Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review - Love at First Bark

Love at First Bark by Julie Klam
Riverhead Books, 2011
Why?  I love dogs, had this one on my WishList, and my sweet Secret Santa Sandy sent it to me :)
It's even signed by the author :)
What Now? into the glass case it goes, for keeps

Golden Lines

Somehow I housebroke Beatrice with no problem in a very short period of time right before I went on bed rest for my pregnancy.  It's like I told her, "You go to the bathroom outside, not inside."  And she answered, "Got it."  Whereas Wisteria and Fiorello were told, shown, taken outside with paper towels with their pee on them to show them where it went.  I did a puppet show, and a PowerPoint demonstration and they still didn't get it.  They'd go out for long walks and come back inside and pee on the rug.  

As soon as we entered the lobby, we saw a woman at the admitting desk dumping the six puppies her unneutered female had had--she had done this before, with this dog's first litter.  She looked at me with sad eyes asking if I would like to adopt them, and I just said, "No, thank you."  Not two inches from where she sat was a poster advertising low-cost and free spaying and neutering.  Her laziness had resulted in the birth of at least twelve unwanted dogs, and I was not sympathetic to her.

So many stories of heroic dogs.  I had my own store of them.  And that really was the point.  I had always felt that any dog I took care of would've done the same for me if it could, and in fact by rescuing them they filled my heart in such a way that I was rescued right back.

More often than not, what animals require our protection from is not hurricanes or fires, but abuse at the hands of other people.  

***the quotes above are taken from an uncorrected proof and may have been revised in the final copy***


Within three chapters, "Morris the Pit Bull, Couples Therapist," "My Darling Clementine," and "There is a Dog House in New Orleans," Julie Klam illustrates with words how "saving a dog can sometimes help you save yourself."  Julie, her husband Paul and daughter Violet live in a NYC apartment with 4 of their own dogs, foster others, and try to live a life of gratitude and respect for dogs and other animals who share our Earth, no matter how sick, crippled, etc. they are.  

What I Liked

The chapter organization - even though I wish there was more, I liked how each chapter focused its storyline on particular experiences Julie has had with specific animals.  Those focus animals are in no way the only animals mentioned in those chapters, but they are the lead character if you will.  Since these chapters are snippets/pieces of Julie's life, the focus dog helps to keep things rolling since the chapters are not in sequential order (which dog came first, etc).

Julie's sense of humor - I laughed out loud in several places...Julie writes like she's having an enjoyable conversation with me...her quirkiness and ability to laugh at even experiences with a dog that had an inability to control her own poo keeps the real life of dog rescue at the forefront of the conversation, not the romanticized SuperWoman notion.  

Julie's family involvement - Julie's husband Paul was a normal husband...5 dogs in a NYC apartment! No way!  But, he believed in Julie and he believed in the animals.  They worked things out, not always perfectly but they worked it out.  They spent their first time away from the home together since their honeymoon in New Orleans helping a rescue group capture a puppy with a jar stuck on his head...and they were changed by the experience as individuals and as a couple.

It's ok to make mistakes - Julie had two dogs who she couldn't housetrain and had to send them to Kanine Kamp instead, and Julie had a difficult time being "the pack leader."  If you love dogs, you know what NEEDS to be done...but it's not always what you WANT to do.  When my Layla looks at me with those beautiful German Shepherd brown eyes, I have a hard time not melting and giving in myself.  

the Network of rescuers - I didn't really realize how rescue of this scale was very interesting to learn how a rescuer with a potential rescue dog sends out a message via Twitter, FB and other social media outlets to reach other rescuers in particular groups...and then other rescuers send the message on to their contacts and so on down the line...kinda  like a phone tree alert.  I think Julie mentioned it at one point, but when she and Paul were sending out messages after finding Morris the Pit Bull, the process resembled the Twilight Bark from Disney's 101 Dalmations :)  How fitting is that?

Rescue is serious business - I needed this reminder that you can be involved in animal rescue and not keep every animal you find.  That doesn't mean it's not difficult at times to let one go, but it's the reality as sad as it may seem.  Sometimes I am scared to become involved bc of this very issue, but with Julie's story I learned how we can all work together to find, rescue, rehabilitate and match dogs with perfect homes for them.  

What I Didn't Like

I wanted the book to be longer...only 3 chapters left me craving more...and googled the websites of the blogs, SPCA groups, rescue groups and people Julie worked with just to continue the experience of reading this book.

I enjoy the conversational tone of Julie's book but I'm easily distracted so every now and then her offshoot stories would get in my way...I didn't really "dislike" this because I could easily get back on track...but I can see where this might be a bigger problem with a longer book.  

Overall Recommendation

If you are an animal lover...and especially a dog lover, and feel that we owe something to these wonderful creatures, many who are roaming the streets homeless, you need to read this book.  
Julie's descriptions of city living and urban rescue and the chapter on New Orleans after Katrina are geographically and culturally interesting as well as dog rescue interesting.
Julie has another book as well, You Had Me at Woof, which I have already added to my WishList :)


  1. I have to admit that I'm one that's afraid to read books like this. I was so much more active when I was younger and feel so guilty now that I just don't have (or make) the time to do more. I know that I need to do more...but sometimes it's so hard to find that line :(

  2. I have a hard time finding that line too, Melissa...which is why I have six animals right now...thankfully we live in rural MS where the logistics of potty training, etc. are not quite as complicated as in a NYC apartment building. My animals are inside/outside animals...especially the cats. I do have one, however, who is pretty feeble and mute and can't tell us when she needs to go potty...she has a little village set up on my back porch so that she's comfy and safe but can't wet my's surely a labor of love with all of them...I see animals everyday that need help...that's why I love the network idea.

  3. I actually have both of these books, and have heard good things. I have heard others mention that this book was a little short, and they had wished it was longer, so you are not alone. I'm a big dog person, so I imagine that I will love this one, and Woof as well. Very awesome review today! It was much appreciated!

  4. You are absolutely right, if you are a dog lover or an animal lover, this is the book you need to read. It does have sad moments, but is overall uplifting. It makes you want to do more! (Beyond the herd of cats I have at my house already!) I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I had to chuckle when I drew your name because I knew immediately which book I'd been giving you off my stack.

  5. You pegged me perfectly, Sandy! I can't wait to read Julie's other book :)

  6. This book sounds great! Based on your review, I am going to have to read it.

    I have a problem letting rescues go, which is why we currently have eight pets. The eighth was a stray we took in back in early September. He was a heartworm-positive pittie mix who tended to pee on himself. I couldn't find him a home while he was heartworm positive and by the time he was done with treatment, I couldn't bear to let him go. Sigh. It seems that if a rescue stays more than a week in our house, they stay permanently.

    I've been trying to work up the nerve to become a volunteer at my local animal shelter, but I am scared their stories will break my heart and I will want to bring them all home.

  7. We rescued our Golden Retriever, Teddy about 3.5 yrs. so I think I'm going to have to put this book on my to read list. Thanks for the great review!!

  8. Sounds like I'll be getting this book for my sister and mother as they are both dog people. Great review! I love the author's conversational tone.

  9. My daughter Lu's godfather works at a shelter and I think this book would appeal to him. If only I'd seen it before Christmas!

  10. I've got this one but I haven't found time to read it yet. I'm glad to see you liked it so much. I wish they had such a thing as a feline camp - we have a black cat that could sure use some training. :)

  11. Alyce, I accepted a long time ago that cats are cats...they decide what they're gonna do and we (their people) just accept whatever they offer ;) I have 3 and have no idea how many I've had over the years...they all have their own distinct personalities :):)

  12. Just read Kathy's review on this one as well, and although neither one of you thought it was perfect, it does sound like one to read for animal lovers.

  13. A girl after my own heart in so many ways! Finally got around to checking out your blog, love it!.... and I'm going to look for this book, I need a good new read, this is wonderful!.

  14. I liked this book a lot but didn't love it. I wanted to know more and think I would have enjoyed it more if she'd focused on one story.

  15. Now that I'm back to having a dog again, I find myself more interested in these types of books.