Going to the dogs
The cooler weather of fall signals a time to get closer to friends and family—and the animals that add spice to our lives and teach valuable lessons along the way.
The power of a 25-pound beast to alter a life is made evident in You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness. Julie Klam, a former intern for “Late Night with David Letterman” and Emmy-nominated writer for VH1’s “Pop-Up Video,” sees her solitary single life turn upside down after she rescues a fugly Boston terrier named Otto, who comes along at just the right time to remedy Klam’s status as a commitment-phobe. “It made me feel good to see him content,” Klam writes. “I took care of him and he took care of me. Within six months of adopting him, I grew up.” Klam eventually marries the producer of her VH1 show, a marriage that results in an adorable daughter, Violet, and a parade of foster dogs to and from their tiny apartment after she decides to volunteer for a Boston terrier rescue group. These little one-act adventures in the sacrifices and rewards of dog guardianship have humanity, occasional tragedy and sadness, and plenty of hilarity as this compact family in an even tinier space attempts to save the neurotic, unwanted and abandoned, including an elderly dog that provides a miracle just when the family least expects it.
Fans of the best-selling memoir Merle’s Door: Adventures from a Freethinking Dog will be ecstatic to hear that Ted Kerasote has another dog. Kerasote, a warm and winning writer, is an equally gifted photographer who traces his new puppy’s early development in Pukka: The Pup After Merle. Their action-packed and tender moments, narrated from Pukka’s point of view and accompanied by more than 200 color photos, provide a coda and healing for those who remember Kerasote’s journey with another special yellow dog. From Pukka in front of the wood-burning stove in Kerasote’s beautiful cabin in Kelly, Wyoming, to exploring Yosemite National Park, rafting on rapids (complete with doggie life jacket) and hiking to the top of Jackson Peak, readers can follow the growth of a tiny puppy into an adventurous adolescent lucky enough to romp past some stunning scenery with an owner who appreciates him as deeply as any dog longs to be.
“If you can manage to make the world small enough—say the size of a miniature poodle—it becomes the universe.”
HOPE & HEALING
Sages come in all sizes. A miniature black poodle named Bijou serves as her owners’ “Canine Zen Master” in What a Difference a Dog Makes: Big Lessons on Life, Love, and Healing from a Small Pooch. Springing from New York Times editor Dana Jennings’ popular blog post about how his beloved elderly dog Bijou helped him recover from cancer (and get his son through a concurrent health crisis), the book expands on the joy of dogs and the healing aspects of the “simple gift of their presence.” In touching and mischievous sections like “You Take the Dog Out, I Have Cancer” and “The Holiness of Dogs,” Jennings adds simple Zen-like truths “by” his guru Bijou at the end of each chapter to illustrate the emotional power, insight and many blessings that one animal can provide. “Strangely enough,” Jennings writes, “if you can manage to make the world small enough—say the size of a miniature poodle—it becomes the universe.”
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Journalist John Zeaman creates a masterpiece of contemplation in Dog Walks Man: A Six-Legged Odyssey. After becoming the de facto dog walker in his household, Zeaman discovers that the daily routine with standard poodle Pete moves from being a grind to serving as an inspirational return to boyhood and its “fringe places” like woods, abandoned lots and railroad right-of-ways. Pete shows a “boundless enthusiasm for the outside world [that is] like the reincarnation of that juvenile self.” As they set out each day with “anthropological curiosity,” like two innocent and hopeful vagabonds lost in the “aimlessness of childhood wandering,” they slow down and create a “space where things could just happen.” Their adventures, familiar to all dog walkers—from nasty weather and squirrel chases to prying a used “adult entertainment” item from Pete’s jaws—become extraordinary through Zeaman’s eyes. His droll observations on dog-walking combine insight, solace and meditation, taking readers into the heart of a routine task, dusting the ordinary with the divine. “At night, Pete and I would escape the sometimes suffocating sweetness of family life—the pajamas and stories, the smell of toothpaste and sheets, the damp goodnight kisses and prolonged hugs,” he writes. “We’d slip out into the silky night like a pair of teenage boys with high hopes for a Saturday night.”