Sunday, January 3, 2010

Book Review ~ Great Dog Stories

Month Six of John Mutford's Great Canadian Book Challenge was not a productive one for me. December is one of my busiest months at work and with the seasonal festivities as well, I just didn't get much reading done. I'm hoping to make amends in Month Seven, and am kicking off with a review of Roxanne Willems Snopek's Great Dog Stories: Inspirational Tales about Exceptional Dogs. It is one of the "Amazing Stories" books from Altitude Publishing. This read clocks in as #8 in my quest to read and review 13 Canadian dog books within a year.

This is a short book, just over 100 pages long. There are nine chapters; except for the last, each is devoted to one dog, or to one person's dogs. In most chapters, either the dog or the person overcomes obstacles; and in a couple chapters, the dogs perform amazing feats of courage or assist in solving crimes. All the dogs and owners are Canadian until Chapter Nine. For inexplicable reasons, the last chapter is a two-parter, with the second part showcasing an American guardian and dog who travel regularly to Canada to compete in CKC competitions, since the dog's disability disallows her from competing in AKC competitions.

The book is easy to read - I would recommend it for someone who doesn't read a lot; or perhaps for an early teen reader who likes dogs. It might be a good book for a vacation. I finished it in a couple hours. The author has an engaging writing style and she writes well. With the stories themselves, two things annoyed me. First, there is a great deal of emphasis on disability. I am disabled myself and I work with people who have disabilities. I get tired of the media focus on "inspirational" stories about disability. In five chapters, the people have disabilities; in Chapter Nine, one of the dogs has a disability. Two other dogs in the book overcome behavioural issues. Perhaps refocussing the other three chapters, and retitling the book to reference disability would have been a better way to go.

I was also mildly annoyed that every single dog was either purebred or had certification of some sort (obedience, agility, canine freestyle, herding, Police Service, tracking, draft, therapy dog, water dog, and even a "Canine Good Citizen" - good grief!). The blind American Collie - Bonnie - in Chapter Nine passed her "Canine Good Citizen" test and became a certified therapy dog, but still her guardian "worried that this would be the extent of Bonnie's achievements." Clearly I am an under-achiever when it comes to my dogs! Getting through puppy school, meeting strangers politely, and not pulling at the leash are pretty much my highest expectations. Plus, wouldn't it have been more inspirational if a rescued Heinz 57 mutt had done something amazing that no one had trained him to do?

It was a fast, easy read, and mostly enjoyable. The things that annoyed me might not annoy other people - it's just my own life experiences reflecting off the author's choices. The book is not a keeper - one read is definitely sufficient. If anyone would like my copy, shoot me a note with your address. Otherwise, I will release it as part of the bookcrossings program.