Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Someone in a dog lovers community recently asked for suggestions on books to read. I made some and then thought I should put together a more comprehensive list. Here are the books I recommend, followed by a couple I read that I don't recommend!

These are books people wrote as a tribute to the dogs in their lives.

What the Dog Did: Tales from a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner by Emily Yoffe -- Yoffe is one of those people I never quite "got" -- she didn't want a dog and yet ended up with one anyway. Funny at times, a very good read with a happy ending.

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan -- John and Jenny Grogan bring home Marley, their "Labrador Evader," who gets into a whole lot of trouble. A fantastic read, follows all of Marley's life so you can imagine what the ending is like.

For Bea: The Story of the Beagle Who Changed my Life by Kristen Von Kreisler -- This was a sweet story about a woman who finds a beagle who had been used in medical experiments and her rehabilitating her. It was well-written and both funny and sad at the same time.

A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life by Jon Katz -- Jon Katz adopted a neurotic border collie without really understanding what border collies are like. The book is funny, a good read, but will make you angry at times if you're a lover of herding dogs and understand them. As a warning, because it surprised me and I wish I had known: the book has a really unhappy ending.

The Dogs Who Found Me: What I've Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind by Ken Foster -- While not entirely a memoir of his dog, this book tells the story of how Ken Foster came to adopt a shelter dog and how he got involved in rescuing dogs. A very good read.

Beautiful Joe by Margaret Marshall Saunders -- This book is told from the dog's point of view. Beautiful Joe was horribly abused and finds a new home with a family of animal lovers. Densely-packed, without a lot of action, but a lovely story nonetheless.

Dogs of Dreamtime by Karen Shanley -- Another book about working dogs that end up being a bit of a problem. It starts off warm and fuzzy, but quickly turns to the darker reality of dealing with problem dogs. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic book. Shanley is a great writer. She has a blog which is well worth reading: http://www.karenshanley.com

Amazing Gracie: A Dog's Tale by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff -- Dye and Beckloff are the founders of the Three Dog Bakery. This book tells the story of the Gracie, a partially blind and completely deaf Great Dane who was the inspiration for starting the bakery.

Dogs I have Met and People they Found by Ken Foster -- A continuation, of sorts, of the other book by Foster. In this one, he introduces some of the people and their dogs that he met while promoting the other book.

Shelter dogs
These are books that generally have a bunch of shorter tales about dogs who are adopted out of shelters (or not, in some cases).

Disposable Dogs: Heartwarming, True Stories of Courage and Compassion -- Sweet book, definitely heartwarming. Many of the dogs in the book were on the brink of being euthanized when they were rescued by some loving person and given a second chance at life.

Stories of Dogs and the Lives They Touch -- Another sweet compilation of short tales from people about dogs they rescued.

More Stories of Dogs and the Lives They Touch -- Sequel to the previous book. Sweet compilation, but it didn't click with me as much as the first set of stories did.

Second Chances: Inspiring Stories of Dog Adoption -- This is Petfinder.com's compilation of stories written by people who rescued dogs through their site. It's a sweet read and it is also a great advertisement for a wonderful site.

Found Dogs: Tales of Strays who Landed on their Feet by Elise Lufkin -- Another uplifting compilation of short stories about dogs who get a second chance.

One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelters by Marilee Geyer -- This is a true to life account of what happens in an animal shelter. Some of the animals chronicled make it out, to new homes. Some don't for varying reasons (no room in the shelter, dog turns vicious from being in the shelter too long, etc.). Some stories make you cry with joy, others make you cry with sadness.

Animal rescue
These books are about rescuing animals -- included are books on rescuing animals from disaster areas and books about animal sanctuaries. While not 100% about dogs, they are still a large part of these books

Out of Harm's Way by Terri Crisp -- This is the story about how Terri Crisp came to rescuing animals from disaster areas. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen -- This tells the story of the founding and eventual success of the famous animal sanctuary in Utah. A great read. It convinced me to taking a "working vacation" sometime to volunteer there.

The Man Who Talks to Dogs by Melinda Roth -- This tells the story of Randy Grim, who takes to rescuing stray dogs in the St. Louis area. Very well-written and covers all of his exploits with rescuing dogs -- from dealing with puppy mills to rescuing dogs off the street.

Miracle Dog: How Quentin Survived the Gas Chamber to Speak for Animals on Death Row by Randy Grim -- Quentin is an amazing dog and while much of this book is more about Grim's speaking out for animals and Quentin's being his "spokesdog," it tells a fantastic story.

Fifteen Legs by Bonnie Silva -- Bonnie Silva discovers the wonder and joy of animal transport. While I was disappointed that many of the stories were not about dogs, it was still nice to see someone writing about what I do!

Other books
Books that don't fit the other categories.

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul -- Typical chicken soup book...short tales sent in by people. Most are sweet and fun to read.

Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul -- Similar to the last book, except all the books are about dogs.

Thurber's Dogs by James Thurber -- This is a compilation of articles written for the New Yorker by James Thurber. He often wrote of dogs and drew dog cartoons to go along with them. Some of the stories are very funny, others sad and heartbreaking. It appears the book is out of print, but you can still purcahse used copies on Amazon.com.

No Dogs in Heaven?: Scenes from the Life of a Country Veternarian by Robert T. Sharp -- Sharp, a small animal vet, ends up in rural Ohio working on large farm animals. It's a great read and while there are only a handful of stories about dogs, I still recommend it.

A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers: Stories That Celebrate Love, Loyality, and Companionship -- This is similar to the chicken soup books...a quick easy read of many short stories

Books I do not recommend
The Gift of Jazzy by Cindy Adams -- I wanted to like this book. I really did. The parts talking about Jazzy's life and the crazy things he did was great fun, and the parts where she talked about her aging husband's struggles and finally dying were poignant. But then it all became about name dropping...which big stars and political people she had lunches with, etc. That got annoying really quickly. She wrote a sequel, but I won't be reading it.

Stealing Love: Confessions of a Dognapper by Mary A. Fischer -- I honestly didn't think I'd finish this book. I had started at one point and then point it aside, finally picking it up later determined to finish it. The problem? She starts with a bang, about how she was sneaking in to take the dog belonging to some guy who abused it. But then she veers away and says she needs to explain how she got to this point. That took all but about 30 pages of the book. Well over 200 pages devoted to her life, with little mention of dogs. So it wasn't so much about the dogs she rescued and found good homes, but more about the way she grew through the years. She wrote well, but the title was terribly misleading. I'd love to see her follow up the book with one actually about the dogs because I would certainly read that.

Dog Culture: Writers on the Character of Canines -- I read books about dogs because I love dogs. Many of the stories in this book were more about people who didn't like dogs coming to tolerate (but not love) their presence. Some of the stories were quite good, but overall, it left me feeling cold.

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