November 12, 2014

You Had Me At WOOF...

Sometimes scanning the real or virtual stacks at the library yields unexpected treasures... last week while looking for something on audio to listen to during six hours of driving in two days, I found You Had Me At Woof by Julie Klam, a book I had never heard of by a writer I had never heard of, and wow, what a find!

I chose it strictly because of the cute Boston Terrier on the cover:

Woof is the true story of Klam's love affair with dogs, specifically Boston Terriers. I listened in my car alone over about five hours, and was enchanted -- laughed, shed a tear, and cannot recommend it highly enough.

This is a book for dog people by a dog person.

At age 30, living alone in New York, single and career bored, Klam adopted Otto, a Boston Terrier she had dreamed about. Their loving and codependent relationship charmed me, and taught her about love and relationships... it was to that point "the best relationship I'd ever been in." I totally get it... that was Alfred coming into my life at just the right time.

Klam later marries, has a child, and joins a Boston Terrier rescue group. Her stories of their work inspired me. Through them she works with good and bad pet owners, finds new homes for rescue dogs, and fosters some herself.

Klam now describes herself a moderate, “between the crazy animal people and the people who saw pets as disposable.”

The author calls this book a "dog-oir"; I would compare it to Marley and Me, with this one being more substantive, and about more than one dog... with a taste of the ugly side of bad pet owners (no abuse is detailed here).

While this book has adorable dog stories, it is not cutesy; the subtitle is “How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness.” Chapters have self-help titles like “How to Listen to That Still, Small Voice.” 

Klam adopted Otto 15 years ago, so (spoiler alert) he has since died, and that is heartbreaking to her and the reader. But dogs have shorter lives than we do, and other dogs come in and out of her home, sometimes as brief foster care pets, sometimes as family member --- we meet Otto and Moses and Sherlock and the surprising Dahlia, as well as Wisteria and Fiorello, mutts named by Klam's young daughter, who comes to view the dogs as siblings, to love and fight with and be jealous of.

You Had Me At Woof has many amusing and some harrowing dog tales, and is a tribute to dog love for all dog people... and I loved every minute of it. Check it out.