Dog days of summer

Dogs


The summer has been crazy. My brain is like a sieve this morning. Between getting up at 4 a.m. Saturday for a lighthouse cruise and getting up at 3 a.m. yesterday for an amateur radio flea market two hours away (I read while Spencer sold stuff), I am off to work . . . barely able to form a coherent thought. I need more diet soda. Please excuse this random post.

But I wanted to share this photo of three dogs on a raft with you. I took it last weekend on a rare day when I was actually sitting poolside, steadfastly not burying my face in dessert and trying not to freak out as Spence tried to teach me to “swim.” (Despite years of lessons as a kid, no, I can’t swim.)

They’re my sister’s fiance’s dogs. They’re cute. I totally have a favorite . . . and he definitely doesn’t like me as much as I like him. (Buster, in the foreground — and refusing to look at me. Typical.)


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Exchanging vows with a bark: ‘Wedding Dogs’

Wedding Dogs


After getting engaged, I was amazed by how many people asked one interesting question: was my dog going to walk with me down the aisle?

For some dog lovers, the idea of tying the knot without their four-legged friend is impossible. Whether their canine is standing in as “best dog” or simply soaking it in from the audience, our pups — our confidantes; our buddies — are members of the family. And they want in on the action.

Katie Preston Toepfer and Sam Stall penned Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Muttrimony — and it’s just as cute as you’d expect. A collection of photos from weddings across the country, each spread features photos of a canine collaborator along with the story of the wedding they attended. With the Humane Society estimating that approximately 78.2 million owned dogs take up residence in more than 39 percent of U.S. households, I’m surprised we don’t see more pups as ringbearers.

In the introduction, Toepfer writes, “For those who know the joy of being loved unconditionally, who know what it’s like to be greeted each day by a flurry of fur-spinning excitement, this book is for you. Whether or not your precious four-legged friend was a part of your wedding day, or even if you’re yet to tie the knot, I hope this book will be a source of laughter, joy, and inspiration.”

Though we don’t plan to include Rudy, my family’s beloved golden retriever, in our nuptials, Spencer and I often joke about how he would react to being coerced into walking down an aisle. Rudy has a mind of his own — and the lure of so many people around to throw him a ball would be too distracting. There’s really no telling what he would do.

And he was totally not interested in other dogs’ fifteen minutes of fame with this publication.


Rudy and book


In Wedding Dogs, some of my favorite spreads featured Lexi and Hayden, two Labrador retrievers who wore flowers around their necks, and a trio of pugs included on their owners’ wedding announcements (they were banned from the formal ceremony!). There are so many great photos, though, and the stories are equally precious. Written in vignettes, it’s the sort of book you can easily “ooh” and “ahh” over on a lazy afternoon, soaking up the gorgeous scenery and equally heartwarming pup stories.

So grab a glass of champagne and celebrate in spirit! These well-mannered pups — and their creative owners — deserve a toast.


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Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest discussion


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.


Not quite a cat lady

My boyfriend loves cats. And when I say “love,” I mean giant swirly-pink-glitter-confetti-type love. If I’m not Spencer’s soul mate (and I certainly hope I am), I’d believe an adorable British shorthair is.

I’m coming to terms with this.

For as much as he likes kittens, I’m afraid of them. I’ve never been a cat person. My family has a big ball o’ fun golden retriever, Rudy, and we fall decidedly on the pup side of the eternal Cat vs. Dog debate. I’ve always had a big dog running around, desperately hoping you’ll “drop” something from the dinner table. In the homes of our family and friends, dogs are a given.

Cats? They’re an entirely different animal — um, pun intended. Until I met Spencer, my experience with felines was limited to cat-sitting our neighbor’s black-and-white angry puss, Stripe, and his successor. If those guys weren’t kicking up kitty litter, hissing or passively-aggressively refusing to eat, they were blocking the door so I couldn’t flee without losing a chunk of my ankle.

They scared me.

It’s the stealthy nature of cats that really freaks me out. When my 80-lb. dog is hurtling down the hallway, I have time to make decisions. I can evade his bulk by side-stepping all that slobber or find a treat to tame him. Rudy is not quiet. He couldn’t sneak up on someone if he put all his goldie-brain-power behind the goal. He’s a big, lovable doof. Who gets mad when you wake him up with a camera.


Rudy is not amused.


Cats are quiet. They hop onto the tops of cabinets and nestle into couch cushions. You might not hear or see them until they dart out from behind a door, scaring the ever-livin’ tar out of you, and the idea of having a cat around demonstrates how unbelievably skittish I am.

On our trip to New York last weekend, Spencer and I spent time with his parents’ cats. The first time I came up to meet his family found me cowering in a corner as Zoe, probably the calmest cat around, innocently tip-toed up to this stranger in her house. I freaked out so bad that Spencer ran in, surprised at desperate way I was calling for him, and I had to explain that yes, I was completely panicking over a little cat walking up to me.

Not my finest moment.

This vacation was my third or fourth time around Zoe and Max, a brother-and-sister pair adopted years before. While Max darted from the room as soon as Spencer and I entered, Zoe didn’t seem bothered by our presence. She hung out with us pretty regularly. Toward the end of our long weekend, she was even cuddling up in my lap and allowing me to pet her. She never took a swipe at me, bared her teeth or tried to sever my limbs. She was just . . . a cute cat. Calm and sweet.

Totally un-Stripe-like.

Knowing Spencer wants to get a cat of his own soon, I’m trying to wrap my mind around cats. As a concept. Having one around, feeding one, cleaning up after one . . . it’s all very mind-blowing. I’m used to the rough-and-tumble nature of a big dog, and the dainty sneak-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night idea of cats causes a bubble of panic to rise in my throat.

Can cats smell fear?

Each feline is different, I tell myself. Not all cats are mean. And not all cats are nice. I have to learn the ins and outs of each — their quirks, personalities. If I’m around Spencer and said cat enough, hopefully the cat will like me. And we will be . . . a little family.

I’ll keep some catnip on me just in case.


Book review: ‘Walking In Circles Before Lying Down’ by Merrill Markoe

They say dogs and babies will steal a scene every single time — so be careful concerning when you feature them. Because one well-placed puppy? He’ll completely capitalize on the attention of your audience, forcing everything in the background to blur.

Sadly, I’d say Merrill Markoe’s Walking In Circles Before Lying Down is proof that just isn’t true. Not even a cute dog could divert my focus from all the other bizarre happenings in this Los Angeles-based novel.

Among narrator Dawn Tarnauer’s many problems — including a meddling sister, an entrepreneurial mother and a distant jerk of a boyfriend — is one tiny new development: her dog Chuck seems to be talking to her.

Well, he doesn’t seem to be. He is. And Chuck has plenty to say.

Walking In Circles Before Lying Down is a look at Dawn’s life as it slowly, but surely, begins to break down. Newly dumped by her boyfriend Paxton, an arrogant radio DJ, Dawn moves into her little sister Halley’s mobile home in Malibu and takes a job at a local veterinary. A serious dog lover, Chuck serves as Dawn’s closest ally and companion during this turbulent part of her life.

So I guess it should come as no shock that as Dawn struggles with entering a “new phase” in her life, she relies heavily on Chuck to comfort and support her as the Tarnauers, as a group, continually fail her. Halley gives her shelter, sure, but can’t bring herself to help her sister beyond offering some of the same pat “advice” she gives her celebrity clients, some of whom are slightly more than notorious. And Joyce Tarnauer? She’s about as kind and welcoming a mother as an iceberg. An inconsiderate iceberg.

Here’s my problem with this novel: everyone was pretty terrible. The only personality trait the Tarnauers seemed to share came in the form of their selfish, ridiculous behavior. Dawn basically fumbles her way through life, apparently with “doormat” written in lipstick across her face. As with a character in Claire LaZebnik’s The Smart One And the Pretty One, Dawn’s boyfriend is a self-absorbed loser. And the fact that no one else in Dawn’s family can even be bothered to notice that, except the dog, was really upsetting.

And there’s this whole weird plotline where Halley dated Scott Peterson, convicted killer of Laci Peterson and their unborn child, and then becomes involved with a new guy with a sketchy past? And they all live in Los Angeles and celebrities are name-dropped . . . plus, you know, the whole talking-dog issue. As readers, we’re trying to determine whether Dawn has officially had a psychotic break, born of her desire to have someone intelligent with whom to speak, or whether Chuck is actually able to communicate.

After finishing the book, I can tell you that I don’t really know. And I’m not sure I care. I was frustrated by every character in this novel — even Dawn’s would-be suitor, Collin, who seemed like a nice-enough guy. Probably because he was a nice guy, and I wasn’t sure why he would want to stick around Dawn and her endless messes.

What’s funny is that while I was reading Walking In Circles Before Lying Down, I was actually pretty absorbed in the story — though sometimes jolted by the extreme amount of profanity. Markoe has a snarky, fun writing style, and I would probably pick up another of her novels in the future. But not even intelligent, perceptive talking dogs and the hints at philosophy could save this one for me.


2.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0812975464 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg

Corgis are a girl’s best friend

After enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving meal at my grandparents’ house on Thursday, Palmer and I went over to his house to see a pair of buddies I’d eagerly anticipated meeting: two Pembroke Welsh Corgis! I’m a little bit obsessed with this particular breed . . . I’m not sure when it began, but I’d never actually seen a full-grown Corgi in person. My sister and I saw a tiny puppy a year or so ago, but I didn’t get to play with him. They are just as adorable in person as I had hoped they would be! Dotty and Lily, I salute you. And hopefully someday I’ll be just like Queen Elizabeth: she has 16 of them.

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Corgi attack!

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Rudy takes himself a ‘dirt nap’

Enjoying my new weekend freedom, I tackled a project this afternoon I’ve been putting off forever: burning my digital photos to CDs. I take a ton of pictures, uploading all of them to our somewhat-ancient PC. This is definitely a recipe for disaster. So I started transferring everything I have off here, including last year’s photos and many from the spring and summer.

I came across these two of my dog, and this one is probably my favorite:

But I love the next one too! My dad was laying sod in the back yard in the early summer, so he had dirt delivered and tilled what was already there.

And Rudy decided to take himself a dirt nap — literally:

Hilarious! And needless to say, we had to get him cleaned up after that . . . but it was worth it for Dad to get this shot!