Category Archives: dog books

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

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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

Dog Bites: A Multidisciplinary Perspective

There’s a new book out about the subject of dog bites, taking a multidisciplinary perspective.  I haven’t read it yet – but is positive to see a publication incorporating different views on the issue – all in one place.

Dog Bites is organized into nine sections titled Fundamental Principles, Perceptions of Dogs that Bite, Dog Bites and Risk, Investigative and Legal Issues, Health Issues, Handling the Aggressive Dog, Managing Future Risk, Prevention, and Concluding Comments.

Dog Bites A Multidisciplinary Perspective

The book’s description says:

The issue of dog bites and dog aggression directed at humans is frequently in the media. However, scientific research and evidence on the subject is scattered and sparse. Public and political opinions are often misinformed and out of proportion to the extent of the problem. Dog Bites brings together expert knowledge of the current situation, from a wide variety of disciplines, to provide information to the many people and professions affected by this issue. Subjects range from the practical, medical, behavioural, sociological, and theoretical, but the overall approach of the book is objective and integrative. Topics addressed include: the genetic basis of aggression; the public image of aggressive dogs; bite statistics; risk factors; the forensics and surgical aspects of dog bites; international legal perspectives; court evidence; first aid treatment; zoonotic disease potential; behavioural rehabilitation options; the risk to children; and a consideration of why some dogs kill. All contributors are academic or long-standing professional experts in their field, and they represent a wide spread of international expertise. This issue is an important one for pet owners, vets, animal shelters, and anyone who works with dogs, such as the police. This book will be a valuable resource for them, as well as for animal behaviourists, academic researchers, health professionals, dog breeders, and handlers.

I’m adding this one to my reading list!

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

Happy National Book Lovers Day

I have a large and growing collection of dog books in my home.  I don’t own a Kindle or other form of e-reader and prefer to hold a real book in my hands.

Today – 9th August – is National Book Lovers Day in the USA.

And in honor of this day, I’m sharing one of my favourite books – which also happens to be one of the first dog books of my collection – Dogs and Their Women by Barbara Cohen and Louise Taylor.

Published in 1989, Dogs and Their Women is a collection of photographs and stories which celebrate the emotional bond between dogs and their women. I remember seeing it in the window of a local bookshop and asking for a copy for Christmas.Dogs and their women

All of the photos in the book are in black and white, which is another reason why I like this book.  Black and white photos seem to preserve very well and they have a depth to them that many colour photos lack.

Although the hair styles and clothes are now very dated, the sentiments of the stories are timeless.

Here’s just a taste:

“A former Grade A racer, Touch would have been destroyed  because of an injury incurred while racing, had I not adopted him…”

Copies of this out-of-print book are available online through websites like Abe Books for only a few dollars.

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

Paw and Order – book review

I’m working my way through the Chet and Bernie series.  Here’s my review of the 7th in the series – Paw and Order.

Paw and Order

This story finds Chet and Bernie in Washington, DC – where Bernie seeks out his on-again/off-again girlfriend Suzie Sanchez, who is now based there in her work as a journalist.

She’s deep into an investigation and doesn’t want to talk much about it.  Her source turns up murdered.  Bernie and Chet get sucked into the word of international intrigue and espionage.

This book is filled with the humor that we love as Chet tells the story from his perspective.  But I have to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite plot of the books so far.

Perhaps that has something to do with the setting of Washington, DC – not my favorite city and politics is not my a favorite subject, either.

Still, a good read.  And since I want to move onto the 8th in the series, it pays to read them in order because there are always references to past cases.

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