Sunday, June 8, 2008

Book Review: Puppy Kisses Are Good For The Soul

I know it's been a while since I did a book review, it probably seems like I haven't cracked a book in months. Truth is I've actually read, in some capacity, almost all the books I have on my reading list. I just got so busy once I brought Theo home that I never had time to properly review them, and since I got most of them from the library, it's hard to go back and remember details without the book in front of you. But I think the blog is ready for another review, so let's talk about Howard Weinstein's Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul.
This book I actually bought because it came so highly recommended to me by the entire Corgi community, and I have to say I don't think they steered me wrong. This book is half memoir half training guide, which is a weird combination that just seems to work. The memoir is an anecdotal telling of Mail Order Annie, Weinstein's PWC. He sweetly recalls the major events in this period of his life and how Annie was always a part of it. Reading this book before I brought home Theo made me so anxious to have a Corgi. I was left feeling like I knew what I was getting into, and all the more excited for it.

Annie is portrayed as fun, mischievous, and completely sweet. Weinstein covers Annie's entire lifetime, from bringing her home with her partner in crime, Hawkeye, a Collie, to her last days. Oops, hope I didn't give away the ending for you. ;) He doesn't blather on about the minute details of owning a dog like feeding schedule and poop habits (like I do!). Instead, he picks out the fondest memories he has of Annie, shares why those instances stick out in his mind, and tells us what he learned from her. For example, in her early years we learned that Annie went through a period of being an escape artist (just like Theo!). When he would put her behind a gate in the kitchen at night, he would always wake up to her outside the kitchen in the morning. What did that teach us? According to Weinstein Annie was trying to tell him that she was old enough to be trusted in his apartment by herself and without being blocked behind a gate. (Theo, on the other hand, was I think just teaching me that he's stubborn!) This anecdote taught me that Corgis are smart (too smart!) and won't be ignored or forgotten.

By far my favorite anecdote in the book is Weinstein's telling of visiting his mother's house. At first his mother, a clean freak, saw Annie as a dirty intruder, but once Annie showed her she could lick up any microscopic crumbs that his mother may have missed, she came to view her as an ally. Cute right? I had a similar experience when I brought Theo to stay with my parents. My mom isn't a neat freak, but I knew she wasn't thrilled about the idea of having a fur-shedding, accident-prone beast in her nice, new house. That all changed after our Passover dinner. After we had cleaned up the dishes and folded up the extra tables and chairs, we could see the dinning room floor was littered in matzo crumbs. I saw my mom look at the mess and sigh. Then Theo came along and started in on it, licking up as much matzo as he could get his tongue on. At that moment I could see my mom's view of Theo change from intruder to ally, just like with Weinstein's mother. (aside: that's not to say my mom didn't like Theo visiting, she did.)

Weinstein also gives you a sense of how fun owning a dog can be. He's a writer (obviously!) of Star Trek books, so he regularly attends conventions. Apparently Annie was able to accompany him to these events and she ended up becoming quite a star. How fun! It wasn't until I read this book that I realized a dog doesn't have to be an animal that always has to be at home. Dogs can travel too! And Weinstein obviously had a lot of fun traveling with Annie.

When Annie comes to the end of her life, Weinstein remembers her with such tenderness and affection, it's really very emotional. It's sad to hear his telling of her passing on, but it brings a natural close to the story of her life. And when he moves on to talk about the PWCs he has now, we're left feeling upbeat and optimistic. It's apparent in this book that Weinstein loved Annie very much. He even gave her an author credit on the book! His emotional attachment to her jumps off the page, leaving us excited to go get our own PWC to experience our own joys.

The second part of the book is about training. If you're interested read it, but I could take it or leave it. There is some good information, but nothing earth shattering, and nothing I hadn't already read in the many other books I picked up before this one. He doesn't really touch on any details, he just breezes by some general rules.

Another thing in this book's favor is the fact that my husband not only read it (the only book on dogs that he's read, actually), but loved it! Oftentimes he would read a chapter in the morning, then gush about it to me later at work about what cute thing Annie had done in that chapter. In the weeks that he was reading it (he reads fast, but in very short sittings), whenever we would talk about Theo, he would always mention something he had read in the book and how he thought it applied to our discussion. If you don't care for my endorsement, consider his. Husband is a very harsh critic!

Overall, this book gives a great sense of what owning a PWC is like. I would highly recommend this book to prospective PWC owners before they bring home their little trouble maker. Websites like dog breed info can give you a few adjectives on the personality of a Corgi, but this book really paints you a picture of what those personality traits will mean in your day to day life. Just keep in mind that Weinstein is obviously focusing on the good times with Annie. It's not all roses and ice cream. I would also recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a heartwarming tale of man and his best friend (even non dog owners!).


Lynn said...

I've never heard of this book, but it sounds great! I've added it to my Amazon wish list... thanks for the review!

fairchild said...

OMG! I just added this to my AMazon wish list last week, and now you've reviewed. Corgeeks of the world unite!

Grace said...

I just got started on your blog today, and It's fabulous.
My family and I have a 1 year old Corgi, named Scooter, who is just like Theo. However, what prompted me to comment on this post, specifically, was Howard Weinstein's book.

It's funny since I live in Howard County, like Mr. Weinstein and our vet suggested that Scooter and my family to take Mr. Weinstein's obedience class since we had a corgi and he has three (and loves them abundantly).

Anyhow, he soon gave us a copy of his book, and I never knew that anyone else had read it, besides our family.

What a small world.