Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For the Love of a Good Dog

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin this week.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my granddog as much as any grandparent would. I’ve proudly posted her photos in my Facebook updates. Her Christmas stocking hangs by our chimney with care. She cuddles with me on the couch even in shedding season. And I’ve watched her proudly play well with others at the dog park.

However, I admit that when one of our other children mentions bringing a puppy into their households I grimace. I mention the expensive veterinary visits that can absolutely break the budget. I introduce them to our hardworking rug shampooer. I advise them about the insane amount of money I’ve invested in doggie day care over the years to avoid using the rug shampooer. I advise them to think long and hard about getting a puppy.

I read “Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog” as soon as it was released in 2005. I was between dogs at the time. I had had to say a terribly painful goodbye to our ten-year old family dog in 2001. Perhaps it was because she was the perfect dog who was my constant companion for a decade of shuttling children from ballet to soccer. Or perhaps it was because it was concurrent with the last stages of my divorce and right before my youngest child left for college. It was the ultimate empty nest syndrome.

And so, four years later I braved John Grogan’s book about his lovable, laughable and untrainable Yellow Lab, Marley. I chuckled like an idiot throughout the story. During the last chapters I sobbed huge Labrador tears.

I should have known I was in deep trouble when I insisted we see the movie over the Christmas holiday in 2008. I’d read the book, after all! We had a new four-legged family friend in our own home. The movie teasers and trailers were hilarious and duhhhh! I already knew the ending. How sad could it be?

Sad. I was transfixed during the last five minutes of the movie on the big screen. I tried holding in the sobs in the dark of the theater. Tears streamed down my face. When I realized that there wasn’t a dry eye around me I finally succumbed. And it was a deluge of gut-wrenching sobs.

This weekend when I had a few minutes to bond with my television and household chores I found “Marley and Me” on one of our premium channels. This time I told myself that I really, really knew the ending. I’d been through this already. How bad could it be?

Bad. My own dog can’t stand to see me cry. She made the mistake of settling in with me that Saturday afternoon and she abandoned me and my tears. She only ventured near me when she heard my more happy voice speaking on the phone sometime later.

“Marley and Me” wasn’t the first dog story to make the big time. Dog stories have been a hit for centuries. John Grogan’s stories about Marley did reap an entirely new harvest of them. One of those is Dean Koontz’s “A Big Little Life: a Memoir of a Joyful Dog” (2009) which proves again that endings always come too fast for families and their dogs. Their dog, Trixie lived only twelve years even while teaching them a lifetime of lessons.

In “What the Dog Did: Tales from a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner”, Emily Yoffe’s favorite friend is a rescued beagle, as neurotic as they come. She writes of the appealing wretchedness of Sasha and chronicles the tale of saving her just hours before a scheduled euthanasia. Her story includes tales of other rescued beagles and her conversion from apathetic dog-avoider to lifetime dog-lover.

Julie Klam’s “You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness” convinces us furry creatures can often steal your heart as much as the human ones. Her first dog, Otto, a Boston Terrier taught her more about love and loving than any of her first thirty years had.

Stephen Foster’s “Walking Ollie: Or Winning the Love of a Difficult Dog” (2006) and “Fetching Dylan: The True Tale of Canine Domestication in Leaps and Bounds” (2008) are two more stories of the irresistible nature of dogs. Their aggravating antics are nearly always forgiven and their crazy appeal is universal.

In “Adventures with Ari: A Puppy, a Leash and Our Year Outdoors” (2009), Kathryn Miles chronicles her amazing year spent discovering both the love of her new best friend and the nature around her, from “roses to roadkill.”

I was planning to lecture you and those of our children who remain dog-less in this column.

I was going to warn you about the downside of owning dogs and mention “One National Under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics and Organic Pet Food.”

I was going to educate you, at the very least, by mentioning books that could prepare you such as “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know” (2010) by Alexandra Horowitz or Stanley Cohen’s “Why Does My Dog Act That Way?: A Complete Guide to Your Dog’s Personality” (2006). Cohen is also the author of “Why We Love the Dogs We Do: How to Find the Dog That Matches Your Personality” (1998) and “Born to Bark: My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog” (2010). Yet, the numbers of books that retell the stories of dogs who love and are loved far outnumber the books that warn us about the pitfalls or possible pain of dog ownership.

In the end, I’ll just quote Agnes Sligh Turnbull who stated it perfectly. “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really. “

For these and more titles about our love of dogs please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website, www.norwoodlibrary.org.