Under the Christmas Tree: Books for Dog Lovers: Rescuing Sprite and Other Canine Companions
There's nothing like a puppy under the Christmas tree! But if you're not getting a dog this holiday season, the next best thing for dog lovers is a great dog book. Dogs and humans have a special affinity for each other, and I'm sure if dogs could read, they'd be just as devoted to books about loyal humans as we are to stories of great dogs. Here is a new one and a pack of other fiction and nonfiction books I've blogged about this year that might just be the right gift under some canine-lover's Christmas tree.
Mark Levin's just published memoir Rescuing Sprite (Pocket Books, 2007) recalls the brief 26 months he spent with his dog, a shelter dog which Levin's family chose as a companion to their two-year-old Pepsi, Sprite turned out to be a dog of great personality and capacity for love.
An inseparable companion to Pepsi, Sprite also bonded with every member of the family, and when he started to have physical problems, the whole family rallied to try to save him. Although at last they had to let him go, his death made such an impression on Levin that he stopped work on a political book he'd planned to write and devoted himself to this memoir of Sprite.
Anyone who has lost a loving companion pet knows that the time pets share with us in this life is truly a blessing. Having lost my oldest cat last month, I'm reminded of the epilogue Kinky Friedman (mystery writer, front man for Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jew Boys band, and recent semi-serious candidate for Texas governor) wrote for his real-life and fictional cat Cuddles. He quotes Irving Townsend, who said "We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle...," and then wistfully adds, "They say when you die and go to heaven, all the dogs and cats you've ever had in your life come running to meet you."
While Kinky Friedman and Mark Levin might disagree on politics, on the subject of Sprite and Cuddles they would probably be of one mind.
For other inspiring stories of abandoned, rescued, and just plain beloved dogs, here's a collection of canines to consider:
Ted Kerasote's memoir of his dog Merle not only tells the wonderful story of love between a remarkable dog and his human friend, but also describes Kerasote's efforts to give Merle a chance to live a free life, following his canine inclinations, beginning with an always-available dog door to let Merle choose when to go and come. This is a moving book which also makes us consider the way we raise and think about dogs.
Far from the Utopian dogdom of the free-range Merle is John Grogan's loving and hilarious story of raising a rambunctious retriever in a suburban home. In Marley and Me Grogan describes how he and family learned to live with an obedience school dropout who once swallowed a gold necklace so valuable that they had to (gulp!) retrieve it for the owner. It was a rocky road, but love between Marley and the Grogans conquers all in this funny but touching remembrance of a rowdy retriever.
Award-winning novelist Willie Morris turns to his growing-up years during World War II in Yazoo City, Mississippi, for this wonderful story of a boy and his dog. Written as a personal memoir, My Dog Skip is really Skip's story as he changes a shy only child's life and helps him grow to manhood. Skip is the main character as he plays baseball and football with Willie, learns to "drive" a car down the main street, and is locked in a mausoleum by bootleggers in a midnight graveyard. Laughs, suspense, and a few tears make this a great family read aloud as well. The movie My Dog Skip, starring Kevin Bacon and "Eddie" from the Frasier show as Skip, is also a must-have for dog-loving families.
Shelter Dogs by Traer Scott is an intense portrait study of fifty dogs found in animal shelters. The beauty, intelligence, sense of fun, and depth of feeling these portraits show in the faces of these down-on-their-luck dogs reinforce the importance of considering the adoption of a shelter animal when dog lovers want to add to their families.
All of the books above would make great gifts for dog-loving older readers and adults. For a roundup of dog stories for middle readers, see my next post.