As always, there are piles of books on my desk, my bedside table, the dining room table, and Willie’s crate. Books are one of my greatest joys in life, but like gardening, I never feel caught up. However, that never seems to stop me from buying more books, so here are some thoughts about some of the books I’ve been reading and reviewing. I love hearing from you about the books you have enjoyed (or not), so consider this an invitation to have a “Book Club” evening together.
The Dog Trainer’s Resource 3: The APDT Chronicle of the Dog Collection. This is the third in a series of articles written for APDT’s magazine, Chronicle of the Dog. As a result, it has an eclectic set of topics, from “The Emotional Life of Dogs” (an article I wrote) to “Teaching Group Classes” to “Business Development Strategies” to a large section on “Behavior Modification”. The book’s strength is in its range of perspectives, with articles written by some of the field’s most important and thoughtful contributors, including Susan Friedman, Karen London, Suzanne Hetts, Dan Estep, Sue Sternberg, Risë VanFleet, and Pia Silvani. That’s a lot of people with a lot of important things to say. This is a valuable resource for any one in the business, but also a good one for those interested in a collection of good articles on behavior modification, including a significant section on aggression and reactivity.
In Dogs We Trust, curated by LB Hodge and inspired by his dog Gander. Lon Hodge says without hesitation that Gander saved his life, after years of trauma and horror left Lon with a life-crushing version of PTSD. Lon finally reached out to Freedom Service Dogs in Colorado who matched him up with therapy dog Gander, who not only saved his life but inspired Lon to do all he could to help other soldiers who are also suffering in similar ways. In Dogs We Trust is a collection of short stories written about the bond between dog and person, including one written by Lon who is also a brilliant writer unto himself. I’ve read it, The Voices at Arlington, at least 10 times. Lon and editor Alexandra Thurman did all the typesetting and printing arrangements themselves, and although it’s format is not polished, it is a beautiful book, and one that is helping to generate revenue for therapy dogs for veterans who need them.
Our Faithful Companions: Exploring the Essence of Our Kinship with Animals, by Aubrey H. Fine. Without question, Dr. Fine is the current grand daddy of therapy dogs, and he has written another thoughtful and thought-provoking book about the bond between people and dogs. Critical reading for anyone with, or who wishes to have, a therapy dog, and lovely reading for anyone who needs a dose of oxytocin.
Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen. Warning: There is virtually nothing about dogs in this entire book, but I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately and this is one of my favorites. It’s about the relationship between three brothers, running a restaurant, and trying to navigate oneself through the complications of family, managing a business, and dealing with life… or, the “whole catastrophe,” as said in the movie Fiddler on the Roof. I was more than surprised to read the first reviews on Amazon, which were quite critical. I loved the book myself. I’m sure the fact that food is mentioned on every page had nothing to do with it.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m an outlier here. Just as I was in regards to The Art of Racing in the Rain, which got rave reviews all over the place and left me feeling like I’d been standing outside for too long in a drizzle. The Goldfinch has not only gotten rave reviews, but it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Who am I to say I didn’t love it? Eeeps, is there something wrong with me? Actually, I DID love it at first; the beginning is compelling and brilliantly written and I was absolutely mesmerized. And then….400 or 500 pages later (it is 775 pages long) I began to lose interest. I started skimming over sections, and skimmed my way to the end, barely caring anymore what happened to a protagonist who I originally would have risked my life to help.
The Black-eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black. From the sublime (Pulitzer prize winner) to the ridiculous (formulaic fiction)? Ah, but I love a good mystery, even one that harkens back to the 1950’s when gorgeous women stroll into seedy offices and seduce down-and-out detectives into taking their cases. Not that that ever really happened in the 50’s, but those of us who grew up reading Raymond Chandler and his down-on-his-heels detective Philip Marlow can still love the genre. Author Benjamin Black (check out his photo, he looks like Philip Marlowe ought to look) did a great job channeling the classic American detective story of a by-gone era, in which women are “dames” and cigarettes are “cancer sticks.” Okay, not great literature, but exactly what I needed after a long day grading papers and management of Maggie the Wonder-Woman-Dog-Trickster. Maybe I should start calling her a “dame”?
A Preview of Books I’m Reviewing: It feels a tad mean to write about books that won’t be out for several months, but I’m also reading War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History and Love by Rebecca Frankel and Travels with Casey by Benoit Denizet-Lewis. I’m farther along in War Dogs, which is full of hard-to-put-down stories about military dogs and the handlers who love them (and are often told not to). It is a well-written book that I have been asked to blurb, and I will, because Frankel has done a brilliant job of taking us into another world of dogs and soldiers in war. Truth be told however, I am reading it with no small amount of angst. Although I generally keep politics out of my speeches and writing, I haven’t been a fan of putting so many wonderful people into the hell of battle in some of my country’s recent wars, and adding dogs into the mix just makes it harder. But as the author says, there has been a huge disconnect between Americans who have fought in recent wars and Americans who are not in the military, and dogs are one way to bridge the gap. She’s right. I’ve also started reading Travels with Casey, and admit to first thinking “Really?” Could a knock off of Travels with Charlie be more obvious? Then I started reading, and struggled to put it down.
What about you? I’d love to hear what you are reading now. No matter how much dog training, cooking, gardening and oh yeah–working–we have to do, we still can’t stop reading, right?
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Did I mention dog training and gardening? Lots of that going on. We are in the height of glorious spring. June may be said to be “busting out all over,” but around here, it’s May that is bursting with life and color. The tulips are up, the new Juneberry tree is blooming and the wild plum trees are fixing to burst into blossom, too. Of course, all the weeds are up, too. Jim and I spent so much time digging and planting yesterday that we could have planted something on our forearms. As it turned out, so did Maggie. Here’s what happens when someone left their new dog unattended for too long in the house.
Whoops. It took us an hour to clean it up and Jim moved yet even closer to sainthood by never saying one word to either me or Maggie about the mess. Of course, there was nothing to say to Maggie, since who knows when she had done it. The plant itself is in critical condition on life support, and I am glad that it is not able to express its own opinion about the matter.
I have no idea what kind of plant this is (was?), but at the end of the 3 stalks or trunks are some quite lovely leaves. Here it is outside, propped up until I can do a better job re-potting it. Poor thing. Anyone know their house plant species?
Here’s a plant that we all know well: The famous and infamous tulip, which started wars, and made and destroyed fortunes. I have to admit I can understand the passion; I absolutely love tulips. I love native plants too, but just love watching those tulip buds open…
And now, Maggie is alone in the living room. I think I’d better hit “Save” and “Post”…