Top 10 Books for Dog Lovers

Top 10 books for dog lovers

It goes without saying that the greatest gift you can give any dog lover this Christmas is my book, Bark and Lunge, but I’ll assume because you’re reading my blog that you already know that.

Here are ten more books to give the dog lover in your life. I have extremely high standards for dog books, so inclusion on this list is high praise indeed. I’m not like those reviewers on Amazon who say, “I love any book that has a dog in it.”

From left to right, my recommendations are:


1) Suspect by Robert Crais (fiction)

Suspect is about a cop who lost his partner in a shootout, and a military dog who lost her handler to an explosion in Afghanistan. I’ve read all of Crais’ books and this is officially my favorite. Some of the chapters are written from the dog’s point of view, but not in a cutesy way. Crais nails the way German shepherds feel about their people. He also depicts accurately what it is like to live with a German shepherd, what it’s like to drive with one sitting astride the console between the seats, scanning the view out the front windshield.

Crais does a masterful job conveying Maggie’s body language and how she alerts to smells. Early on, I wished there were pictures. I wanted to see Maggie beyond the silhouette on the cover. Turned out, I didn’t need photos, because she is written so well. What a tribute to German shepherds. I hope this is the first in a series of Scott and Maggie books.

dog inc

2) Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend by John Woestendiek (non-fiction)

I never gave much though to what actually happens in order to clone a dog, and to be honest, I was more interested in the emotional ramifications when a dog is cloned. What’s it like for the humans? For the clone?

Woestendiek does a fairly good, if repetitive, job explaining the science. First, an egg must be harvested from a dog, and then a surrogate dog must carry the embryo. Probably dozens of times in this book, Woestendiek writes that the DNA of the cloned animal is put into the egg and then zapped with electricity. Hundreds of dogs have been experimented on, and hundreds of mutant puppies born and killed in the quest to bring dead pets back to life. It’s a gruesome business, and sure, maybe acceptable if the end goal is curing cancer, but not for our amusement. I recommend this book to anyone who’s ever wondered about the ethics of cloning pets.


3) A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans (non-fiction/memoir)

A Wolf Called Romeo mixes non-fiction narrative with straight-up encyclopedic non-fiction about wolf behavior. In general, I prefer story, but perhaps one must understand wolves in general to truly appreciate how extraordinary it was for this black wolf, Romeo, to spend multiple winters fraternizing with the citizens of Juneau and their dogs.

Most dog owners will appreciate the interplay between Romeo and domesticated dogs, and enjoy learning about the differences/similarities between these evolutionary cousins.

I hadn’t realized how rare it is for a human to be injured or killed by a wolf. As reported here, there have only been TWO human fatalities believed to have been caused by wolves in North America.


4) Part Wild: A Memoir of One Woman’s Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs by Ceiridwen Terrill (non-fiction/memoir)

Another book that is part memoir, part wolf encyclopedia, Part Wild is more emotionally involving than A Wolf Called Romeo. It is about a woman raising a companion wolfdog. Terrill makes a lot of the same mistakes naive dog owners make, only the stakes are higher because Inyo is more volatile and more aggressive than your average canine.

This is also the story of Terrill’s emotional health and interpersonal relationships. It’s a cautionary and heartbreaking tale about bringing a wild animal into your home and your heart.

Hit by a Flying Wolf

5) Hit By a Flying Wolf: True Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Real Life with Dogs and Wolves by Nicole Wilde  (memoir)

As a fan of Nicole Wilde’s blog about dog behavior, I didn’t expect Hit by a Flying Wolf to so closely echo my own experiences. How reassuring to learn that an expert has struggled with a dog as much as I have!

The first half of the book contains stories about four of the dogs Wilde has lived with, and the second half concerns wolf rescue. The first dog, a long-haired German shepherd, had the same fear of high-pitched noises that my dog Mia has. Mojo, her “soul dog,” was the crossover dog who helped her learn that positive reinforcement training is more effective than using old-fashioned choke collars. I have a special affinity for Bodhi, who came from a shelter and shared my dog Leo’s penchant for doing things like “grabbing a trailing hand and chomping down, or jumping up in front of me and placing teeth around my arm, exerting a disturbing amount of pressure.” Bodhi’s story hit home the most for me, because it illustrates how much dedication is needed sometimes to get through to a troubled dog, and shows that it’s worth it.

A major highlight of this book are the color photographs. It bums me out when photos in dog books are grainy and black and white, or worse, when there are no photos at all. I want to see the dogs! Wilde is an accomplished photographer. Not only are the animals described vividly in prose, but the images of the dogs and wolves also are stunning.

Wallace6) Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls by Jim Gorant (non-fiction)

I think “The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls — One Flying Disc” is probably the best subtitle of all time, but it doesn’t address the aspect of Wallace’s story that I most relate to. Wallace started out dog aggressive. Maybe he was just experiencing barrier frustration when he lashed out at other dogs while in the shelter, but he was in danger of being euthanized. Lucky for Wallace, Roo and Clara Yori stood up for him.

By channeling Wallace’s drive into flying disc, Roo Yori effectively gave his dog a “job,” something trainers will tell you dogs need to keep them from developing bad habits and behavior problems. From that point on, Wallace seems never to have another aggressive episode. Another aspect of Wallace’s story that resonated with me is that even when it seemed like the sport was rough on Wallace’s body, Yori kept playing disc with him. Yori recognized that Wallace’s love of/drive for the disc was so strong, that Wallace would play long after the lights at the park went out

tulip7) My Dog Tulip by J.R. Ackerley (memoir)

I saw the cover of this book on a poster at my local bookstore and read it long before I was a dog author. It’s a completely charming account of a man and his dog. Any writer who is in love with his dog wants to put into words how beautiful the animal is, and do justice to every expression and behavior, and Ackerley achieves this.

A lot of the book is about Ackerley’s efforts to mate Tulip, not because he wants to raise puppies, but because that is what nature intends for female dogs in heat. At the very least, the book is an education in the mating of dogs in captivity.

Originally published in 1956 and set in England, it’s also interesting to read about the attitudes toward companion animals at the time.

tuesday8) Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalván (memoir)

I didn’t warm up to this book right away, I think because it begins with a description of Tuesday’s training, before the author knew him. Tuesday didn’t come alive as a character to me until later in the book, when Montalván describes their strengthening relationship. Then, I was completely won over by scenes of illicit games of fetch after dark in a closed Brooklyn park.

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone comes back from war without serious psychological damage, and in Montalvan’s case, he struggled with physical injuries as well. The healing power of his relationship with Tuesday is nothing short of miraculous. The book is heartwarming and makes me wish every returning veteran could have a service dog.

dogs_purpose_sm dogs_journey_sm9) A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron (fiction)

Okay, this is a two-fer, because A Dog’s Journey concludes the story begun in A Dog’s Purpose. Something about books written from the dog’s point of view get me * right here * (points to heart).

Cameron takes us inside the mind of a dog who reincarnates a few times until he discovers what his purpose is in this world. Having the narrator die and come back created suspense. As he lived his life as golden retriever Bailey, I was very afraid something terrible would happen to him.

During each of his lives, the dog is a completely believable character. I loved his view of the world and his affection for his people. I was completely charmed by this story. One of my top five dog tales.

The Dogs of Babel

10) The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (fiction)

This is my number one favorite book. I read it years ago, and I still think of it nearly every day when I refill my dogs’ water dish. See, the main character, Paul, wants to teach his dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback named Lorelei, to talk so she can tell him how his wife, Lexy, died. He starts by trying to get Lorelei to say “water,” and in doing so, he takes a drink from her water dish and thinks, “I should use soap more often when I clean this bowl.”

That’s an extremely small part of what stuck with me. The novel accurately depicts depression (both the husband’s and the wife’s) and grief, and the role a dog can play in a family. My heart broke for the dog when she searched the house for her dead owner. I also love the subplot about the wife’s mask-making. I finished the book with tears streaming down my face, which I promptly buried in Isis’s chest.

Okay, so technically, I’ve given you a list of 12 books, if you include the sequel to A Dog’s Purpose and my own book. Consider that my Christmas gift to you.

In case this is your first time here, this is my book:


Did your favorite dog book make the list? What did I miss?

December so soon?

Christmas family

This is our family tradition. Every year, we go to the same lot with our dog(s) and pose in front of our tree(s) before Rob chops them down. We get two trees: one for the house and one for the martial arts studio. We’ve been going to the same lot since before we had dogs, but I think we went to a different one the first Christmas we had Isis.

We call this Isis's "Muppet Baby" phase.

Christmas 2006. We call this Isis’s “Muppet Baby” phase.

We’ve really gotten it down to a science. For the family portraits, we use a tripod and set the camera’s timer to take 10 pictures in a row.

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Keeping my senior dog spry

meezyballsmile pt

November is Adopt a Senior Dog Month.

We didn’t set out to adopt a senior, but Mia fell into our laps three years ago and I have nothing but good things to say about adopting seniors. I’d do it again (and probably will). You should too.

With younger dogs, I’ve been guilty of not taking them to the vet for regular check-ups when they seem perfectly fine, but I decided to be more proactive with Mia.

It’s odd to have no idea what your dog’s medical history is. When we first got Mia, we tested her blood, and learned that she had high antibody levels for parvo, distemper and rabies. As far as I’m concerned, that means she never needs to be vaccinated again. And I’m lucky that my local licensing agency accepts titers as proof of rabies immunity.

On the first anniversary of her life with us, I had Mia’s hips X-rayed. She had some arthritis in her right hip, but nothing serious or unusual.

A few months ago, the vet made Mia squeak when he checked her right hip. I didn’t even notice, because she squeaks a lot, especially at the vet. He suggested I consider putting her on arthritis medication, and I said I’d give it some thought. I’d gotten pretty lax about adding the K9 Glucosamine to Mia’s meals; maybe I should try that first. And add salmon oil to the cocktail.

No need to rush into drugs since Mia hadn’t shown any signs of discomfort in her right hip.

She could still keep up with Leo in the yard and leapt on the couch easily as always. Until the one day when I watched her hop down from the couch favoring her right leg. I followed her around the house and outside, watching her. She was clearly limping, not putting weight on her right leg.

The limp went away a couple of days later, but my decision had been made. I googled all the side effects of NSAIDs for dogs and no question, the benefits of easing Mia’s pain outweigh any potential risks. We’ll have her blood checked regularly to make sure there’s no liver toxicity.

On the way home from picking up her prescription, I asked, “Mia, how would you like to take your pill? With peanut butter or cheese?” She voted cheese.

Three weeks later, we had our first blood test. The doctor said the levels in her liver were fine, low even. He asked how she was doing. I said, “She’s running faster.”

I expect that sooner or later, she’s going to figure out to swallow the cheese and spit out the pill, so to make life easier and save money, both on the pills and the string cheese, I mail-ordered meat-flavored generic Quellin chewables. I can’t wait for them to get here.

fitDogFridayThis post is part of the FitDog Friday Blog Hop hosted by SlimDoggy, To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.

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It’s also Pet Health Awareness Month!

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WOOF! Holiday Challenges

Welcome to the latest WOOF Blog Hop. We’re Working Out Our Fears about holiday challenges!
bug hut.jpg

We put our presents on top of Leo’s hut instead of under the tree. He’d open them otherwise.

My biggest challenge is leaving the dogs behind. My preference is to spend every single second with Mia and Leo. They’ve gotten so well-behaved when we take them to Rob’s parents’ house. As long as we put the butter in the microwave and out of Leo’s reach, he doesn’t get in any trouble at all. Not since last Thanksgiving, when he made off with a turkey drumstick after we finished eating.

Leo gets his own couch at the grandparents'.

Leo gets his own couch at the grandparents’.

This year, Rob and I are going to see my family in Southern California. Fortunately, Rob’s dad, Jerry, is the best ever dog sitter and stays at our house. Even though his own TV is twice as big, I think Jerry enjoys spending quiet evenings here with Mia and Leo, watching Netflix on our 40-inch TV.

I was feeling kind of guilty for making him stay here Thanksgiving eve and Thanksgiving night, but actually, maybe he’s happy to get out of whatever Black Thursday shopping Rob’s mom has in store.

We’re a little too reliant on Jerry when we go out of town, which became clear last month. We had two weekend trips planned for October and I had just purchased our Thanksgiving plane tickets when we learned that Jerry had to have surgery on one of the weekends we planned to be gone.

At first, Rob’s mom, Alice, said she’d stay at our house that weekend, but that quickly became ridiculous. We decided to board Leo at a place he’s stayed before where dogs get to play outside during the day. I’d hate for him to be kenneled all day. Leo is such a live-in-the-moment kind of guy, I think boarding him is harder on me than it is on him.

Because we had to leave early for the airport, we imposed on Alice to drive Leo to and from the boarding facility. This worked out great for me, because I didn’t have to suffer the agony of leaving him in the play yard and driving away.

I knew Leo would be fine. Leo is always fine. Still, I fretted. I called Alice as soon as we landed to make sure she didn’t forget to take him. And then I waited, expecting her to call me after she dropped him off. I knew she had a lot on her mind. Jerry’s surgery was the next day! When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I called their house again. Jerry answered again. I think this was the third time I’d called, the day before his surgery, to ask something about my dog. I had to. My chest was in knots. The last time I’d seen Leo was at 5 am and his big brown eyes looked so sad as he watched us load our suitcases in the car. (Rob said Leo was just sleepy.)

When Alice came to the phone, she described Leo sitting on the front seat of the truck. “He’s so tall!” I pictured long, lean Leo, head almost touching the car roof, smiling out the window, and that image replaced the lonesome one I’d been holding onto since we left the house. My chest relaxed. I actually shed a little tear.

That left Mia, once believed to be our perfect dog, but lately revealed to be a house-destroyer. It’s possible that Mia would be fine if she were boarded with Leo, but more likely she’d squeak and whistle and cry, and possibly tear apart the walls of the kennel.

Lucky for us, Joyce, the pet sitter who stayed with Mia when Rob’s parents took us to Hawaii (the last time we boarded Leo) agreed to take Mia to her house. I said, “If you have to leave her alone, probably you want to put her in the backyard.” And lovely Joyce said, “She won’t be left alone.”

How comforting is that?

Joyce picked up Mia after we left, and brought her back after Alice had retrieved Leo on the day we returned, which meant that our pups were waiting for us when we got home! Alice reported that Joyce and her sister and her little dog had “fallen in love with Mia. She can stay with them any time.”

I know how lucky we are to have such wonderful dog sitters. My chest doesn’t have to be in knots the whole time I’m away from them. Still, I always feel most relaxed and safe when we’re all home together.

What do you do with your dogs when you have to be away? Does it break your heart to leave them behind? Is it harder on you than it is on them?

Oz the TerrierDo you have a reactive or fearful dog? Please join us and share your story. The Blog Hop is open through Sunday, November 16, hosted by Oz the Terrier and Wag ‘n Woof Pets.

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Jonesin’ for a beef marrow bone

Leo has a funny way of running around with a bone in his mouth, looking for a place to hide it, before finally giving up, and plopping down next to Mia to eat it.

Here I’ve given them each a beef center bone from Jones Natural Chews:

And now… the winner of the Jones Natural Chews Canine Christmas Crunchers stocking …

Jones Canine Christmas Cruncher


Kaitlin Jenkins of SheSpeaksBark!


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NaNoWoofMo 2014

Once again, I’m joining a round-robin doggie tale for NaNoWoofMo, a variation on National Novel Writing Month, where we’re woofing the novel instead of writing it.

(Sadly, I bowed out of Red Wheelbarrow Writers‘ round robin, which this year is called Placebo and is awesome, so you should check it out!)

Here are the chapters so far in NaNoWoofMo:

1) Rocco
2) Kuruk
3) Hailey and Zaphod
4) Bongo
5) SwamiZoe
6) Rocco
7) Easy
8) Daisy
9) Kuruk

Thanks to Ku for giving our hero a name and a breed! Previously in our story, Marvin the husky was dumped by his deceased owner’s jerk son, and found himself in the woods welcomed into a gang of fellow huskies. He had just settled in for the night with his new buds, including the fetching leader dog, Bella, when he was startled awake by an earthquake and all the dogs scattered.

And now, the next chapter of the adventure:

“Wooooooooo!” I heard my voice echoing in the forest. Or was that my new friends calling back to me? I couldn’t tell. “Wooooowooooooo! Where are yooooooooooou?”

I ran toward the sound of paws scampering in the dirt, afraid that they would run off and leave me. I didn’t want to be alone. When I first left the farmhouse, I got carried away at the idea of living off the earth like my ancestors had. But after meeting Bella and Grumpy and the others, I got even more excited to be part of a pack.

I loved my life with my master, taking long walks and curling up each night on the foot of his bed. My master was no athlete, but he was my best friend. He always joked that he was the wrong person for me, since we didn’t live anywhere near snow. We watched movies about dog-sledding, and he’d say, “See, Marvin, you were meant to run long distances in the snow with a team of buddies. All I can offer you are a few laps around this gated community and play dates with the neighborhood Labradors and beagles.”

I didn’t mind and couldn’t imagine happier times than howling with my beagle buddies and chasing balls with the Labs. But now my master was gone and I knew I’d never have another human friend like him again.

“Woooowooooowooooo!” I howled again, partly in anguish over the loss of my best old friend, and partly in terror that I’d been abandoned by my new friends.

“Woooowoooo!” This time I heard Bella’s voice in the echo. They hadn’t left me!

My paws beat against the forest floor, following the scent of my new pack. Finally, I caught up to them and was overwhelmed with the comforting unity of our thunderous footfalls. The sweet forest air swept through my thick fur, and I opened my mouth wide, my tongue flapping in the wind as we ran.

I’m doing what you said, Master. I found my long-distance running team.

To be continued….

We have lots more openings to join in the fun. Visit Rocco’s House to sign up!