Category Archives: dog books

Norbert: the little therapy dog with a series of books


Norbert shows his High Five (photo courtesy of

Norbert is a special therapy dog.  He’s a very tiny (3-pound) cross-breed who was the only puppy born to his dog mother in California.  His owners believe he is a Chihuahua, Cairn Terrier  and Lhasa Apso cross.  Adopted in 2009 from, Norbert was his human mother’s first-ever dog and he traveled to Boston to live with her.

At the age of one, he passed his therapy dog tests and began working with children and the elderly. Along the way he learned new tricks like High Five, Namaste (stay) and Zen (lie down).

Then his mom decided to write a book, and then another, and (soon) another….

Book 1: Norbert - What can little me do?

Book 1: Norbert – What can little me do?

Book 2: Norbert - What can little you do?

Book 2: Norbert – What can little you do?

Book 3 (due out in November 2015): Norbert & Lil Bub - What can little we do?

Book 3 (due out in November 2015): Norbert & Lil Bub – What can little we do?

Therapy dogs are special dogs providing important emotional support services to those in need.  I like the fact that there are children’s books featuring Norbert – if we tell children about dogs and their personalities, and teach them lessons along the way, we set them up to be compassionate adults who are prepared to be responsible pet owners.

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

What pet should I get?

“I want a pet, I want a pet, what pet should we get?” is the mantra of the latest Dr Seuss children’s book, published for the first time in July 2015.

The manuscript for this book was found amongst the papers of Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr Seuss) almost 25 years after his death.

What pet should I get

From what I can see, the illustrations are classic Dr Seuss, as is the rhyming language he liked to use for his young audiences.

I grew up with Dr Seuss – Horton Hears a Who was a favorite.  And so it is rather nice to think that a whole younger generation of kids can talk about the newest Seuss book.

Critics say the book is dated because the children go to a pet store to find their animal (rather than adopting).  Let’s hope the teacher, parents and grandparents who read this story to the children are able to explain why going to the pet store “isn’t the way we do things nowadays…”

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

Animal Stars – book review

Animal Stars

This book was a gift and covers more than just dogs.  Horses, birds, cats, monkeys and other animals also feature.  (The book opens with a section on horses, moves to other animals, and then sections devoted to dogs and cats, follow.)

Published in support of the American Humane Association (co-author Robin Ganzert is the President and CEO of the AHA) , which provides representatives on film sets to ensure animals are treated well, I had high hopes for the book.

Perhaps I was looking to hear more about the animal’s background before they started training to be animal actors, or perhaps I was expecting more detail about the training methods used,  or perhaps I needed to see the stories set out in chronological order so we could build a history of animals in film… For whatever reason, this was one of those books which I simply couldn’t get into.

It has a nice format, with small vignettes in the margins featuring quotations from actors and directors.  But somehow, the book felt like a marketing exercise for the AHA (most vignettes espouse the value of having the AHA on set).  It lacked a consistent ‘voice’ since it is really a compilation of stories written by those involved in films and training; a better job at editing the content may have resulted in a book that was more consistently entertaining and an easier read.

Recommended as ‘borrow from the library’ rather than ‘buy’.

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



Thunder Dog – book review

Thunder Dog

Thunder Dog tells the story of Michael Hingson and Roselle, his guide dog.  Michael was working in the World Trade Center’s North Tower on the 78th floor on the morning of September 11, 2001.  The book gets its title from the fact that Roselle was very afraid of thunder and, during the wee hours of September 11th, there had been a thunder storm which woke both dog and handler – with handler providing emotional support.

The book starts with a chapter ‘Goodbye to a Hero’ in which Hingson tells us that Roselle died on June 26, 2011.  This is not entirely surprising – virtually all of the dogs who had involvement in 9/11 have since passed away.  It is, sadly, to be expected.

This book is written in a conversational style, as if Hingson was giving an interview (he did, many in fact, after the 9/11 attacks – television presenter Larry King writes the Foreward to the book).  It makes for very easy reading.

Interspersed with chapters detailing the long walk down from the 78th floor as dog and handler evacuated, Hingson tells us more about his life.  He wasn’t born blind, for example.  He was a premature baby and back when he was born, babies were put into incubators with a very high oxygen environment (it wasn’t until later when many babies ended up surviving, but blind, that doctors became aware of the cause).  Roselle was not Hingson’s first guide dog, either.  And Hingson’s parents encouraged him to explore his world; he even rode a bicycle around his neighborhood without assistance – learning to navigate by echolocation.

But the horrors of that day, and the strong bond between man and dog are what this book is really about.  How Hingson had to rely on Roselle more than ever, whilst remaining calm for her so she could do her job.  And how Roselle offered terrified people emotional support on a day like no other.  Hingson’s recollections of short conversations with firefighters who were climbing up the tower to fight the fire and assist in rescue are most poignant.

Roselle’s legacy lives on in the Roselle’s Dream Foundation which has since been established by Mr Hingson to honor her memory.  Throughout the book, Hingson emphasizes that being blind did not stop him from having a normal life and so the Foundation does its best to support scholarships to enable blind people to live their lives to the fullest.  The Foundation also exists to educate the sighted about blindness.

A book well worth reading.  It spent time on the New York Times Bestseller list.

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

Shaggy Muses – book review

Shaggy muses

Shaggy Muses by Maureen Adams offers a new twist in understanding the writing and lives of five famous women authors.

This book is about the dogs who inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Brontë.

In this book, you will understand the role that Flush a golden Cocker Spaniel, who kept Elizabeth Barrett Browning company, had on her life and writing.  Her life was isolated and frequented by ill health.  That is, of course, until Robert Browning enters the scene. When Elizabeth marries Robert in a secret ceremony and leaves her family home without her father’s permission, she makes sure Flush goes too.

Virginia Woolf also had a Cocker Spaniel, named Pinka.

Emily Dickinson found solace with Carlo, a Newfoundland.  Edith Wharton’s comparatively long life was filled with the companionship of a series of Pekingese.

I was, however, unprepared for the story of Emily Brontë and her Mastiff, Keeper.  One day, after finding Keeper resting on a bed inside the house, Emily beats the dog bloody with her bare hands.  The author relates the story in terms of ‘typical’ domestic violence behavior and the apparent struggle of wills between Keeper and Emily.  Keeper, in truly dog style, remained loyal to her until the end, accepting her ministrations to his swollen face and eyes.  (I’m afraid, however, that this story has put me off reading any more of Brontë‘s work, most likely for life).

If you like literature and dogs, this book is for you.  I liked the historical context as the author relates the stories of each woman in chronological order.  It puts into perspective the influences on each woman’s life and also how society was changing (Virginia Woolf, for example, had a notable lesbian love affair with fellow author Vita Sackville-West).

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



Diary of a Dog-Walker – book review

Diary of a dog walker

Edward Stourton, a journalist in UK radio, television and print, writes about his thoughts when out walking his dog, Kudu, and shares stories of their adventures together.

The book was based on a series of articles that Stourton wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper – all based on his dog walks.  Already a celebrated journalist who had appeared regularly on The Today Show, Kudu came into his life when he was taking a step back from high profile assignments.

This book has some observations that are thoroughly enjoyable, particularly for the dog person. For example:

Kudu’s response to one of those growling broad-shouldered types that sometimes swagger up with evil intent on the common is to stand very still with a wagging tail.  Everything offers friendship, but there is something of substance about the way he holds himself.  He never barks – but very, very occasionally, and only if the back-end sniffing turns nasty, he can do a decent throat-gurgle.

The book is very English in its humor and so won’t appeal to everyone.  I liked it – but I didn’t love it.  I’m glad I read it, but it isn’t a ‘keeper’ in terms of my doggy book collection.

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

Best Mate – book review

Best Mate

Best Mate is a book for young readers, approximately 10 years of age.   I picked up my copy at an outdoor market for just $3 (the book was originally published in 2007).  Since I am now the proud owner of a re-homed racing greyhound, it was the greyhound on the cover that caught my eye.

It was, of course, an easy read.  But I can highly recommend this book which tells the story of a greyhound pup rescued by a small boy, Patrick, on his way to school.  Named ‘Best Mate’, the pup was discarded in a river canal in a sack with his litter mates.

And so begins a story of a dog and a child’s insight into animal cruelty.  Best Mate loves Patrick and Patrick loves him.  The two are separated when Best Mate is stolen for  racing.  There he meets a young girl named Becky who names him Brighteyes and he makes a friend with another racing greyhound.

But that is not the end of his story, or the cruelty that the book portrays.  Be prepared to support the young reader in your home:  Best Mate’s friend is killed when he can no longer win races.

Best Mate will ultimately be re-homed yet again before the end of the book, and this time he ends up with the name Paddywack.

There are a few chapters in this book written from Best Mate’s perspective.  The only thing that would strengthen the book is to hear more from Best Mate himself.

This book should be on your child’s reading list.  It is a good introduction into animal welfare issues and a good first insight into the greyhound racing industry.

My reading of this book is all the more timely since news has hit the media this week about ‘live baiting’ in Australian greyhound racing…the book doesn’t portray live baiting, but I felt a connection to the story nonetheless because of the headlines.

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

Animals in Emergencies – book review


I have just finished reading Animals in Emergencies:  Learning from the Christchurch earthquakes by Annie Potts and Donelle Gadenne.  This was a must-read book for me.  Why?  I’m in it!

Published in late 2014, this book is largely a compilation of stories about people and animals caught up in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.  However, since it is also a text produced by university academics, it aims to serve a purpose as “an introduction to the specialised area of animal welfare management during emergencies.”

I found the first 90% of the book the most enjoyable.  Filled with stories of rescue, sheltering and individual owner’s tales of the earthquakes, the book serves to document – largely in the first person – the historical accounts of the days, weeks and months following the quakes.  And I like the fact that the book doesn’t just focus on companion animal dogs and cats, but also includes stories about horses, fish, hedgehogs and other species.

But the last 10% of the book is rather disappointing (and it hurts me to have to say this).  Since New Zealand is a production-based economy, this book had to focus on the fate of production animals.  But this is also where the book loses its tone and momentum.  Either the authors asked for interviews with farmers and researchers and were rejected, or they simply didn’t ask – we’ll never know.

Perhaps because of the lack of firsthand accounts, the book becomes too formal in its approach to describing the impact on farm animals and animals used in research.  The text uses citations from newspaper articles at this point and becomes ‘preachy’ in terms of animal welfare.  As someone with a personal interest in animal welfare management, the issues raised in the book are not new but the distinct ‘lessons learned from Christchurch’ is very much lost on the reader.

I’m pleased this book has been produced and I’m very honored to have my story told although I know that I’m a very small contributor to the overall efforts to assist animals following the quakes.

Animals in Emergencies has been distributed to booksellers worldwide and a paperback version is available on

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

Bad dog (a love story) – book review

Bad dog a love story cover

This book tells the story of Martin Kihn and his Bernese Mountain Dog, Hola.  Martin (Marty) is an alcoholic who is on the verge of losing his job.  Hola is out of control, having never been trained.  Marty’s wife Gloria leaves him because she needs space away from both of them.

Marty decides to throw himself into obedience training of Hola to get Gloria back and to keep his mind from drinking.  They go into training for the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it.  I expected a book that was very much a dog story and what I got was a man telling his survival story with a main character being his dog.  I did enjoy how Marty hears Hola talking to him.  When Hola speaks to him, her voice is in italics.  For example, on the spur of the moment Marty decides to drive out and see his wife in the countryside where she is staying:

“Hola,” I say, as we drive the twisting half mile past the ice-cream-and-chicken stand to the house, “what if Mommy doesn’t want to see us.”

She’ll want to see me, she says.  Everybody loves me.

“Don’t count on it, girlfriend.”

Do you think she made crab cakes?

The book also gives some good insights into the Canine Good Citizen test and mentions a number of training techniques.

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


The adventurous life of a Cape Cod dog (book review)

Cape Cod dogSubtitled “A Curious Canine’s Exploration of the Cape’s Natural History”, this little book is a winner!

Shelby is the resident Golden Retriever at a bed & breakfast managed by his Mom and Dad (the author and her husband). This book tells the story of Shelby’s adventures around the Cape.  He goes on a whale watch (appropriately, since Scaglione-Peck is a naturalist with the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch which operates out of Provincetown) where he is mostly impressed by the smell of the whales as they breach the water in front of the boat…

He runs through the sand dunes of Provincetown, meets seals and dolphins, and generally enjoys the natural attractions that the Cape has to offer.  The author uses her expertise in natural history to explain the setting of each of Shelby’s adventures.

Jenny Kelley’s pencil illustrations bring Shelby’s story to life perfectly.  This book, at 74 pages total, would make an ideal gift for a family planning to head to Cape Cod in Summer 2015, or for any family who has enjoyed the Cape either in season or in the off season.

The book is a tribute to Shelby, who lived to the age of 16.  He’s appropriately mentioned in the Acknowledgements section of the book.

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