Tag Archives: new york times bestseller

A Dog’s Purpose – book review

I finished reading this New York Times bestseller yesterday – it’s been on my reading list for some time and I was lucky to have been given a copy as a Christmas present.

I have not been disappointed.  This story follows a dog who is reincarnated several times and, each time, he looks for his life’s purpose.  Starting his life as a stray born to a feral mother, this first life is a short one and gives insight into shelter life and euthanasia from the dog’s point of view.


The dog has a much longer life with his ‘boy’ Ethan as a Golden Retriever named Bailey, witnessing Ethan’s first love and encountering a psychotic neighbor with a penchant for animal cruelty (this part of the book is the darkest).

Reincarnated again, Bailey returns as a girl dog who becomes trained in search and rescue…

And then finally reincarnated again, during this final life of the book the dog is reunited with his Ethan, who is now a much older man…

There are many humorous scenes in this book, such as the dog’s observations about wearing the ‘cone of shame’ during several of his experiences when being neutered/spayed.

The book has been made into a movie that has only recently been released, and with controversy concerning the animal welfare standards on the film’s set, I’m not sure I will be interested in seeing the movie.  But I highly recommend the book – it’s a keeper in my dog book collection.

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

Jimmy the Bull

On artist’s Rafael Mantesso’s thirtieth birthday, his wife left him.

She took their cookware, their furniture, their photos.  But she left Rafael with Jimmy, their bull terrier who she had named after shoe designer Jimmy Choo.

With only Jimmy for company in an apartment painted white, Rafael found inspiration in his blank walls and his best friend and started snapping photos of Jimmy Choo.  Then, when Jimmy collapsed in happy exhaustion next to the white wall, on a whim Rafael grabbed a marker and drew a new world around his pup.

Jimmy with champagne

And this began a collaboration of the artist and his bull terrier which gained fame through social media – even attracting the attention of the Jimmy Choo brand.  In May 2015, they launched a limited edition line of accessories featuring Jimmy the Bull.

Jimmy Stop Wars

And a book of Mantesso’s drawings, A Dog Named Jimmy is also available.  In November 2015, it made the New York Times bestseller list.

A Dog named Jimmy

I love bullies and clearly many other people do, too.  Jimmy even has a 2016 calendar featuring his image.

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

Dog on it

Dog on it

I’ve just finished reading Dog On It by Spencer Quinn and happily recommend it for all my followers.

This book was a New York Times bestseller and is the first in the “Chet and Bernie” series of mysteries.  The narrator of the story is Chet, canine partner of Bernie Little of the Little Detective Agency.

Chet rides shotgun in Bernie’s old, but loved, Porsche.  He is an intelligent dog, with interesting observations about human traits and habits.  He’s also got a sense of humor.

In this story, Bernie is hired to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl.  Along the way, Chet is kidnapped and narrowly escapes death; he’s critical to solving the case.

This book was both an entertaining and relaxing read.  Highly recommended.

I’ve just purchased Thereby Hangs a Tail, the next in the Chet and Bernie series.  Can’t wait…



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.

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.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

I’ve just finished reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.  This book was a New York Times bestseller in 2008 and also made Oprah Winfrey’s book club.  With these accolades behind it, and since the novel is set in a breeding kennels (fictitious) in Wisconsin, I had high hopes.

This book is over 560 pages and so it has taken me quite some time to finish it.  The story, at least for the first half, is quite good.  Edgar Sawtelle is a young boy growing up surrounded by dogs and his special canine ompanion, Almondine.  Edgar is mute – he can hear but has never been able to speak.  However, he has developed his own sign language that his parents can easily interpret and use.

The Sawtelles are dog breeders with a difference.  Dogs are whelped and then trained for a year before going to new homes.  “The Sawtelle Dogs” are a reputable breed (although we never quite find out what kind of breed or mixed breed they are).

Edgar’s life changes when his uncle, Claude, enters their lives.   When Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Edgar goes on the run with a handful of the Sawtelle dogs as companions.  During his months on the run, Edgar matures.  It is this part of the book, with Edgar’s adventures, that I enjoyed the most.

Then Edgar returns home and life at the Sawtelle homestead to finish his unfinished business.  It is these final chapters of the book that I found really disappointing and dark.

The story has been labelled a re-telling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Perhaps that’s why I didn’t like it.  I had hoped for an entertaining novel and the story at first was full of promise.  In my opinion, this novel didn’t live up to its reputation and advertising.  I do notice that the most recent rating for the book on Amazon.com is only 3 stars….so perhaps I’m not alone?

Oogy – the dog only a family could love

I’ve just finished reading Oogy:  the dog only a family could love by Larry Levin.  This New York Times bestseller tells the story of Oogy, a puppy that had been used for bait in dog fighting, and the Levin family who adopted him.

In many ways, this is a story about fate.  Fate in how a badly injured Oogy was brought to an animal hospital offering after-hours treatment.  Fate because a woman who worked at the hospital (later called ‘Saint Diane’)  recognised Oogy’s special character and intervened to ensure Oogy got life-saving treatment and care.     Fate because the Levin family met him when they had brought their sick cat to be put to sleep and decided to adopt him.

Oogy lost his left ear and and a good portion of his jaw and face to dog fighting.  It appears that he was used as bait because he wasn’t a good fighter and then left in an abandoned house to die without care or attention.

The Levins named him Oogy because it was a derivation of ‘Ugly.’  Mr Levin is the first to admit that when he first met Oogy, his appearance was grotesque.  (The dog had a lot of scar tissue which was operated on later.)  In fact, Oogy was so disfigured that, because of the connection to dog fighting, everyone assumed Oogy was a pit bull.

As he matured, it was agreed that Oogy was a Dogo Argentino, one of the breeds that is often discriminated against and termed ‘dangerous.’

Read this book and enjoy the Levin’s journey with Oogy.  Read about how his charm wins over residents who were scared of him; read about the care the Levins provided for Oogy, seeing him through corrective surgeries as well as rehabilitation from cruciate ligament ruptures.

Finally, I think one of the best parts of this book is how Levin describes the responsibility of the pet owner:

‘It has always been my belief that a pet owner has a special responsibility to do everything that can be done to make the pet’s life as fulfilling and peaceful as possible.  That responsibility is yours the moment you make the choice to take an animal into your life.’

The Lucky One

I’ve just finished reading The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks.  What attracted me to the book was the fact that the story is predominantly set at a boarding kennel and that one of the main characters, Zeus, is a German Shepherd.  It helped that the book was previously on the New York Times Bestseller list and so others must have liked it too.

I hadn’t realised that Nicholas Sparks is a the author of novels like The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, which were successfully made into movies (I liked both movies).  As it turns out, The Lucky One has just been made into a film starring Zac Efron but it hasn’t shown here in New Zealand yet (more on that later).

This is a story of Logan, a veteran of the conflict in Iraq, who finds a photograph in the desert of a woman.  The photo goes unclaimed at the camp and so Logan keeps it and it becomes his good luck charm.  When he leaves the US Marines and returns to the United States, he goes on a quest to find the woman in the photo – with Zeus his loyal German Shepherd for company.

He finds Elizabeth, a divorced mother, living with her grandmother who runs a boarding  kennel.  He starts working there and through the book we learn about the original owner of the photo and the traumatic experiences that Logan endured during his time in Iraq.  We also learn about his best friend, Victor, who encouraged him to find the woman in the photo…

There’s some suspense at the end of the book (but I found this didn’t really live up to the marketing on the book’s cover).  I won’t tell you whether or not Logan and Elizabeth end up together, either.  I will say that this was a solid story and it’s pleasing to see a dog take up a major role in the book.  It’s worth a read.

And so back to the movie thing.  When I read the book, I definitely didn’t picture Zac Efron as Logan.  He’s too young and fresh-faced and lacks the solid build of a Marine – at least that’s my opinion.  I don’t think I’ll be going to see the film when it shows here – I liked the story but I didn’t love it.  (And I’m sorry if this offends the many Nicholas Sparks fans that are out there).

The art of racing in the rain

I’ve just finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and highly recommend it.  Add it to your reading list and buy it for dog lovers this Christmas!

The story is told entirely from the dog’s point of view.  Enzo is a sensitive soul, a family pet and confidante who observes a family’s struggle with cancer and the chaos that enters their lives as a result.  Owned by Denny, a race car driver, Enzo learns a lot about life from watching television and learns the race car driver’s philosophy – “That which you manifest is before you

I’ve read books before that have been written from the dog’s point of view and have been disappointed.  Not this one – there’s a reasonn that it made the New York Times bestseller list.