Archive for the ‘dogs’ Tag

Our Once Lively Dog   7 comments

 (This is obviously not a review of a book or restaurant, just my feelings today.)

Jackson and last day in the sun.jpg

              Jackson’s last day in the sun.

Today I said goodbye and thank you to Jackson, my shadow/companion of the last 12 years. This Pointer mix, we adopted from the Humane society filled our hearts in ways we never imagined. Andrew gets credit for picking him. Later he slept on the floor with Jackson that first night home. We had two sons in high school and one in college when he joined our family.

Each of us has special recollections of our exuberant dog, who until the last month, still had a lot of puppy in him.

He could be annoying whenever someone came to the door. He didn’t jump as much as bounce around. He knew which friends  meant a hike was in store, and he was always ready for a hike. This morning was no exception. His weakened state didn’t deter his desire. As much as he wanted to keep going, I knew it had to be short.


                                    With our Swedish son’s shoe; he didn’t chew, he just liked it nearby.

Jackson is the third dog I’ve had as an adult. I think each member of my family considers him theirs. Having said goodbye to the others, including those belonging to friends, I expected this to be somewhat easier than it was; not so. Perhaps it’s because he filled another role when my husband and I became empty-nesters.


                                                 The view from one of regular morning hikes.

He greeted me with a hug each morning, although this honor was later shared with my daughters-in-law. Even as adults, with pets of their own, my sons remained devoted to Jackson. Their sadness intensifies mine. So, I’ll try to think of Jackson’s happier days, because they’re among mine, too.

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                      Jackson’s first day home.

Posted June 24, 2019 by bluepagespecial in Uncategorized

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Best of Friends   Leave a comment

The Friend

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez comes across as a letter to an intimate, erudite companion and also a series of journal entries about grief. Yet, it’s a story, in fact a novel, a work of fiction.

The nameless female narrator mourns the death of a dear friend, a relatively successful (male) writer, who has committed suicide. He, too, is unnamed, as are many of the characters, who are mostly peripheral, such as Wife One, Wife Three and Grumpy Vet. Some of the narrator’s graduate students are identified as someone “I’ll call …,” but only the super of her New York City apartment and a Great Dane are ascribed monikers.

Reluctantly, she takes the deceased man’s dog, Apollo, since no one else wants him; he’s old and massive. Like her, the dog also grieves. Apollo’s presence brings changes and not just to her lifestyle — despite her small apartment in a building that doesn’t allow pets. Previously, she’d only had cats. This is no immediate transformation. She recognizes he is a tie to her friend and she is not alone in her sorrow.

Nunez’s novel is also about writing. The narrator is a college English teacher. She cites writer after writer on death, grief, dogs, teaching, love and writing. Just as the woman recounts her memories of her close bond with the writer, her connection with Apollo transforms. She no longer sees him as a burden, so the question remains who is the friend: the dead writer, the narrator or the dog?

The Friend
Almost four bookmarks
Riverhead Books, 2018
212 pages

Canine Communication   Leave a comment


A few weeks before my birthday one of my sons asked what I’d like as a gift. I gave him a very specific idea, which he pointedly ignored. Instead he gave me How to Speak Dog: A Guide to Decoding Dog Language. Written by Aline Alexander Newman and Gary Weitzman, a vet and president of the San Diego Humane Society, this fun, informative manual actually helps me to better understand my dog.

I spend a lot of time with my dog, Jackson, so I have always felt in tune with his actions. After reading this guide, I realize I was off-base on some points, but on the mark for others. For example, tail wagging. I erroneously thought all wagging tails were signs of dogs’ playfulness and excitement. This isn’t necessarily true, according to the authors. Occasionally it indicates fear. The way to tell is if only the end of an otherwise high stiff tail wags. The happy wag, on the other hand, is rapid and usually a large sweeping arc-like motion.

History of dogs, attributes of a variety of breeds, different types of barks, movement of ears, yawning and other forms of nonverbal communication are all addressed. Photos, illustrations, scenarios and resources help round out the content. This is a fun, easy-to-read book that most dog owners should find useful.


This probably is not a book I would have chosen on my own, but this time I appreciate that my son decided to ignore me – please notice that caveat: this time.

How to Speak Dog: A Guide to Decoding Dog Language
Three Bookmarks
National Geographic, 2013
176 pages

Who Walks Who?   3 comments

Dog NationI confess, my dog has me tied around his leash – literally and metaphorically. I love my dog; my kids love my dog; the jury’s still out on my husband, though.

I’ve had three dogs in my adult life. All hold special places in my heart, but with Jackson, my German Short Haired Pointer mix from the humane society, I feel something different. I think I know more now, and I should. Afterall, I’ve spent more time, more money, more efforts to train him and more affection on him than I like to admit. As Michael Schaffer points out in his book, One Nation Under Dog, I am not alone.


Schaffer examines the emotions and economics of dog ownership in the U.S. The two factors are closely aligned but it’s clear Schaffer puts emotions in the driver’s seat, why else would we dog owners be part of a $43 billion industry that continues to grow, and in some ways, has evolved as somewhat bizarre?

In a conversational tone, Schaffer recounts the many ways humans and their pets (primarily dogs and cats to a lesser extent) cohabit. He shares his personal experience as a dog owner, provides anecdotes from other owners, and interviews professionals: vets, trainers, dog walkers, breeders. He addresses everything from food to pet accessories. His research also includes legal concerns, dog parties, and dealing with the loss of a pet. The details eventually begin to bog down. Fortunately, Schaffer’s point of view includes a sense of humor and irony.

One Nation Under Dog
Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Henry Holt and Co., 2009
288 pages, including notes

A Dog-Write-Dog World   Leave a comment


In a twist on the what-did-you-bring-me refrain from my kids’ childhood reactions to out-of-town trips, my oldest son brought me a book. I appreciate that it made him think of me. Shaggy Muses by Maureen Adams examines the relationships between five female writers and their dogs. I’ve had several dogs in my life and all hold special places in my heart. My dog Jackson and I have a strong bond; although I’m not sure I consider him my muse, he might prove me wrong.


Adams’s book is subtitled The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte. It’s part academic, largely anecdotal, and for dog lovers who happen to enjoy literature it’s particularly enjoyable. The book started as a series in scholarly journals on the bond between dogs and their humans.

The relationships between these writers and their dogs were strong to the point of distraction. In fact, the dogs served as buffers making it possible to limit expressing real emotion. Adams writes, “Elizabeth and Robert [Browning] used Flush as a symbolic go-between to help them express their feelings in conversations and letters.” The other women did the same.

Some of the writers had numerous dogs, other just a single source of inspiration. One narrative involving Bronte and Keeper, her large, intimidating part-Mastiff, is exceptionally disturbing. Bronte beat her dog, and then comforted him, which suggests the love-hate relationship often evident in abusive relationships. Fortunately, the other stories Adams provides are more endearing.

Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
The University of Chicago Press, 2007
299 pages, with notes and index

(Wo)man’s Best Friend   2 comments

I’ve had three dogs in my adult life, so I found the first line of Jill Abramson’s
The Puppy Diaries – Raising a Dog Named Scout powerful: “The truth
about getting a new dog is that it makes you miss the old one.”

Still, I struggled with Abramson’s combination memoir/how-to guide which
chronicles the life she and her husband share with their blond golden retriev-
er. How he came into their lives is interesting and the joy he brings is palpable,
but not necessarily unique. I don’t want to disparage the connection she has
with her dog, but anyone who has played or lived with a dog will be familiar
with everything Abramson writes about. This may be a source of reassurance
for some dog owners, but for readers it is the book’s major flaw. What sets
the story apart, and is given only a casual nod, is the way dog ownership has
changed, and that the Abramsons are “aging baby boomers with dogs …”

Don’t get me wrong, I have immense respect for Abramson. She is the first
female excutive editor of The New York Times. Her journalism creds are both
impressive and intimidating to me, a former reporter. No doubt, her journal-
istic background provided access to the sources she doles out like special

Writing about dogs is a sure-fire way to evoke emotion among dog owners.
Most wear their passion for their canine pals like a collar of pride. Clearly,
Abramson is no exception, but then neither am I.

“The Puppy Diaries”

Two Bookmarks
Times Books, 2011
242 pages