Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dog Narratives: The Puppy Diaries

Books about dogs are quickly becoming my new favorite genre, specifically those that tell the story of a dog and its owner. I love Marley & Me, and now with my own Bagle Hound Memphis, I've been trying to read more like it. Add to that the Creative Non-Fiction class I took last semester for fun, and I've been writing my own Dog Narratives. That's what I'm calling stories like Jill Abramson and her British standard golden retriever Scout's. And all in all, I enjoyed it.

Interested as I am in the genre, I picked up The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout while volunteering at my community's annual literacy fair--to which I had, ironically, forgotten to bring something to read. By the end of the day, I'd breezed through half the book--sympathizing with Abramson's trepidation over getting a new dog after the death of an old one and laughing with empathy at those first weeks of little sleep and lots of cuteness.

Truthfully, Abramson's book is half memoir and half "rich person's guide to raising a puppy in Manhattan." But this isn't a bad thing--especially as my wife and I contemplate moving to New York with our own pup. It does mean, however, that the narrative suffers in parts about the advantages of certain training styles and organic dog foods. And for a poor English-teacher-about-to-become-a-grad-student-again, some of it is just completely unrelatable, like training sessions with a bomb-sniffing dog instructor, or visits to a posh canine/human pool, or monthly trips to her country home where rambunctious Scout can run free to her heart's content.

None of this is to say that the book's bad. It's well-written and very well-researched; Abramson even includes a great annotated bibliography of not only the training and guide books she mentions but other dog narratives that served as inspiration. (I'll definitely be checking out EB White's essays about his dachshund Fred.) And in the end, she reminds us how precious that first puppy year with a new friend is.

Questions? Quibbles? Controversies?


Beth D. said...

You should read Jon Katz's A Dog Year (but not A Good Dog, it's too tragic). I think it's delightful. I might have mentioned it before. He also has one called Soul of a Dog, which is all about whether dogs (animals in general) have souls. It's interesting. And Izzy & Lenore is kind of boring, but it's about training his dogs to be hospice workers and has given me some new training goals with my Barley dog. So, to make a long story short, his books are definitely worth the read! And I'm working on some dog poetry (not necessarily about dogs, but written after walks with my dog!) so we should go on a dog-writing book tour together and become rich and famous.

Ben Villarreal said...

You have mentioned him before, but I'm glad you did again. I just started using this GoodReads website to keep track of all the books I want to read, so I've added his :-)

We'll definitely go on tour together. My first dog narrative's being published in this year's Picayune, so I'm practically already famous ;-)


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