In British canine agility classes, there are often two sections: Border Collies and Anything but a Border Collie. The often black-and-white Border Collies, made famous in the movie Babe, are considered among the smartest and most agile dogs in the world and are in a class by themselves. I picked up Mr. and Mrs. Dog, by Donald McCaig, hoping for a little more understanding of our Border Collie, Tess, a pull from the local pound. Despite her hard upbringing, she is joyous and full of energy, leaping about like a lamb when it’s time for a walk. But she gets down to business, too, gently making sure that everyone is in place and taken care of. Very responsive to commands, gestures, or just a hint of what’s wanted, she wants to do what’s required of her, almost obsessively. I did wonder, is this normal?
One of my favorite customers called me to tell me that he loved the book Until Tuesday. I am sure that this story about a veteran spoke to him since he is also a veteran who happens to love dogs.
Until Tuesday is the true story of a highly-decorated Iraqi war veteran who returns home as a war hero. However, Luis Carlos Montalvan has such incredible injuries to his body and his psyche that he cannot cope with everyday life. He hovers on the brink of suicide until he meets Tuesday, a golden retriever who also had an emotionally difficult journey to get to Luis.
Someone once said, “When you finish a book that you love, it is like saying good-bye to a friend.” I felt sad when I finished Dog Man and for a few seconds thought about turning to the front of the book and starting it all over again.
Martha Sherrill has such a beautiful writing style that it was a joy to read from beginning to end. Morie Sawataishi developed a deep admiration for the rugged mountain hunting dogs of Japan. Before World War II, Japan revered the Akita, partly due to the true story of Hachiko. He was the loyal Akita who waited every day for his owner to get off of the train. His owner was a professor who died suddenly at work. Hachiko continued to wait for him every day for years hoping that he would come back. Hachiko symbolized the Japanese sense of discipline and loyalty. However, during World War II, people ate the dogs and used their pelts to line uniforms until they were almost extinct.
Trinity, our greyhound mix, was a natural leader. She would break up cat fights by putting her head between the fighting cats. Whenever there was dissent among our dogs, she would stare them down until they retreated. When our cat was dying and had to sleep in the bathroom the night before she took her final trip to the vet, Trinity slept on the other side of the door. We had no idea what a positive effect she had on the dynamics of our household until she passed away. Now the cats fight right next to one of our dogs' heads and they just lie there looking at them as if to say, “Will you look at that!”
The novel Rose in a Storm is Jon Katz's first fiction in 10 years. Jon Katz usually writes nonfiction books about his farm, Bedlam Farm, an hour outside of Albany, NY, where ironically, his lead farm dog is named Rose. It is a wonderful example of how a little book can be so much more than the reader expects. The book is written from Rose’s perspective. Rose is the best farm dog in the county, and her reputation is so good that other farmers have borrowed Rose when they have had problems on their farms. She and Sam, the farmer, share an excellent non-verbal bond as they work the farm on a daily basis. But their life is turned upside down when a catastrophic blizzard envelops the farm and all of the animals that they have are in danger of freezing to death or being attacked by coyotes.