For more information convince me that you’re serious and the best person in the world to take on and continue the blog that posts news and reviews about dogs and dog books.

Contact me at don [dot] editor [at]

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Return of the Literary Dogs

Faithful readers, I’ve been away (in Bhutan for awhile) and and since then extremely busy writing a new book… So, alas, and to my everlasting embarrassment, the site registration ran out.

I have now renewed the site, and will be posting new information in the near future.

Thanks for your patience.

Woof ! 

..don messerschmidt

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Nepal Dog Art Websites

Here’s your chance to see, and enjoy, some canine art by the hands of Nepalese painters.

Check it out at these two websites:

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Dawa’s Story as Allegory…

Review of Dawa, the Story of a Stray Dog in Bhutan by Kunzang Choden. This review, originally posted on May 4, 2013, is now updated and reposted here /Don M.:

Publisher’s synopsis: Dawa looks like just another scruffy Thimphu street dog, but don’t be fooled: he understands Dzong­kha, he has an urge to see the world and his bigger-than-normal brain is matched only by his compassionate heart. His is an extra­ordinary life; follow its tragic beginnings to his ascen­sions as the Legendary Leader of Howling in Thimphu, to the miracle that saves him. Dawa’s story will appeal to all who have experi­enced life’s rigors – but have never given up hope on the possi­bilities.

The book was first published in 2004; now republished in a special 10th anniversary edition, 2014, from


“Why did you desire to be a leader?”

“Mainly for the joy of howling,” Dawa said…


al·le·go·ry, noun.   A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. (Oxford Dictionary)

coverEarly in this fascinating dog story from Bhutan, after we are introduced to the scruffy yellow street mutt named Dawa, the author, Kunzang Choden, tells us that “there is nothing extraordinary about Dawa if you think of him as an old stray dog. But throw away all preconceptions and seize the privilege and honour of getting to know Dawa, the uncommon dog. If you look at Dawa as a personality, he is a unique dog who is blessed with a most incredible life. This is the story of Dawa…”

And the story of that “uncommon dog” goes (in brief) like this. He is a stray, one of thousands of stray dogs in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. He was born in Paro, a city in the western part of the mountainous country, but early in life he takes on certain leadership roles, especially as the head of the nighttime pack of howlers… After living and learning all there is of Paro, Dawa feels an itch for adventure, and a spot of mange, and sets off to travel the country, to expand his horizons and better himself. Most of the book is about his wanderings, and of the places and people, and other dogs, that he meets. Along the way he crosses many high passes, visits sacred sites of worship and pilgrimage, meditates in a cave (like a monk), and encounters the fascina­ting Bhutanese culture. Eventually, however, he returns west, to the capital city of Thimphu, where he opts to retire and live out his life in peace at the Buddhist temple (lakhang) called Chandgangkha, high on a hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. It’s where the Bhutanese elite live…

Early in the book it is clear that Dawa has unusual powers — of common sense, of right and wrong, and of a certain level of canine authority. He can understand human language (Dzongkha, the main language of Bhutan). And, of course, like the human elites around him, he has to learn the honorific form of the language so that he can understand and perform appropriately in his adopted social milieu. And, he feels com­pelled to invent a prestigious pedigree, a sign of high status. The one he comes up with links him directly to one of the noble lineages of Lhasa, Tibet.

Along the way, the author drops hints about her underlying intent. It becomes clear early on that Dawa’s story is allegorical in the sense that the dog’s life and feelings reflect the life styles and beliefs and social behaviors of upper class, elite Bhutanese. It shows up early on, for example, in passages like this (dressed up in dog’s garb, so to say):

“His magical howling was heard and recognized by the entire dog popula­tion, and they answered him from everywhere… Even the snootiest, over-groomed and overly well-fed pet dogs, in the comfort of their carpeted homes, let out involuntary yelps in answer and then sheepishly pretend­ed that the sound was not from them….”

And at one point she writes even more openly that Dawa “was often amused by the analogies humans made to dogs,” much as she, with writer’s license, is amused by those very humans Dawa’s life appears to mirror.

Dawa’s place of residence (in retirement) is on the hill where so many upper class Bhutanese live, overlooking downtown Thimphu:

Dawa “is an old dog who spends most of his time outside Chandgangkha lhakhang. This ancient temple, built on a hillock overlooking Thimphu, is a historical landmark. And this is where Dawa has chosen to spend the rest of his life. It is an ideal place, for it provides the safety and tranquili­ty an aged dog needs and at the same time offers an overview of the city he loves. He knows how to stay out of people’s way, and nobody seems to mind his presence there. He spends most of the days gazing over the city with a sense of contentment and belonging. It is his city. His choice of a retirement place in close proximity to the town allows him occasional visits to his old haunts without too much exertion. During these visits, he enjoys interacting with the younger dogs. He does not impost or intrude into others’ lives; he just socializes in the way dogs do. It is on such occasions that you might see Dawa in the town. If you see an old scruffy dog, look again, carefully. It just might be Dawa.”

This enjoyable little book is both written and was first published in 2004 by an established Bhutan­ese writer, recently reissued in a limited edition dated 2014 by


Kunzang Choden’s books (below) are available in North American from, in Europe from, and in South Asia from

Kunzang Choden at home in Bhutan>>

Other books by Kunzang Choden of Bhutan(from

Ogyen Choling: A Manor in Central Bhutan. Edited by: Kunzang Choden and Dolma C. Roder. Designed by: Riyang Books.

Synopsis: Perched on the outcrop of a mountain, the Ogyen Choling manor overlooks the picturesque and secluded Tang valley in Bumthang, Central Bhutan. The same family, now in its 20th generation, has had possession of the manor since the 15th Century. Once the home of the religious nobility of the region, the manor has stood witness to a changing nation. Most significantly the social reforms of the 1950s saw the family yield considerable political and economic power. Ogyen Choling has not only survived these changes but has adapted to these new realities to create a niche for itself as an important site of cultural heritage. Ogyen Choling’s architectural significance, its connection to a fading pre-democratic past and its continued religious relevance makes it the ideal site for the museum which opened to the public in 2001. In this book Françoise Pommaret locates Ogyen Choling in the regional historical context, while Pierre Pichard, provides rich details about the manor’s traditional architecture and the members of the Ogyen Choling family share their memories of growing up and living here.

For Young Readers:

Membar Tsho – The Flaming LakeBy: Kunzang Choden. Illustrations by: Pema Tshering.

Synopsis: Membar Tsho- The Flaming Lake brings the story of Terton Pema Lingpa to our children in poetic verses with vivid illustrations. The book is the first of its kind to introduce the important figure of Pema Lingpa, the cultural concepts of tertons, hidden treasures and hidden lands and the sacred spot of Membar Tsho in Tang, Bumthang.

This story by Kunzang Choden, who is also from Tang, Bumthang describes in an emotive narration, Pema Lingpa’s second act of discovering treasures from Membar Tsho in 1476. Pema Tshering, a founding member of VAST-Bhutan (Voluntary Artist Studio, Thimphu ), enlivens the story through his sensitive artistry with watercolor paintings.

Tshegho: The Garment of LifeBy: Kunzang Choden. Illustrations by: Yoko Ishigami

Synopsis: Dechen and her mother live in a village in Bhutan. Dechen’s mother wants to teach her to weave, but Dechen is not interested. She finds weaving boring and whines that she will never be able to learn. One day, something changes her mind.

Find out what happens to make Dechen happily learn to weave. Yoko is a Japanese artist, who has been studying traditional Bhutanese painting at the National Institute of Zorig Chusum, Thimphu and working to infuse inner peace into her own art.

More Titles by Kunzang Choden:

The Circle of Karma (2013), Tales in Colour and Other Stories (2015), Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti (2013, by Kunzang Choden,  Kunzang Dorji & Karma Wangda), Folktales of Bhutan (1995), Room in Your Heart (2011), Chilli and Cheese: Food and Society in Bhutan  (2008), Bhutan: Land of Spirituality and Modeernization / Role of Water in Daily Life (2004, by Dieter Zurcher & Kunzang Choden).

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Kristi Sherling’s Passing

The Tibetan Mastiff Community around the world lost a great protector with the passing of KRISTINA ‘Kristi’ SHERLING in Oregon on August 31st after a battle against cancer. Kristina had such a passion for all animals but especially fought hard to maintain the integrity of the native Tibetan Mastiff . She would teach anyone who would listen, in any country, that breeding for correct structure and temperament not only kept a dog healthy but also made it able to do the job it was born to do. With her passing, her love for the Tibetan Mastiff will now live on in her puppies as they grow and have their puppies and for generations to come.

Photo of Kristina Sherling by Sanna Sanderkristi-sherling-photo

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Four Dog’s Sake (Mae December Mystery), by Lia Farrell

A review reposted from, 7 March 2016, by Don Messerschmidt

Publisher: Camel Press
Formats: Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

“‘This damn case,’ Wayne said aloud and hit his steering wheel with his open palm. He had never come across a case with such a dearth of actual evidence. They didn’t have a murder weapon. Since the murder had been committed with a needle and not a gun, and they had never found the syringe, there was no blood spatter to analyze or bullet to track back to a weapon. Without that syringe, there were no fingerprints that would point to the killer. They had no DNA, no trace evidence, and the only indication of assault on Chester’s body was the needle mark on his toe.”

In this cozy murder mystery, the plot revolves around the death of a young man, a diabetic named Chester Willis, age 41. The medical examiner lists it as a “probable suicide” from an overdose of insulin. But Dr. Lucy Ingram has her doubts. She had recently treated Chester for an unrelated accident, and having talked with him and observed him carefully, she feels that he was highly unlikely to commit suicide. “No matter what, Chester Willis wouldn’t kill himself,” she said aloud, shaking her head.

“Suspicion was growing deeper in her mind. If somebody had driven Chester Willis to suicide or murdered him, she had to know who… and why.”

With that commitment, the plot is off and running. After Dr. Ingram convinces the medical examiner to do a second autopsy, he finds an injection site on Chester’s toe, from which it is apparent that someone deliberately killed him.

Throughout the book’s 43 short chapters we follow four main characters trying to solve the homicide. Two characters are officially investigating the case – Sheriff Ben Bradley and Chief Detective Wayne Nichols. Dr. Ingram MD is also committed, having set the investigation in motion. There’s also Mae December, the Sheriff’s girlfriend. She boards, trains, and breeds dogs, and maintains an on and off presence in the background, along with her four canines: two Welsh corgis, a black pug, and the newest member of the canine menagerie, a basset hound puppy named Cupcake who was a birthday present for the sheriff’s young son, Matt.

Several other characters also figure in the story, including a newly appointed investigator named Dory and other members of the Sheriff’s staff.

On the other side of the plot is Willis Senior, Chester’s father, who dies of heart failure within days of Chester’s murder, and whose will and the allocation of his sizeable wealth, suggests a motive for Chester’s death. One of the prime suspects in the murder is Rick Willis, Chester’s older brother who, along with his girlfriend Meredith, has debts to pay and acts suspiciously. And, not least, there’s a financially struggling young massage therapist name Brooke to whom Willis Senior had recently decided to bequeath his deceased wife’s jewelry.

When Dory, the new investigator on the sheriff’s staff, tells Detective Wayne “I can’t see her [Brooke] killing anyone,” the chief detective responds that “Anyone can kill, given a sufficiently strong motivation.”

There are many threads to this mystery, many characters to keep track of (though the author does a good job of guiding us along), many clues and leads to follow, and many loose ends, all the way to an interesting conclusion. The end of the story is one that some clever and attentive readers may puzzle out well before the last page, but probably not.

Four Dog’s Sake is the fourth in the Mae December mystery series, after One Dogs Too Many, Two Dogs Lie Sleeping, and Three Dog Day. But the dogs in Four Dog’s Sake seem to be too deep in the background to be heralded in the book’s title, and some readers (looking for a good dog story) will come away disappointed. They simply play two small a role, though we have to laugh when the basset hound pup keeps stepping on his exceedingly long, floppy ears.

Despite the minor role that dogs play in the story, Four Dog’s Sake is a good, easy read, of an evening or two, while sitting with your own favorite dog by your feet.

P.S. The author, Lia Farrell is a mother-daughter team, consisting of Lyn Farquhar and Lisa Fitzsimmons, both of whom know how to write mystery novels, dogs and all.

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My Dog Is Better Than Your Dog (Crimebiters! #1) by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by Adam Stower

A review reposted here from, April 22, 2016, by Don Messerschmidt

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | iBooks

In this book for 8- to 12-year-old kids, Jimmy lives in a world where his mom is away at work every day, his father is always off job-hunting, his bossy older sister gives him fits, and at least one of the baby-sitters he has to cope with is a bit weird. What Jimmy wants is a dog to befriend, to keep him company, and to relate to. For a long while, it’s not on. Then, one afternoon, his father tell him it is time, and Jimmy (who narrates the whole story) tells us how he got a strange little dog called Abby – how it all started, that is.

“When I walked in to the Northport Animal Rescue Foundation (otherwise known as Northport ARF!), dogs and cats of all shapes and sizes tried to get my attention. It was like a kickball game and I was the captain, and they were all yelling, ‘Pick Me! Pick Me!” But it wasn’t a kickball game. It was real life, and they all wanted me to take them home so they could feel safe and warm and loved.”

Back in a corner cage they found “a scruffy little dog” who looked like “a combination of a thousand different breeds” with spots and stripes, and different colored eyes and different shaped ears and “a big black streak of fur right down his back, almost like a cape” wearing the “cutest, saddest face I’d ever seen.”

“In other words,” Jimmy concludes, “he was awesome.”

It was love at first sight, and when they left the animal shelter they took that awesome critter home, and named him Abby. And it is soon clear that Abby is not only scruffy and awesome, but over-the-top bright.

And so it begins, a kid’s dog story that gradually works its way up into a rollicking good mystery. And along the way, somewhere vaguely in the background (at least in Jimmy’s mind), there’s a vampire. Kids’ books these days seem, all seem to have a vampire. (Personally, this reviewer couldn’t find a vampire in this story, but that’s alright. Jimmy knows where it is… somewhere; maybe it’s Abby!)

What’s really good about this book is how the boy and the dog bond, and what they teach each other about life, and how the overly smart mutt solves a seriously strange mystery.

Along the way, various facts of wisdom and common sense for growing are embedded in the story. For example, after they had visited the animal shelter ‒ FACT: If you consider yourself not that popular of a person, go to an animal shelter. You will feel really popular, really fast.

And, after having eaten something vile that a concerned baby-sitter fixed for Jimmy ‒ FACT: Nothing good for you tastes good. Everybody knows that. Whatever she served him tasted vile, and no matter how hard Jimmy tried to get the taste of it out of his mouth ‒ FACT: Toothpaste is no match for garlic and kelp.

This is the sort of book, written for pre-teens, that is recommended for the boy who shows little interest in reading. Once he gets into this story, he’ll likely be hooked on books for life. It’s a good read.

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