Category Archives: Dog Book Reviews

Book Review: Katie Up and Down the Hall by Glenn Plaskin

“A cocker,” I exclaimed, as I looked out the car window at the neighboring car during a traffic jam.   My boyfriend slammed his foot on the brakes, thinking my outburst signaled impending danger as we passed through Hubbard’s Cave in downtown Chicago. That was his inauguration into my world of dogs, especially cocker and springer spaniels. At that time I was living without a dog, alone in an apartment and in desperate need of a dog

Many years later, after having had five cockers and three springers throughout my life, I know I will never be without one. I’d rather commit suicide than be forced to live without a dog suffering through old age in a nursing home. Nothing brightens me up more, than coming home to a wiggle-butt dog, declaring I’m the most important person in the world.

Owning and walking dogs has opened so many doors for me, introduced me to neighbors , created friendships, made me stay at a dog-friendly job, and even involved me in the competitive world of agility trials. So it was no surprise that I picked up a memoir with a cute blond cocker on the cover, called Katie Up and Down the Hall; A True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family by Glenn Plaskin.

KatieGlenn begins with his need to fill a void in his life, thinking how a dog will help fill it, his hesitation, and finally buying a little blond puppy with wobbly legs. Having never owned a dog, he asked friends and neighbors for advice. That’s when he met a neighbor down the hall in his apartment building, who had recently had lost her old cocker spaniel. Pearl and Glenn became friends, at first over caring for young Katie, but then their relationship deepened, like a mother to him and grandmother to Katie. Their friendship grew as Glenn’s friend John, and his three-year-old son, Ryan, moved in down the hall, forming a close-knit group, united by Katie and Pearl’s cooking. As with most good books, this is not only Katie’s story; it is also about Glenn’s relationships created by this little cocker.

Glenn’s apartment building was a block away the World Trade Center as he witnessed the events of 9-11 first-hand. Forced to evacuate his high-rise apartment building and walk through the panic-stricken crowd, debris and soot enveloped them from the collapsed twin towers. Katie’s nostrils clogged as she crumbled next to Glenn, unable to breathe.   Glenn grabbed a nearby firefighter pleading for help, who squirted pressurized water into her nose, clearing the blockage, allowing Katie to spring back to life.

Eventually, after a long life of fifteen years, Glenn has to make the agonizing decision to put Katie down, causing him to make several trips to the vet. His feelings reminded me of my own recent despair at putting my springer, Cassie down only eight months before.

Katie Up and Down the Hall emphasizes the friendships that formed because of the little blond cocker, and how those friendships deepen over time. But what sticks with me most is Glenn’s experience with 9-11 and how a kindly firefighter, who certainly had much more important things to do that day, took a moment to save a dog’s life.

Watch the book trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZbDx444LZs .

Oprah’s 17 Books for Dog Lovers

I’ll have to read all of these – I’ve never not liked an Oprah endorsed book!  I’ll make my New Year’s resolution to read half of these this year and half next year.  For a summary of each book, go to:  http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Great-Books-for-Dog-Lovers

  1. Sophie: The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog By Emma Pearse
  2. Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family—and a Whole Town—About Hope and Happy Endings By Janet Elder
  3. Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love By Larry Levin
  4. Born to Bark: My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog By Stanley Coren
  5. Katie Up and Down the Hall: The True Story of How One Dog Turned Neighbors into a Family By Glenn Plaskin
  6. What a Difference a Dog Makes: Big Lessons on Life, Love, and Healing from a Small Pooch
    By Dana Jennings
  7. You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness By Julie Klam
  8. Dogs and the Women Who Love Them: Extraordinary True Stories of Loyalty, Healing, and Inspiration By Allen and Linda Anderson
  9. Through a Dog’s Eyes By Jennifer Arnold
  10. The Dog Who Couldn’t Stop Loving: How Dogs Have Captured Our Hearts for Thousands of Years By Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
  11. Dogs on Rocks By William Wegman
  12. Dogs By Catherine Johnson and William Wegman
  13. Mutts By Sharon Montrose
  14. Nose Down, Eyes Up By Merrill Markoe
  15. Our Story Begins: New and Selected Short Stories By Tobias Wolff
  16. Dog Years By Mark Doty
  17. Woof! By Lee Montgomery

Book Review: Pack of Two by Caroline Knapp

Caroline Knapp has put into words many feelings that I share regarding several of my relationships with dogs. Words I had not heard before about the deep relationship a dog can provide—not just any dog, but a special bond that forms especially with dogs we have had for a long time or have had during critical periods in our lives.

Caroline had never owned a dog as an adult, but after the illnesses and deaths of both her parents, her break up with her long-time boyfriend, and overcoming alcoholism, she decided to get a dog.

… dogs can—and often do—lead us into a world that is qualitatively different from the world of people, a place that can transform us. Fall in love with a dog, and in many ways you enter a new orbit, a universe that features not just new colors but new rituals, new rules, a new way of experiencing attachment.”

Pack of TwoShe discusses many things that I felt with my dear, departed Cassie, who went to work with me her entire life, traveled on almost every vacation, slept in my bed, and spent most of every day with me. She felt anxious when I was gone, causing me to schedule my work as an environmental consultant into short field days away from her, returning to her in the office; to teach at the local community college, so I could work on lectures and grade papers at home; to walk 3.3 miles to work and back for years until her arthritis required me to shorten those walks by parking my car only a mile away. Many, many things I did because of my dear Cassie.

Caroline recalls a similar experience:

…how I basically structure my life around the dog, organizing the day around the morning walk, the noon walk, the evening outing….how much I think about Lucille (her dog), how much I hate leaving her alone when I have to go out, how I’ve either written off or vastly reduced my involvement in activities that don’t include her—shopping, movies, trips that involve air travel.

Many statements in “Pack of Two” rang true for me, including:

“Growing up, the only person my father could relate to was the family dog… He was a completely isolated person and none of us was close to him, but because he and I both had this bond to the dog, we had a relationship. We could take long walks in the woods and be friends, with the dog as a catalyst.”

I can truly relate to this statement. Our family dog was the catalyst for my relationship with my dad. He had stopped talking to me for well over a year after I moved in with my boyfriend, but when I brought my new puppy over to his house, he broke his silence and said, “Now you’re responsible for another life. You need to take care of it.” That was the last full sentence I remember him saying to me as nasopharyngeal cancer took away his voice and he died a few years later, with me and that dog at his side.

Caroline is most famous for Drinking: A Love Story. It’s her memoir about being an alcoholic and overcoming this disease, which made me see it in a whole new light. Unfortunately, Caroline passed away in 2002 from cancer. Gail Caldwell describes Caroline’s illness, and their friendship which began because of their dogs, in Take the Long Way Home.

Book Review: The Dog Who Lived (and So Will I)

The Dog Who Lived (and So Will I) by Teresa J. Rhyne, 2012 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

This #1 New York Times bestseller memoir is a love story on multiple levels. First Teresa acquires Seamus, a beagle rescue, who won over her heart and that of her ’boyfriend’, Chris. I use the term boyfriend in quotes, since Teresa didn’t want a serious relationship with Chris, who was much younger, and she had been burned twice by divorce.

Seamus develops an aggressive mast cell tumor requiring surgery and chemotherapy at a young age. The vet tells Teresa that Seamus has only a year to live. With loving care, the dog beats the cancer, only to have Teresa develop a very aggressive form of breast cancer a year later. Through surgery, chemotherapy, and wig shopping, Teresa keeps an upbeat attitude, and manages to beat the cancer, and win over Chris’s parents, who had been very much against her.

The dog livedDuring a pitch session for my own book, My Broken Dog, agent, Anna Michels at Sourcebooks mentioned how Teresa’s book was similar to mine. My book is about Kaylee, a springer spaniel, and how she fought cancer, became paralyzed, and how these issues led to problems in my marriage. Although my book is very different, I can only hope it can become a best seller!

Check out Teresa’s Facebook page for more information https://www.facebook.com/TheDogLived/   I need to order her second book The Dogs Were Rescued (and So Was I), which came out last year. Teresa also helps with the Beagle Freedom Project, which rescues beagles from shelters and laboratory studies.