Coming back to LiteraryDogs soon…

I have been traveling in Asia, and have not posted these last few months. In December 2014 we’ll be back at it. Meanwhile, pet your dog!

Getting close, now, to coming back online with new reviews and commentary. /DM of LiteraryDogs.

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Two Books by Carol McKibben

Luke’s Tale: A Story of Unconditional Love by Carol McKibben, and Snow Blood, Season 1 by Carol McKibben. Double Book Review, Fiction

Carol F. McKibben writes creative fiction, primarily books about remarkable dogs. In Luke’s Tale, we find a yellow Labrador retriever that can understand human conversations and actions, and who narrates his story to the reader. In science (anthropology) this is called anthropomorphism.

anthropomorphism, n. – ascribing human characteristics to non-human things, animals, etc.

In writing it is called imagination, ingenuity, resourcefulness or creativeness.

If such a condition were real, we’d find just what Carol so eloquently relates—that Luke’s human companions often miss the fact that the dog understands them, and that Luke can become quite frustrated at times. But Luke is a clever and resourceful canine, as dogs can be, and gently nudges his humans in various ways towards appropriate actions and behaviors.

Luke_20140717_0002In Luke’s Tale, Sara Colson has cancer, but wants to keep it and the associated trauma secret from her lover, Ashlundt Jaynes. To do so, Sara tells Ashlundt a wild tale and attempts to disappear from his life, ostensibly out of her love for him. Ashlundt is heartbroken and Luke, clever canine that he is, figures this all out and sets out through various means to bring the couple back together again.

It is an intriguing read, one that ultimately overcomes the couple’s dilemma and restores their relationship. There are various sub-themes here, also, including a lawsuit against Ashlundt by a client that disrupts his life in ways almost as traumatic as Sara’s disappearance. Overall, it is a story of unconditional love, one that is designed to affect the reader in a deep and meaningful way.


 In Snow Blood, Season 1, another of Carol McKibben’s books, we encounter Snow, a white husky, who (as in Luke’s Tale, above) tells his own story. It involves a sinister plot against the father of all vampires told through a stream of supernatural events. And there’s another love triangle, of a sort, involving Selene, Brogio and Snow. This wildly imaginative tale delves deeply into a complex occult world of the vampire and the panwere (a type of shapeshifter).Luke_20140717_0001

vampire, n. – one whom drinks the blood of others, be it animal or human.

panwere, n. – a shapeshifter that can morph its life to match that of another creature.

This first of a series (Series 1) is told in six scenes or episodes. If you are a lover of vampire stories involving clever dogs, this book is for you.


For more about Carol McKibben and her books go to http://www.carolmckibben.com/books.html. See also Carol McKibben’s Author’s Page on Amazon, at http://www.amazon.com/Carol-McKibben/e/B00B6HDRVU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1405639905&sr=1-2-ent.

Luke’s Tale: A Story of Unconditional Love, by Carol McKibben. Troll River Publications, Los Angeles, 2012. Paperback; 173 pp., 14 chapters + Prologue and Dear Reader. ISBN: 978.1.939564.02.3.

Snow Blood, Season 1, by Carol McKibben. Troll River Publications, Los Angeles, 2014. Paperback; 241 pp. In six Episodes: Transformation, Discovery, Selene, Rebellion, Battle, Kane + To Read More about Snow Blood and his Pack. ISBN: 978.1.939564.36.8

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A Wolf Called Romeo

A Wolf Called Romeo, by Nick Jans. Book Review, nonfiction.

A Wolf Called Romeo is about the life and times of a black wolf romeo wolf COVERwho entered remarkably into the lives of the residents of Juneau, Alaska between 2003 and 2009. In three strong words, Nick Jans’ book is at once informative, powerful and passionate, written by a master story-teller.

In the Prologue, the author writes an early encounter:

“The wolf, instead of watching from the tree line as he had several times with me, angled toward us at a trot. Then he broke into a bounding lope, snow flying beneath his paws, jaws agape. I drew Sherrie toward me and reached for Dakotah’s collar. My vision sharpened, and synapses crackled. I’d seen my share of wolves over the years, some point-blank close, and hadn’t quite shifted into panic mode. But anyone who claims he wouldn’t get an adrenaline jolt from a running wolf coming straight in, with no weapon and no place to run, and loved ones to defend, is either brain-dead or lying…”

Part biography (of the wolf), part memoir (of Jans’ role in the story), part natural history (discussing the scientific literature on wolves) and part socio-political reflection (comparing the pros and cons of various personal viewpoints and regulatory perspectives on wolves), A Wolf Called Romeo relates many extraordinary events at the intersection of the wolf’s and many local residents’ existence. It reviews the perspectives of pro- and anti-wolf factions. Through it all the author tries valiantly, and for the most part successfully, to represent and respect all sides to the controversies, conversations and concerns that captured the imaginations of many Juneauites as Romeo became an object of great affection and veneration (and a smattering of disdain) within the community.

The black wolf of Southeast Alaska is classified scientifically as an Alexander Archipelago Wolf (Canis lupus ligoni), a unique and threatened sub-species of the Gray Wolf. The Alexander Archipelago refers to coastal and island Southeast Alaska, including the expansive Tongass National Forest. Beginning in 2003, Romeo lived part of each year until 2009 near and regularly interacted with humans, and played in high spirits with their pet dogs, in the vicinity of Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier, in what appear to have been remarkably safe and friendly relationships.

Throughout the book, Jans describes the roles of several key actors in the saga, including his role as well as his wife’s and their dog Dakotah’s (a golden lab, pictured on the book cover with Romeo), as well as of several other individuals, including avid photographers, and their dogs. The close relationships that were formed between some individuals (and dogs) and Romeo were remarkable in their expressions of familiarity and mutual trust, and are well described by the author from personal observation and interviews.

Romeo-the-black-wolf-of-AlaskaNick Jans even brings some notable state politicians into the picture, including Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, a publicly proud big game hunter who has expressed distinctly anti-wolf feelings (in general). However, much of what Jans describes, based on solid scientific research by specialists, refutes many of the arguments against wolves that the anti-wolf faction raises. For example, he points to the well-established fact that wolves attacking humans is exceedingly rare.

Occasionally Romeo disappeared for varying periods of time, raising alarm and concern that he may have reverted back to the wild, or worse had been killed by humans or by other wolves. Yet, each time (except the last) he returned to renew and rejuvenate his ties with the humans with whom he shared key times in his and their life.

Without divulging the end of the story, suffice it to say that after finishing the last two chapters (13 and 14) I felt… — well, to put it politely — I felt profound anger at the behavior of several egotistic individuals who imposed themselves with brazen, headline seeking selfishness upon the scene at the very end, as well as at the failure of the judicial system to bring true justice to bear against them.246928485

Is this a good book? One that canine aficionados will enjoy reading? The answer is an unequivocal Yes, if only for what we who admire dogs can learn from it. The reader is bound to walk away from the book, mulling over its meaning, with special note about the remarkable bonds that developed between the three species involved – the wild Canis lupus, the domesticated Canis lupus familiaris, and that subspecies of local Homo sapiens known as Juneauites.


Well into the story, Nick Jans recalls this great scene –

Of all my times with the wolf, some much more action packed and dramatic, this is the one that keeps coming back. One warm April afternoon, Romeo, Gus [one of Jans’ dogs], and I dozed together out on the ice near the river mouth, me with my head on my pack, skis off; Gus with his head on my thigh; Romeo with his muzzle resting between his outstretched front paws. It was one of those still days when you could hear snowdrifts collapsing in hisses, the sun so dazzling off the white-crusted ice that we seemed suspended on a cloud, bathed in light radiating from below. Now and then the wolf would slit open an eye to check around, then settle back for another short snooze, and I’d do the same. Maybe twenty feet separated us, but in trusting enough to shut his eyes and sleep with me so neare, he might as well have put his head alongside Gus’s on my leg. There we lay, three different species bound by a complex, often bitter history, taking simple comfort in the others’ presence, the sun’s warmth, and the passing of another winter. That afternoon remains with me, one of those clear, still moments that graces the edge of dreams. jans$nick_lresWhen Gus and I finally rose, Romeo did the same, yawned and stretched, then lay back down and watched us glide away, toward the alien world from which we’d come. I recall looking back as he dwindled into a dark point against the snow, as if for the last time. I watched hard, hoping to remember.


Note. This reviewer is a Juneauite by birth and upbringing, and in my youth I roamed much of the territory that Romeo later came to possess. In reading this book, I considered it from three angles, answering three sets of questions. 1) As a writer: Is it well written? 2) As a reader: Is it informative (can we learn from it)? And, 3) as a former Juneauite: Is it authentic? In this case the answer to each is unequivocally affirmative: Yes. I not only admire the author’s style and his scientific understanding and portrayal of the natural history of wolves, but also his grasp of the sticky issues that arose by the interactive presence of the wolf at the boundary between suburban Juneau and its wild surrounds. I was particularly impressed by the author’s descriptions of the combined natural, social and political environments in which the story takes place. They fit both my memories and my expectations to a tee. In the end, I also found myself agreeing with Nick Jans’ personal views on the many issues raised by Romeo’s story. It was such a good read, so well written, so provocative, that I had trouble putting it down. /DM


A Wolf Called Romeo, by Nick Jans. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014, 288 pp. Illustrated. Prologue, 14 chapters, Epilogue, Notes, Suggested Reading, Index, and Acknowledgments. ISBN: 978-0547858197. Available in hardcover, paperback, and digital formats.

What some reviewers have said about this outstanding book:

  • “Beautifully written, …a thoughtful and moving story about one of nature’s most evocative animals.” (P. McConnell).
  • “This story is a treasure. It’s a gift…a unique and wonderful journey…. unequivocally THE BEST man-wild animal book I have EVER read. PERIOD.” (Wm. Dahl)
  • “A good story showing all the dangers this social animal faced in modern Alaska.” (NC)
  • “I have never been so emotionally stricken by another book- ever!” (Murano)
  • This is an excellent book and I am going to read more of Nick Jan’s writing.” (G. Cavitt)

But take note, while most reviews are positive, not all are as enthusiastic as these. See other comments on Amazon.com, some of which are openly critical of Nick Jans’ perspective and approach. Of course…,  to be expected , given a subject is as as challenging and controversial as this one — of humans befriending wolves, and vice versa.

Nick Jan’s other books include: The Glacier Wolf: True Stories of Life in Southeast Alaska, and several others based on photographic excursions around and about the state. See more at http://www.nickjans.com/, and at http://www.amazon.com/Nick-Jans/e/B001JSE8Z0. There’s also a video clip of Romeo online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eEKGzs4MzE.

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Doing Business With Dogs

How to Run a Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is, by Veronica Boutelle. 2nd edition, 2014. Book Review.How to run a dog business

This is a book for anyone contemplating running a business as a dog trainer, walker or sitter, or operating a dog daycare and boarding operation, or any other canine business adventure. It is filled with excellent advice on running a business in general and a dog-centered business in particular. Besides the author’s sound, sensible and easy to follow advice, she provides mini-case studies so that the reader can glimpse real-life, real-business situations.

She advises us on how to analyze, price and market services; determine what licenses, insurance and professional affiliations are needed; create systems to streamline the business venture and avoid pitfalls and burnout; and how to establish sound business practices, maintain profitability and balance personal and professional life.

This book is the second edition (2014), revised and augmented, of her original 2008 book. In this edition, Boutelle incorporates recent new knowledge and experience in business marketing, staffing, and packaging a business, including newly available resources. In short, this 2nd edition of How to Run a Dog Business, fills in some gaps that time and changes in the business of running a business necessitate.

Veronica Boutelle, is President of dog*tec™, a business consultancy established to help dog professionals with their entrepreneurial enterprises. She has also authored two previous books – The Business of Dog Walking, and (as co-author) Minding Your Dog Business. If you are contemplating starting a new dog-centered business, or expanding or enhancing an existing one, this is an important resource and guide.


How to Run a Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is, by Veronica Boutelle. 2014, 2nd ed. [2008]. Wenatchee, Washington: Dogwise Publishing. 173pp., Foreword, Introduction, 11 Chapters, Resources, Author Biography, Index. ISBN: 978.1.61781.136.4.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch,” Veronica says. “We love to talk!” — Online at http://dogtec.org. On the phone at (1) 510.525.2547. By mail at P.O. Box 110, Sixes, Oregon 97476 USA.

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Rescue Me!

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances, by Ellen Cooney. Book Review, Fiction

This unique novel is all about dogs, rescued and in the process of being reoriented to a new life, and the Sanctuary, a mountaintop canine training center. It is also about Evie, a troubled young adult who has lied to get a job there as a trainer, and who continues to fabricate some truths off and on after she arrives. And, it is almost equally about Mrs Auberchon, the Sanctuary gate-keeper who resides downhill at the Inn, where Evie starts out. Evie has to get past Mrs Auberchon in order graduate from novice trainee to the higher mountaintop fraternity of training specialists at the Sanctuary proper.
How does Evie cope? How do the dogs receive her? Does she succeed? Do they?
You’ll have to read the book to find out all the ups and downs, ins and outs of life at (and about) the Sanctuary. But, be prepared, for along the way you’ll pick up a lot of information about Rescue, and Sanctuary, and some charming dogs, and the experiences of abandonment, abuse, capture, training, unfettered love and admiration, and socialization to a new life. And, there’s more here than rescuing dogs…
One of Evie’s coping strategies is to keep notes like a good student, notes of everything happening around her and every concept she must master. Rescue and re-Socialization includes a very wide scope of knowledge. And just as Evie learns and jots it all down, the reader will learn a great deal about the act of abandonment and mistreatment leading to Rescue and a second change, for the dogs and for Evie.
It’s a good book, written in a rather unique but attractive way. The style is smooth and informative, and fun to read. Here’s a passage about peanut butter as a canine training aid. It’s Evie speaking, with her charges in mind – Alfie, Boomer, Josie and Shadow – going to the vet:

9780544236158_lres“My job was to watch them like their nanny, keep them quiet. I knew they’d be anxious and agitated, so I grabbed a jar of peanut butter from the kitchen. One thing I’d learned was that there’s nothing in the world like peanut butter when it comes to inviting dogs to do what you want them to. I was also using it as a training aid to get Josie to quit snapping. It was sort of starting to work.

“If you want a dog to stop biting your fingers, stick them in peanut butter. This can be called, in the language of dog training, “not biting the hand that’s Skippied”…”

Ellen Cooney’s book is a good read, and will be especially attractive to young adults and to any canine lover and persons especially interested in Rescue Dogs.


The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances, by Ellen Cooney (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). ISBN: 978.0.544.123615.8. 289 pp. Read more about the book and the author, with excerpts and reviews at: http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/The-Mountaintop-School-for-Dogs-and-Other-Second-Chances/9780544236158#.

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A Wise Woof by Groucho Marx

wise-words-logo2 cropped“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.
Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

― Groucho Marx

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STICKEEN — The Story of a Dog

STICKEEN, John Muir and the Brave Little Dog, by John Muir, as retold by Donnell Rubay. Illustrated by Christopher Canyon.   Childrens Book Review

 book cover_20140708_0001Well over 100 years ago, in the 1880s, the American naturalist and glacier specialist John Muir explored parts of Southeastern Alaska by canoe with the local Tlingit Indians. At one point, a small black dog attached himself to Muir, and trekked with him over the mountains of glacial ice that Muir was so intent on studying. At first, Muir wanted nothing to do with the dog, but the little tyke was so hardy, so brave and adventurous, that he impressed Muir with his abilities and in time the two became inseparable. Muir named him ‘Stickeen’, a local Indian name. What Stickeen could do was amazing, and Muir told the story of the dog many times to many people. Eventually Muir wrote the the book, Stickeen: The Story of a Dog (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1909).

The version of the story reviewed here is based solidly on Muir’s tale, but retold and admirably illustrated for a modern audience. At a crucial point in crossing a dangerous glacier, man and dog had to cross a huge crevasse, a giant bottomless crack in the ice. The only way across was on a precariously dangerous ice bridge. They both knew it was not safe, but they had no other choice. Muir went first, cutting steps in the ice with his ice axe. The little dog followed, fearfully, hesitatingly…, gradually reaching the far side, where Muir coaxed him up the last steep incline. Dogs are not good climbers, but Stickeen had no choice but to scramble up the ice to the top of the crevasse, where Muir was waiting.

When the dog finally reached the top, safely, he was happy beyond belief. In Muir’s words:

“Well done! Well done little boy! Brave boy!” I cried, trying to catch and caress him. But he would not be caught. He darted hither and thither in his great joy, screaming and shouting, swirling round and round in giddy loops and circles like a leaf in a whirlwind, lying down and rolling over, then jumping up to yelp and cry again!muir&dog

I ran to him to shake him, fearing he might die of joy. He ran off two or three hundred yards, his feet in a mist of motion. Then, turning suddenly, he rushed at my face—almost knocking me down—all the time screeching and shouting as if to say “Saved! Saved! Saved!”…

It’s a powerful little story. Children from about 8 to 12 years old will certainly enjoy reading it, and younger children will enjoy having this remarkable adventure tale read aloud to them.

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Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog, by John Muir, as retold by Donnell Rubay. Scholastic Inc., 1998, 30 pages. Illustrated in color by Christopher Canyon. ISBN 0.429.08744.9.

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