmas 2019, I was given the book Buddhism for Pet Lovers by David Michie and it has been a wonderful resource for my practice. This book, subtitled Supporting Our Closest Companions Through Life and Death, explains our partnership with our animals through life and death using Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

When discussing end of life, the book explains the process of dying from physical dissolution to mental dissolution and it emphasises the need for us to put our pets first by being supportive and staying calm and loving. The importance of pain management is also discussed because our dogs do not show pain in the same way we do – so we need to be keen observers and use our intuition. At this stage of life, I am focused on keeping the dog comfortable and sharing my observations with my human clients. At this point, as in any point along our journey together, I am focused on the dog’s health and needs. I often find myself being an advocate for the dog at this critical point in time.

Although the Buddhist philosophy does not support the concept of euthanasia, particularly for convenience reasons, the book endorses practices such as at-home euthanasia because if the aim is a peaceful passing, then an at-home passing is greatly preferable. (This is the same reason why I choose to practice massage and rehabilitation at home – because our dogs are most comfortable there).

And for those of you who have experienced the decision to euthanise, the book explains those feelings often put into words such as ‘he told me he was ready’ or ‘I get the feeling she isn’t ready to go.’

What many dog parents may not realise is the importance of the seven weeks following physical death, a time known as the Bardo state. This is a transition period where Buddhists believe the process of re-birth takes place. Although I have not had clients who have identified themselves as Buddhists, for example, I do know that many dog parents instinctively leave the dog’s bowls and bed in place for some time as they grieve their loss. The book explains what you can do in the seven weeks following your pet’s passing to help ease the transition, as their spirit may re-visit the home as part of their journey to re-birth.

In this post, I’ve focused solely on the ninth chapter of the book. But the entire book offers some useful insights and perspectives on our lives with our pet companions. Well worth a read.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Have Dog, Will Travel – a book review

Subtitled A Poet’s Journey, this book is a memoir about how Stephen Kuusisto’s first guide dog changed his life.

Born legally blind in the 1950s, Stephen’s family taught him to hide his disability. His alcoholic mother was particularly harsh and so the young Stephen would read books by pressing them right up against his nose and even rode a bike by teaching himself the layout of the local roads (which sounded to me like a particularly hazardous activity). A poet, at age 38 he was employed as a lecturer and made his away around his small college town because he had memorized the routes he needed to take.

Then he was made redundant and was disheartened and depressed when a job coach suggested that he could get a job as a pieceworker in an assembly line. Recognising that if he wanted more, he would need to broaden his world, Stephen registered with Guiding Eyes and started on a new journey with Corky the Labrador by his side.

This book recounts Stephen’s decision to get a guide dog. Under Corky’s guidance, Stephen was able to find an independence he had never known and was employed by Guiding Eyes to speak to audiences about the organisation’s activities and its value to those people with limited or no vision.

I liked this book; it’s a testament to the human-animal bond and the giving nature of dogs. I prefer hard copy books to e-reading and so this book will reside with my growing collection of dog books on the shelf in my lounge.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Olive, Mabel & Me – book review

It seems fitting that, on the eve of March 2021 – one year to the month since the world and our lives became dominated by Covid-19, I have finished reading Olive, Mabel & Me (Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs) by Andrew Cotter.

If you’re a dog lover, you must know about Mr Cotter by now and the narrated antics of his black Labrador, Olive, and her little sister, yellow Labrador Mabel which entertained many of us while we were locked down (with new videos still being shared). What started as a bit of a laugh, a sports commentator with nothing to comment on but his dogs, The Dog’s Breakfast Grand Final became an Internet sensation thanks to a video uploaded on Twitter which went viral. The public demanded more videos and Mr Cotter obliged with Game of Bones….and the list goes on.

Thankfully, while this book talks about the videos and the circumstances of their production, it goes beyond that to talk more deeply about Andrew’s life with his dogs (and a period when he was also dog-less thanks to career demands). We see pictures of a much-younger Andrew with his family dogs, for example. Andrew loves the mountains and takes his dogs with him on long walks in all seasons while his partner, Caroline, usually remains at home.

Olive and Mabel have contributed in their own words The Foreward to the book, but the rest is all Andrew.

Andrew has written this book as if he were sitting in our lounge talking to us directly. I could hear his voice as I read the pages of his words which share tales of his life with his dogs and his wit, more generally.

Some examples:

  • On Labradors: “A Labrador is a velvet cushion in animal form – short coat, perfect domed head and ears made from the softest material known to man, woman or beast. As if created for therapy and designed for stroking.
  • On Walkkies: “Let’s get one thing straight. Dogs are happy with any walks. Through the lofty pine trees of Yosemite or down a filthy inner-city pavement – it’s all good.
  • On the Vets – a chapter entitled “The Place That Shall Not Be Named
  • On staying in a dog-friendly hotel: “Unable to leave them alone, I was restricted to a room-service dinner, with both dogs agreeing that it was quite the most brilliant thing in the world that food should simply appear – but only after the poor member of staff who had knocked on the door was forced to hear what Olive thought about his mother.
  • On seeing a dog in Tokyo: “Once when out for a jog in Yoyogi Park, near where we were staying in Tokyo, I saw a dog – not running around, catching a frisbee, chewing on a stick or sniffing other dogs. Rather, this proud and noble descendant of the wolf was being pushed around in a buggy while wearing a Superman costume. Everyone there who saw it seemed to consider it perfectly normal behaviour, while the dog itself looked as royally pissed off as you might imagine. Perhaps he had really wanted to be Spider-Man.

Because I want you to buy this book, I’m going to leave it to you to find the passage in the book which deals with the topic of pulling grass out of your dog’s bottom…we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

I don’t follow sports and so even though I live in a country which regularly carries broadcasts of the BBC, I would never have heard Andrew Cotter if it wasn’t for his work with Olive and Mabel. And I am truly grateful for the humour he shared when I (and many of us) most needed it. Buy this book and reward Mr Cotter for his talents. You’ll be rewarded because it’s really an excellent and entertaining read.

I’ll leave the final words to Andrew:

“The power of love for dogs is a curious thing. The connection you have with these creatures is so very strong and one that can’t really be explained to those who don’t share it. But there are millions of people who do. Not that I didn’t know it already, but the whole success of Olive and Mabel has shown me just how far-reaching that love for dogs is.


Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Rescue and Jessica

Rescue and Jessica

Children’s books featuring dogs are an integral part of educating children about the human-animal bond and dogs, generally (not to mention encouraging children to learn to read!)

In Rescue and Jessica:  A Life-Changing Friendship, service dog Rescue meets Jessica who is a double amputee.  Not only does he help her with everyday tasks, but he also helps her see a future for herself.

Although a work of fiction, authors Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a wife and husband who suffered the loss of limbs in the Boston Marathon bombing, have drawn on their own experiences with their black Labrador service dog, Rescue.  The book includes an endnote which explains how service dogs are trained.

The authors and their illustrator have been recently honored with a Christopher Award. Christopher Award founder Father James Keller created the awards to salute media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

Kensky & Downes

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes (photo by Boston Globe)

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

What I’ve been reading…

Most people in New Zealand went back to work on Monday after a couple of weeks of holidays around the Christmas and New Year period.

Although I worked the non-statutory days, I also had some ‘me time’ and I was able to get stuck into the many books that have been piling up on my end table.  (I prefer real books to electonic books, by the way, – no Kindle here!)

I read two of the David Rosenfelt books featuring Andy Carpenter, a lawyer and dog lover.  Andy has a Golden Retriever, Tara, and also supports a local rescue organisation.  He can afford to be choosy about the cases he decides to take on; Andy is wealthy thanks to a sizeable inheritance.

Play Dead and New Tricks are actually the 6th and 7th books in the Andy Carpenter series and I’ve got to get my hands on numbers 1-5 before proceeding in sequence again.

These novels were interesting stories packed with courtroom drama and, of course, dogs.

In Play Dead, the key to overturning Richard Evan’s  life sentence for murdering his girlfriend Stacy Harriman lies with his Golden Retriever, Reggie.  Presumed drowned after Richard murders Stacy on a boat (Stacy’s body was never found),  Reggie suddenly turns up at a local animal shelter years later.  Will Reggie lead Andy to the real killer?

In New Tricks, Andy becomes the court-appointed guardian of Waggy, a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.  Waggy’s owner was murdered and the man’s wife is going to battle it out for custody of Waggy with her stepson.  That is, until the wife is also killed when her house explodes in front of Andy’s eyes and the stepson is charged with murder.  This story was full of twists and turns as well as courtroom drama.

Andy Carpenter is the protagonist is these books, unlike the Chet and Bernie books by Spencer Quinn (which I also love!) which feature Chet the Dog as the storyteller.

These novels were entertaining and made for a great, relaxing read over the holidays.   I definitely want to read all of the other Andy Carpenter books.  (there are 17 books so far with the latest book, Deck the Hounds, published in October 2018).

I think more books are going to pile up on the end table!

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Run, Spot, Run – book review

Run, Spot, Run -The Ethics of Keeping Pets by Jessica Pierce takes its name from the black and white puppy of the Dick and Jane early reader books that were used from the 1930s until the 1970s.

Spot is a stand-in for all the animals that are kept as pets; this is not just cats and dogs but also exotics and other animals.

Run Spot Run by Jessica Pierce

The scope of this book is a mixture of information which is enlightening, challenging and thought-provoking.

Pierce, a bioethicist, aims to answer the fundamental question, “Is it ethical to keep pets?”  And the issue isn’t nearly as black and white as Spot the dog was.

She covers the implication of care needs such as spay/neuter, enrichment and feeding, for example.  The feeding chapters canvas the issues of what we choose to feed, and how these feeds are sourced – powerful stuff that is often missed in the ever-present “raw vs kibble” debate.  Food for thought, definitely.

Cruelty and neglect are also covered, as are the hard-hitting facts of other animal abuse such as sexual abuse of animals (this chapter comes with a warning about offensive and disturbing content).   Exotic pets and their plight are also discussed.

This book is not a light read; but for any true pet lover, you owe it to yourself to look at the wider ethical issues around pet care and responsibility.  Pierce’s final words are a fitting closure to this book:

“I leave you with a call to action.  Change starts with awareness.”

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Dogs of Avalon – book review

Inspired by her adopted lurcher, Lily, author Laura Schenone started to research the background story of Irish sighthounds that were being imported into the United States for adoption.

Her research reveals the story of Marion Fitzgibbon, who witnessed firsthand the appalling animal welfare problems in her native Ireland and started to take action.  Marion’s story starts small, as most animal welfare initiatives do.  But her dream and her passion builds as she finds friends who are willing to work alongside her and to help find shelter and fostering options for rescued animals.

The dogs of avalon

She eventually becomes the head of the Irish Society for the Protection of Cruelty Animals and she is experienced enough and with enough authority to tackle the greyhound racing industry.  This includes conducting an undercover investigation into facilities in Spain, where many of the Irish greyhounds were sold to live in appalling conditions.

In Ireland, very few people were willing to adopt the greyhounds that their country’s highly subsidized racing industry supported – and so many were sent to the United States which is how the author’s Lily came to reside in New Jersey.

And for a time the book focuses on the USA greyhound racing industry and the groundswell of support to help shut tracks down.  I actually found this part of the book to be its weakest – diverting from the Irish story.    The cause to shut down the Wonderland track in Massachusetts is covered, for example; but not particularly clearly in my opinion.  (I grew up in Massachusetts and Wonderland is a stop on the Blue Line of Boston’s subway system.)

Like all true stories of animal welfare organizations, there are many cases that are not easy to read.  But that is the reality that we must face when acknowledging how people and industries view the rights (or lack thereof) of animals and the history of how man has treated animals.

As a greyhound owner myself, I could never have passed by this book.  It’s a solid read for greyhound lovers, all dog owners, and anyone interested in animal welfare.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Scents and Sensibility – book review

I’ve owned Scents and Sensibility, the 8th book in the Chet and Bernie series, for at least a year (it was published in 2015).  When  I interviewed Peter Abrahams (pen name Spencer Quinn) in September 2016 for my column in NZ Dog World, he had put his plans for another Chet and Bernie ‘on hold’ whilst writing The Right Side.  (The Right Side was published last year, 2017, and is on my reading list).    Scents and Sensibility

Given that I’m a huge Chet and Bernie fan, I held off reading this book since I knew the ninth book would be a way off.  Scents and Sensibility was another good read with a solid pace to the story of Chet and Bernie, my favorite private detectives.

Chet and Bernie return home one day to find that Mr Parsons, their elderly neighbor, has a new saguaro cactus planted in his yard.  Since the cactus is a protected species, Mr Parsons is soon under investigation and he shows a decided reluctance to reveal the source of the plant, which he says was a gift.

Bernie steps in to help and, soon, there is a murder to investigate.

saguaro from Wikipedia

A saguaro cactus (Source: Wikipedia)

We also meet a new puppy named Shooter who bears a striking resemblance to Chet.  Has Chet fathered puppies???

The book finishes with Bernie, our hero, in hospital but on the road to recovery – the scene is set for Book #9.  Presumably, in the next book we will also find out if Bernie’s relationship with Suzie is over or not.  Suzie has only a brief mention in this book; she’s taken a job in London and wants Bernie to join her…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Do Unto Animals – book review

When Tracey Stewart’s book was launched in 2015, it was to great fanfare and lots of reviews.  It has taken me a while to get this book to the top of my reading pile.

Do Unto AnimalsThe theme of the book is ‘how to give back’ to animals of all types.  The first 70 or so pages are about domestic dogs and cats and the remaining 110+ pages are about other creatures including wildlife and farm animals.

To be honest, I think Stewart could have cut the chapters about dogs and cats and focused solely on the ‘other’ creatures.  The advice given for dogs and cats is pretty basic and not particularly well thought out because the information is so brief.  For example, she has included two pages about dog massage with 6 ‘moves’ and the usual warnings about ‘not to be substituted for veterinary care.’

The book comes into its own, however, when the other animals become the focus of the text.  For American audiences, the chapters about backyard wildlife and the roles of each of the ‘pests’ is enlightening. In the farm animals section, she covers pigs, cows, goats, sheep, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.  And for each type of animal, she includes a hard hitting ‘what makes a pig (cow, goat, sheep, horse, chicken, turkey, duck or goose) unhappy.’

These pages constitute a simple ‘list of shame’ when it comes to factory farming and the realities of individual consumer choices for meat, dairy, and even feather down garments.

The best part of the book, in my opinion, are the illustrations by Lisel Ashlock.  In full color, these adorn every page of the book and are a reason why this book should be owned and shared in print version (not electronic).

My overall grade:  A-

Tracey Stewart has a veterinary technician qualification although her first career was in design.  She is the wife of comedian and talk show host Jon Stewart.  Both are committed to animal welfare, with a large animal family of their own on their New Jersey farm property; part of the proceeds of each book sold go to support Farm Sanctuary.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Found Dogs – book review

For anyone interested in animal welfare, the story of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels is both sobering and encouraging.  Their rescue and the legal cases that followed were thoroughly documented in the New York Times bestseller, The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant.

The Found Dogs by Jim Gorant

In 2017, to mark the 10th anniversary of the bust which rescued the dogs, Gorant came back with this slim volume to update us on the stories of the dogs and people involved in the case.

Told simply and straightforwardly, the book opens on the property at 1915 Moonlight Road which is now the Good News Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs.  In 2016, a ceremony at the property reunited many of the people involved in the case and the adopters with the dogs who had been saved.  51 dogwood trees were planted along with 51 plaques depicting the names of each of the dogs found at the property.  In some cases, the adopters were planting the trees for their dogs in memory, because by then many had already passed away.

Part II of the book is the longest part of the book; it’s an alphabetical list of each of the dogs by name and their story since being rescued.  Some are heartbreakingly short.   Other parts of the book update us on the key people involved in the bust and the legal case, and a discussion about what has changed in the last 10 years.

Much like the documentary film The Champions, the book couldn’t have been published too soon.  Many of the Vick dogs have passed, including cover girl Little Red whose story opened and closed The Champions.

Definitely worth reading and, if you are like me, adding to your ‘real’ dog book collection.  (I’m talking physical books, not Kindle files!)

And the last words go to Jim Gorant:  “As the dogs showed us – and continue to prove – accepting the state of things as they actually are and forging on in the face of those realities is the only way to make progress and create a new, better reality.”

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand