18 December 2008

Books for the Dog & Cat Lovers

From pooches on the big screen in Beverly Hills Chihuahua and the upcoming Marley & Me to the endless speculation about the Obamas' future "first dog," canines have leaped from supporting status as man's best friend to star billing in entertainment magazines and on the front page.

Publishers, too, have hopped on the doggy wagon. And with gift-giving time just days away, there's sure to be a dog-related book that'll bring smiles and wags (well, at least from your more effusive friends).

A Very Marley Christmas, by John Grogan, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey (HarperCollins, $17.99). Take one rambunctious Labrador retriever puppy (dubbed "the world's worst dog" by his adoring but exasperated family), add breakable ornaments, deliciously chewy wrapping paper and eminently tuggable fir trees (Marley can't resist a good tug of war), and what've you got? One big happy mess. (For ages 3 to 8.)

Phodography: How to Get Great Pictures of Your Dog, by Kim Levin (Amphoto, $17.95). Ms. Levin gets into the nitty-gritty of terrific animal photography, with fantastic advice and sections on such vital topics as close-ups (it's all about the nose and ears), getting the perfect "head tilt" and staging action shots ("Rolllllll over, googums, googums, googums. Yes, we love that wiggly belly!").

Bliss to You: Trixie's Guide to a Happy Life, by Trixie Koontz as told to Dean Koontz (Hyperion, $16.95). Mr. Koontz's fans know his deep devotion to his golden retriever, the late Trixie – he is pictured with her on just about every one of his books, and he features golden retrievers in many of his story lines. Trixie's thoughts are concise and not necessarily grammatically correct (hey, what did you expect?) but often shine with wisdom. Example: "Thomas Jefferson said life mostly sunshine. Hitler said life mostly suffering. Freud said life meaningless. You know whose dog had more fun."

Woof! Writers on Dogs, edited by Lee Montgomery (Viking, $24.95). This canine-themed anthology focuses on the relationships between dogs and their humans, with contributors including Rick Bass, Abigail Thomas, Denis Johnson and Antonya Nelson. With humor and pathos, the writers pay tribute to ordinary dogs who become extraordinary contributors to their families' lives, just by being their wonderful, slobbery, perfect doggy selves.

Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey, and Me , by Jon Katz (Villard, $24). Mr. Katz, who once worked as a journalist at the Dallas Times-Herald, continues his series of nonfiction books about the dogs (mostly border collies, but here including a black Lab puppy) at Bedlam Farm, his farm in upstate New York. Here he takes the dogs off the farm, as trained hospice volunteers bringing canine comfort to those who need it most.

Old Dogs Are the Best Dogs, by Gene Weingarten, with photographs by Michael S. Williamson (Simon & Schuster, $19.95). This is a heartfelt, upbeat paean to the wonders of the graying muzzle, the shaky-hipped gait, the ears that don't always hear the mailman. Each photo is accompanied by a story that captures character – of one dog, or of many. To wit: Buffy, 14, a cocker spaniel, has appointed herself the family's paper girl. Her owner says Buffy "has to make sure she shakes the newspaper violently from side to side, to break its neck. Only then will she bring it in for us."

Dogology: What Your Relationship With Your Dog Reveals About You, by Vicki Croke and Sarah Wilson (Rodale, $17.95). The writers good-naturedly help you figure out your own psychological tics and traps by looking at how you treat your dog – what you call him or her ("Hey, you!" is a different type than "Pooky-love-doodle"), how you praise, what you expect and how you show your love. You might be a buddy, a free spirit or a dynamo (and if so, you probably own a golden retriever, a border collie or a miniature pinscher, respectively).

It's a Cat's World ... You Just Live in It: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your Furry Feline, by Justine A. Lee (Three Rivers Press, $13.95, available Dec. 30). Ms. Lee, a veterinarian, lets the cat out of the bag on some eternally puzzling questions. "Do cats get high from catnip, and can I use it?" (Her answers: Yes, and no.) "Should I dump my boyfriend because he doesn't like my cat?" (Her answer: Yes. We suspect a slight prejudice on her part.)

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (Grand Central, $19.99). On a bitter-cold night, someone stuffed a kitten into the book-return slot at the Spencer, Iowa, public library. Maybe they were playing a prank, or just trying to put the kitten in a place where he could warm up. He was found by the library director, Ms. Myron, the next morning – and he stayed for 19 years, becoming as much a fixture as the filing system for which he was named. Meryl Streep is slated to play Ms. Myron in the movie version; this could be next year's Marley & Me at the movie-plex.

[Source: DallasNews.com]