City Hounds

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Book Review: Brute Strength by Susan Conant

Brute Strength (A Dog Lover's Mystery, #19)

I’m a mystery lover.  I love “cozies,” those stories of amateur detectives who do something else for a living (coffee barista, herbal shop owner, vintage clothing collector…).

After we adopted Red three years ago, I scoured the library for all dog-related books.  Most of the fiction didn’t interest me too much, but the mysteries sure did.  I sat down and read nearly ALL the Dog Lover’s mysteries (fifteen or sixteen of them?) over my Christmas break that year, and I’ve finished the series and reread several since then.

So, when I discovered Susan Conant had a new book in the series out, I reserved it at the library and had it within a few days.  Holly and Steve are married now, and new malamute-loving neighbors have moved in just down the street.  But as soon as Holly begins to befriend Vanessa and her malamut Ulla, tragedy strikes when Vanessa’s soon-to-be daughter-in-law is killed in a car accident.

Holly and Steve are very upset since the young woman left on her trip from their home.  It’s speculated that the girl fell asleep at the wheel, and Holly is left to wonder if there is something they could have done to stop her from driving.  But when another neighbor dies, Holly starts receiving threatening phone calls, and Holly’s stepmother Gabrielle also nearly falls asleep at the wheel, Holly begins to think there’s something more at play.

Now, aside from the murder and mystery, there are, of course, plenty of dogs.  Holly is working with the malamute rescue to place their rescued dogs, and she’s forced to turn down several applications for unsuitable homes.  Could one of the angry applicants be behind the phone calls… maybe even the murders?

As always, the book explores several issues in dogdom: finding the right home for rescued animals, choosing the right breed for your home, positive training techniques and having fun when competing your dog.  For the first time in any of the books, Holly and Steve judge an event at a small dog show and it’s nice to see their emphasis on fun, something competitive Holly has struggled with in the past.  For someone like me who is a firm believer in rescue, it’s alway interesting to catch this glimpse into the world of purebred show dogs.  However, while I admire Conant’s effort to include breed specific rescue into the books, I can’t help but want Holly to adopt a mixed breed dog.  But then, a good old mutt would probably outshine all her purebreds at events.

A definite must-read for fans of Holly Winter.  For those of you who haven’t read the series: well, what are you waiting for?

Read another reviwe at The Bark


November 21, 2011 Posted by | Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Book Review: Amazing Gracie by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff

I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with Three Dog Bakery before reading this book.  Now, I can’t wait to shop there!  Of course, there are none nearby – Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis are all a few hours away.  Steve and I make a couple of trips to St. Louis each year, though, so next time this will make it on our to-do list!  In the meanime, I can’t wait to order some stuff from their website.  I can’t afford it this month(4 of our 5 animals need vet visits this month!), but our pooches will be getting Christmas goodies from here this year!

This book isn’t really about the bakery, though.  Oh, it leads up to the creation of the bakery, but it’s really about Gracie, the inspiration for the bakery.  Gracie, an albino, deaf, partially blind Great Dane with a very picky appetite forced her ownder, Dan Dye, and his roommate, Mark Beckloff, to begin cooking for her.  Turning up her nose at dry or canned dog food, Gracie lost so much weight that the guys feared for her life.  So, even though he didn’t know how to cook for himself, Dye took his vet’s recommendation and begain cooking for Gracie.  And she began to eat.  And the idea for the dog bakery was (eventually) born.

Gracie did more than provide a great business plan, though.  Her special happiness and zest for life touched Dye & Beckloff, inspiring them reflect on their own lives and seek that same happiness.  Always lovers of dogs (the other two dogs in Three Dogs are Sarah and Dottie, Beckloff’s Lab & Dalmatian), Dye and Beckloff took their cue from Gracie, took the risks, and made the changes necessary to fulfill their dreams.  I found the love these two men have for their dogs to be really hearwarming, and the path it led them down to be inspring.  The book is funny and honest and sad, since the lives Great Danes like Gracie are far too short.

All the proceeds from Amazing Gracie go the Gracie Foundation, which “acts as a “red cross for dogs” in need.  The foundation works with a variety of organizations to provide immediate response and crucial supplies to pets in emergency situations.”

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Book Reviews | 1 Comment

Book Review: Lost and Found by Elizabeth Hess

It started out well.   I enjoyed some of the adoption stories and was suitably outraged by the cruelty cases, as Hess probably intends.  The book tells the story of Hess’s experiences volunteering at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society in New York state.  She answers phones, helps with adoptions, goes on cruelty investigations with the officers and even helps out with a puppy mill raid.  She mixes together feel good stories of happily-ever-after adoptions with tragic stories of animals surrendered, abuse cases and animals returned to the shelter. 

The bad does seem to outweigh the good, giving the book a somewhat sad feeling, but it’s probably fairly accurate in its portayal of shelter operations.  In the final chapter, however, all my sympathy for these people when right out the window.  In “The Last Resort,”  Hess discusses the shelter’s euthanasia practices.  She spouts assumptions about the no-kill movement, about pet owners, the public about shelter employees.  She offers no data or statistics to back up her statements & no list of sources at the end of the book, but instead says things like “It’s as if there are two worlds of animal owners.  There are those who obsessively pamper their their pets and those who torture theirs. ”  (205) Really?  There’s no in between?  Because I think there’s a dog or two in every house on my block that would disagree.  They’re living pretty happy lives with owners who don’t buy them diamond collars or a new toy every week, but are pretty happy just being dogs and being part of the family.

But Hess herself isn’t the only one who says things that blew me away.  She quotes one rescuer as saying she doesn’t “adopt out pit bulls.  The would just get abused.”  (199) Huh.  There’s a pretty active pit bull rescue community (and bloggers here, here, here and here!) who might take issue with that perception.  Perhaps this rescuer really does think it’s better that she keeps 32 pit bulls herself, but to me it sounds like the justification of an animal hoarder (those are just the pit bulls; she has a unspecified number of other dogs and 140 cats.  Yet she turns potential adopters away “if she doesn’t like the message on the potential adopter’s answering machine.”).

I do realize that shelter staff often see the worst side of people and their animals.  The bad must surpass the good on many days.  But in order to continue sucessfully in that line of work, I think it’s imperitive that shelter workers remember that they see the worst of the worst, and that it’s only a small portion of what happens between humans and animals.  There are millions of people they never see who love and care for their animals and treat them as part of the family.    Even so, I have to wonder about Columbia-Greene Humane Society’s then director Laura-Ann Cammisa, professed animal lover, who (according to Hess) “is pushing to make (euthanasia) decisions earlier rather than later after the staff has become attached to the animals.  There is nothing more depressing for kennel workers than feeding and caring for animals and then losing them.”  (195) Gee, think how the animals must feel.

If you’re going to read this one, at least read Nathan Winograd’s Redemption as well, to get the other side of the story.

Please note: this book was published in 1998, and the employees and policies of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society  may have changed significantly in intervening years.  Their current website states they “do not euthanize animals for space constraints,” but does not elaborate on why they do euthanize.

November 7, 2011 Posted by | Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Book Review: Dieting With My Dog by Peggy Frezon

I ordered this book as soon as I heard about it.  My dogs don’t need to be on a diet, but I do.  And they need more exercise, so I thought I might get some good tips.

That’s not exactly what I got, but it was worth the read anyway.  More memoir than how-to, I enjoyed the story of how author Peggy Frezon got motivated to change her own eating habits when she realized her attitude toward food was affecting not just her own health, but her beloved dog Kelly’s as well.  I can certainly relate, since adopting Red prompted us to make all kinds of green changes around our house and yard, and both dogs are now a prime part of my own motivation to get out and get fit.

I struggled to relate to the author’s empty nest syndrome, but I guess I can sympathize with having to re-think your life due to the absence of children. At the end of the book when she and her husband begin to realize the perks of having the kids gone, I wanted to cheer, since Steve and I are just beginning to consider the positive side to a life without kids.

There are a few dieting and excercise tips for people and dogs in the back of the book, although I would have loved more.  I didn’t find any really original ways to exercise with my dogs, just the obvious walking, running, fetching, etc.  Ironic that I wanted a little more how-to in this book, since typically I find diet/food books to be too much how-to and want more memoir!  Still, the memoir was quite fun, and Kelly is adorable.  A quick feel-good read!

Read Peggy’s Blog

Attend Peggy’s Weight Loss With a Wag Blog Tour!

November 3, 2011 Posted by | Book Reviews | Leave a comment