Book review: ‘You Tell Your Dog First’ by Alison Pace

In a world of cat people and dog people, Alison Pace is firmly in the dog camp.

Well, actually . . . that’s sort of underselling it. Pace, author of novels like Pug Hill and A Pug’s Tale, is a serious dog person. In You Tell Your Dog First, a serious of canine-related essays, Pace recounts her fur-filled childhood, creation of a life in New York City, writing career and — eventually, quite happily — the adoption her own West Highland White Terrier, Carlie. It’s heartwarming non-fiction with chew toys, cute guys and dogs roaming free in Central Park.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m also in the dog camp. I mean, my golden retriever has an entire category on the blog devoted to him. I grew up with dogs, love dogs, get excited at the prospect of visiting a friend with a dog. When others coo over adorable babies, I’m reaching for the squirmy mutt at their feet. If my boyfriend had a dollar for every time I squealed, “Oh my God, look at that dog,” he could retire quite happily, get a bunch of cats and leave my dog-hair-covered self in the dust.

I’m glad he doesn’t have that many dollars, by the way.

So for someone like me? Someone who, as Pace’s title suggests, tells her dog the big news first? I was all about Pace’s funny, cute look at life with canines. I loved her descriptions of growing up with a literal pack at the homestead and could relate to her feelings of being a dog person without a dog. Living in New York City, Pace’s options regarding pet-friendly rental buildings are complicated. And when Carlie, a former show dog, comes into her life? Well, Pace will move mountains to find a good living situation for them both.

If you’re not nutso for pets, I can see readers rolling their eyes at some of the antics — but the charming thing about Pace is that she never takes herself too seriously. Aware that some of her behavior could be seen as excessive, she often pokes fun at herself and reminds Carlie that she knows “Mommy is acting crazy.” It’s funny, and I understand. I’m not above dog-talk myself. I mean, my dog has a theme song; we sing Rudy’s favorite tunes when he walks into the room.

Dogs. They’re just really great.

You Tell Your Dog First is a quick read with insights as to how four-legged friends make our lives all the richer, and I really enjoyed Pace’s musings on the unconditional love and companionship of dogs like Carlie. If this book sounds like it’s up your alley, it probably is. And if you skipped over this review as soon as you saw mention of a canine, well . . . you’re not even reading this ending graph, are you?


3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0425255875 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review


Giveaway results on Nov. 9: Congrats to Summer, our randomly-selected winner! Summer, I’ve emailed you.


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5 thoughts on “Book review: ‘You Tell Your Dog First’ by Alison Pace

  1. I am an animal freak, both cats and dogs. I am always covered in animal hair. So I wouldn’t roll my eyes at all. I just can’t handle dogs that die. It will level me every time, ruin me for weeks. If it is all happy animal stories, I’m good!

    • Not a sad story in sight, Sandy!

      I can’t handle sad dog books. In fact, after being wrecked by Marley & Me, that’s my very first stipulation: does anyone die? Yes? Then don’t come near me.

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