Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Reading

Do you remember those long lists of books that teachers handed out to you and your classmates at the end of every year? Just when you thought that the school year was over, and you could give your brain some much needed slacking off time, those darned teachers would hand out those lists of epic proportions deemed "Summer Reading". And the lists would come with both bribes and punishments; the more books you read from the list the better. You would get into different "levels" of difficulty, and sometimes you would even get to chose a book that was NOT from the list. But whether you chose a book off the list or chose it to exercise your freedom of expression, you would always have to do a REPORT on it. And the report seemed to just be an excuse for the teachers to make you PROVE that you actually READ the book, and did not just buy the "Cliff's Notes", ask a friend for a summary, or to make sure you just didn't see the movie!

These reports usually followed the same format: they asked questions about the main characters, secondary characters, plot summary and your interpretations of certain themes (i.e. "do you think that this book helped or hindered the women's liberation movement?") etc. The report was to be typed or be written in CLEAR hand writing. Jeeze, the teachers didn't want too much from us on our Summer break, now did they!?!

But far from complaining, I actually bring this up because this has been a lesson that has stuck with me throughout the years. I have always been a big reader; no doubt owing to my lacking social skills and the desire to seek out the quieter things in life. Reading for me, much like writing for me, comes in spurts. There are some times where I just want to get home at the end of the day, do my nightly rituals, blank out in front of the t.v. and then hit the sack. But other times, my appetite for reading is so voracious that I cant seem to have a book in my possession that I will not be tempted to read. Indeed, any books that find themselves waiting idly to be read, soon finde themslves unable to be put down until the final word is read and absorbed.

I find myself in one of these manic reading states now. I planned on buying some used books off of my VERY extensive wish-list on Amazon. Realizing that I would once again be in the hospital for another procedure, and then need some time to rest and recuperate seemed like a good time to get some more titles under my belt. The books would at least keep me from sitting in a mind-numbed state in front of the t.v. for the entire time! And who knows, I might even learn something and enjoy the story that was to unfold.

My taste in books is pretty simple. There are two main categories: Harry Potter and Dogs. Now, the Harry Potter Category is quite simple. I read, and re-read...and RE-READ (12 times) the books in the series of 7. I usually have to be in the mood for a certain book, and so sometimes go out of chronological order. I'll sometimes read one of the books right before the next movie comes out (as I'm planning on doing now!) to make sure that all of the literary details are fresh in my mind when I see them played out (and sometimes edited out) on the big screen. The dog category gets a little more involved. I am, and have always been, fascinated by the human-canine bond. I tend to pick up any title that even suggests that that is what the book is about. My favorite thus far has to be "Pack of Two" by Caroline Knapp (which I have referenced from heavily in other posts), "Bones Would Rain from the Sky" by Suzanne Clothier, and I L-O-V-E Patricia McConnell's books. And due to my love of reading all things about the canine bond, I love reading personal memoirs of people and the special relationships that they have with their special pets. I'll read anything including blended story books (like the "Chicken Soup" books), stories about agility dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs and just pet dogs. I know that none of this will come as a surprise to anyone who reads THIS blog regularly, as these kinds of stories are what I also like to write about. I try to get across that no dog is un-special or "regular". Every single dog that is loved and loves someone deserves to have their story told. I know that no one will ever love your dog as much as you do, but hopefully by telling your dogs story you can get others to fall even more in love with their own dogs.

So, on to the reading list! There are three books that I would like to mention in this post. Again, I don't pretend to know your taste in reading, but I hope if you are reading this blog, that these stories just might interest you too.

The first is "Where the Trail Grows Faint: A year in the life of a Therapy Dog Team" by Lynne Hugo. This book was something of a surprise. I expected the book to be about the authors journey into therapy dog work, complete with how the dog came to be, training and stories of visits once the time came to make them. I did find all of that, but this book brought out so much more. This book really brings to light the various things that people are forced to give up when they enter a nursing home or hospitalized situation. It really, REALLY hit home to me. The issues were not the blatantly obvious ones such as becoming physically less capable of taking care of ones needs, but it brought into sharp relief what it felt like to LOSE every one of those needs including ones independence, autonomy, and the right to space and privacy. I thought I had a lengthy twelve days in the hospital at the beginning of this year, but after reading this book I realize how truly lucky and fortunate I am to have been able to get healthy enough to get out. Although tough times still take their toll on me, TRULY after reading THIS BOOK, I have had my mind changed about complaining about and sweating the small stuff. I know that I have pledged both here on this blog, and aloud to friends and family that I am a changed person who will no longer let time and life pass me by, but THIS BOOK has helped solidify those promises. It has helped me see that truly, if I am to end up in a state like some of the patients, I have to live my life, and live it the fullest. Without letting a single opportunity to enjoy it pass me by. Don't get me wrong; the issues brought up by this book are not brought up in an overly sad and dramatic way. They are brought into the light with skill and intelligence; they are not brought into the story to bring in feelings of depression and sadness, but in ways to make you outraged, and determined to look at your life and lives of others differently. By the time I had finished this book, I have already visited the Delta Society web page, and found out when the next prep-class and test will be held. I am determined to not only take the lessons shared here in this book to heart to change my OWN life, but to hopefully help people who are already in this situation as well. I will never again take for granted the feel of the sun on my face or the wind through my hair; or let the sights of the sun illuminating the high-lights in Shelby's fur, or the wind delicately playing with Heidi's mane. This book is a FANTASTIC read for anyone practicing or interested in therapy dog work. It is also great for anyone with aging relatives, or who want a clear, unbiased insight on what it is to live in one of these long-term facilities. Again, I want to emphasize that there is nothing indecent in this book; it is not filled of stories of having to clean up after incontinent patients. It is the honest, un-blinded view of what it costs to have to give up who you are when you are unable to physically be that person any longer. Although the authors therapy dog is obviously mentioned and does play a large part in the book, it is definitely a story that I would have read and enjoyed even if there WAS no dog. It was that much of a lesson teacher and eye opener for me.
The second book I read is one a bit more on the scientific side. It is a book called: "Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship" by Alen Beck et al. This is a great read for the obvious reason that the book is about exploring the amazing bond that people have with their pets. As I said, it is quite a bit more scientific minded with many medical studies mentioned and cited, but it also does have quite a bit of interesting information regarding how pets keep us healthy through all kinds of medical maladies including heart disease and mental illness. Lets put it this way; if I was going to write a book about the special bond that humans have with their animals THIS is the book that I would want attached to my name. It is something that a layman like myself could NEVER pull off, but thankfully someone did because it really is a wonderful book. Some parts of the book get a little dicey (in terms of dealing with issues of pets and sexuality-I'll let you form your own opinions about this topic), and I didn't actually read the last chapeter because it talked about how the animalhuman bond can make you a better parent (no doubt useful for people into that stuff; you know HUMAN children) but over all the book gives wonderful insight on just how important pets really are to our health and well being. Put it this way, if Dr. Marty Becker's book "Thee Healing Power of Pets" had a second edition, more scientifically written, this book would be it. It goes beyond the holistic view of Dr. Becker's book, and is able to cite some really wonderful medical studies. Again, if your interested in the animal/canine-human bond, this book is definitely one of the top ones I'd recommend.

The third, and perhaps my FAVORITE of all the books Ive read, has to be "Dogged Pursuit" by Robert Rodi. What an (for lack of a better word) AWESOME book! The brief synopsis of the book regards it as a mixture of "Marley and Me" and "Dog Show" (the movie). This is SPOT ON! (Without the death of the beloved main dog at the end.) I found myself laughing out loud so often at this book, that I worried what my hospital roommate must think of me! I had actually stumbled upon it by accident, which in my mind, makes the book even better-I'm a big fan of serendipity! I had just placed my somewhat large order with Amazon the day before and started getting confirmation emails that my books were to be shipped (as I bought all of them used, they were all coming from different places). I realized that I probably would not get a single one of the books by the time I was to be admitted into the hospital for my procedure. So much for my brilliant idea of being able to read while recuperating! So I went to Barnes and Noble the night before to see if any of the titles on my still VERY lengthy wish-list were available for a quick sale. I was scanning the shelves to no avail when I came upon the bright blue book with a LEAPING SHELTIE on the cover. My eyes highlighted on the word "Agility" and I KNEW I was leaving with this book. I had to practically bind my own hands to prevent myself from reading it before I really needed to. I ended up packing it in my over night bag straight away to eliminate any and all temptation. I ended up reading some of the book the night after the procedure and finishing the rest of it the next day, after being sent home from the hospital.

This book is good. I have not yet read Susan Garrets book "Shaping Success" about training and competing with her border collie, but I expect that this book is much different. It really is truly hilarious! This is my favorite line from the book; the author is trying to highlight the differences with his current, female Sheltie, Carmen, with his newly acquired rescue, Dusty (the main character): "With a treat in my hand, I could get Carmen to do anything. Any-thing. She'd go up and down an A-frame a dozen times in a row. She'd teeter till she tottered. She'd do back flips. She'd dial up a restaurant and book a table. In French." I laughed so hard at this line, because this is true of my two Shelties too! So many things in this book I could relate to: from the crazy jitters you feel at a competition for the first time, to the obvious Sheltie-like behaviors, to the digestive pyrotechnics that reared up at such in-opportune moments. One of the best things I liked about the book was not only the authors humor (that is so much in line with my own) but of his social awkwardness as well. I too have found myself high and dry at a trial or seminar; trying to blend in with the few people I am acquainted with, but really writhing and dying of fear and insecurity inside. This book is a wonderful read for anyone with Shelties, rescue dogs, and any one who has a passion for agility and other dog sports. I cannot, AGAIN, recommend this book enough. It seems like a short read, but there are so many laugh-out-loud moments, that it actually takes you longer to get through then it should; your too busy wiping away the tears of laughter!

So, this concludes this session of my book reports for summer reading. I hope you have enjoyed my not-so-brief accounts of some of my new favorite books, and I urge you (just like your teachers of yesterday) to go to the book store or library and pick up one of these, or another title that sparks your interest. With so many negative things going on in the world, and being broadcast into our living rooms every night, its nice to escape to another world, or someone else's life for a little while. And if you can find a comfortable place to curl up with that book, it just seems to make everything fall into place.

Here are a few pictures of my favorite reading (and writing) place...I actually just typed this post right here:


  1. WOW! What a cosy place to sit reading and writing - and the dogs seems to like the place too :o)


  2. Thanks for sharing the books! They may end up on my "Fall reading list", since my summer one is jam packed right now :)

    I am always on the lookout for good "dog books".

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. Thanks for the list. And if in my work at the library I come across any dog books, I'll let you know the titles! :)

  5. Mom is going to have to get that therapy dog book!

    She remembers one hospital visit while she was earning her handler certification to do therapy work with me, and there was a young woman in the bed hooked up to all manner of tubes and wires. The surprising part of that visit was when the woman said that no one she loves will touch her anymore. They're too afraid. But the dogs... the dogs leap onto her bed and snuggle in tight without a second's thought. And she sobbed into the massive rotty's neck and held the dog so tightly just to feel that physical connection again. The loneliness was heartbreaking, and from the outside looking in - the worst part of her illness.

    And mom will never in a million years forget that visit.

    Thanks for the reading recommendations!
    Big Pupi

  6. Mom just got Dogged Pursuit from the library today (she's been on the waiting list since you posted this post) and she is loving it! I keep looking at her and running over when she laughs out loud - she finally had to put the book down for fear of reading it all and it being over too quickly! She says thanks for the recommendation!

    Sorry about the fleas - sounds like a real pain! Hopefully they will be gone soon and life can get back to normal!