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“A Dog’s Journey” by W. Bruce Cameron

posted July 15th, 2013 by
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Review by Art Haddaway

Buddy isn’t like other dogs. In fact, he’s much different from most in that his adventurous, often unexpected journeys take him far beyond where regular dogs only dream of.

Dog lovers of all ages will be captivated and inspired by “A Dog’s Journey: Another Novel for Humans,” written by W. Bruce Cameron—an endearing and heartfelt tale full of love, courage, humor, and even grief, that offers insight into the deepest thoughts and feelings of our furry friends.

The book is a continuation of Cameron’s first novel, “A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans,” and follows the story of Buddy whose eventful odysseys over the course of many lives lead him to new and exciting—but sometimes heartbreaking—experiences. Like the last fable, the chivalrous canine loses his life more than once but is resurrected each time as a different dog, serving a different purpose but with the same memories and personality as before.

Told from his point of view, Buddy illustrates his unique experiences throughout these different walks of life. Likewise, the pooch’s simplistic and worry-free, but all-intuitive, outlook of every situation makes for an amusing and lighthearted read, especially during the narrative’s most despairing moments.

After his previous owner, Ethan, dies, the older black Lab is granted the task of taking care of Hannah, Ethan’s wife, but is curiously drawn to their toddler granddaughter CJ (short for Clarity). Buddy soon passes away from old age but is reborn as Molly, a Poodle-mix puppy who finds herself in the hands of new owners but still can’t shake the thought of seeing CJ again. As the story unfolds, Molly and CJ find themselves reunited by mere happenstance and later learn their lives are inextricably woven together by true fate.

Molly shares her concerns about CJ’s troubled relationship with her naïve and narcissistic mother, Gloria, and about the teenage girl’s personal struggles in and out of the home. With seemingly hopeless dreams of moving out, and becoming an actress with nowhere to turn, CJ finds herself turning to all the wrong places for answers except for one: Molly. It’s ultimately her steadfast relationship with her faithful dog that gives her the hope to endure in the midst of her troubled circumstances. Even more, Molly discovers her one unwavering purpose in this life: to take care of her fragile girl.

Molly later dies to awaken once more as Max, a Chihuahua-Yorkie mix, who is given to new owners and is separated from CJ again, but, of course, eventually returns to her loving arms. With Max’s untiring devotion and the unforgettable lessons she took away from her times with Buddy and Molly, the now-elderly CJ realizes the true meaning of joy, companionship and forgiveness.

As Cameron’s first book illustrates the importance of purpose in our pets’ lives, his sequel accentuates the profoundness of our relationships with them from their emotional healing to their unconditional love. Filled with enriching and tear-jerking moments, “A Dog’s Journey” is a memorable and encouraging account of a devoted dog overcoming all odds to be with his one true companion. As Buddy, Molly and Max tell the story of their experiences with CJ, readers will be immersed in the culmination of events that essentially lead to lifelong lessons applicable in their own lives.

Merle’s Door by Ted Kerasote

posted March 9th, 2013 by
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Book Review

by Dr. Lynn Frame

A FERAL LABRADOR RETRIEVER mix with no collar, no history and every appearance of surviving by his own devices in the desert crossed paths with Ted Kerasote while he was rafting down the San Juan river. The dog immediately joined the rafting group, acquired the moniker of Merle, and accompanied Ted home to Wyoming.

Back at home, Ted gave Merle free run of the house and eventually installed a dog door, allowing Merle to come and go at will, permitting him the freedom to continue a life of his own—outside the bounds of a human’s dominance.

And what a life it was. Merle made his daily rounds checking on everyone and everything in their small community. He was welcomed everywhere he went and was soon regarded as the “Mayor” of the town.

By some unknown attraction, Merle was often off to track herds of elk. Not a hunter by nature, he would unfailingly find the large animals and just watch from a distance.

We also get to meet Alison, Ted’s significant other and fellow animal lover, along with a host of neighborhood animal companions with their own stories, some funny and some sad.

Although Kerasote frequently anthropomorphizes Merle’s activities, he goes behind that by delving into the scientific basis of dog evolution and behavior. His account of the two alternate theories of wolf-to-canine domestication is fascinating, including an explanation of why dogs turn in circles before they lie down.

Kerasote’s poignant description of Merle’s last illness is well done. It is more than a wonderful animal story; it’s an acknowledgment of the dignity of “man’s best friend.”

I give it four bones and three hankies

“Cat & Crow” kids’ book celebrates famous friendship

posted July 28th, 2012 by
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Based On A True Story . This beautifully illustrated story of two unlikely friends will delight and inspire children and adults alike.

Drawn from first-hand accounts, enjoyed by millions on YouTube, and seen on The Oprah Winfrey Show, National Geographic, Animal Planet and Miracle Pets, the story of Cassie the cat and Moses the crow has captivated the public’s imagination and touched their hearts. If two natural enemies can become best friends, then anything is possible. Also inside are educational, fun facts about cats and crows, as well as real-life photographs of these two special animals at play Lisa Fleming, a former newspaper columnist and freelance writer, is passionate about animals and wildlife. She is dedicated to helping those in need, by creating ideas that inspire charitable endeavors in her Southwest Florida community. Anne Marie Dominik-Harris, a University of the Arts graduate and Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholarship recipient, is a high school art teacher in Southern New Jersey, who also enjoys a freelance career in illustration. Endorsements and Reviews for Cat and Crow: An Amazing Friendship “Moses the crow shows that we humans are not the only species to have enlightened ones in their midst who embody the virtues of compassion, understanding and inter-species communion.” ~Michael W. Fox, veterinarian, author and syndicated columnist “Cat and Crow is an amazing story of two unlikely animals that have been magically brought together in this world! It isn’t every day that you see a cat and a crow spending time with each other, and this is just another example of the wonders of nature. This heartwarming book will have you smiling!” ~Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of TV’s Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild “Cat and Crow is a thoroughly charming picture book for children ages 1 through 5 years. It is also ideal for early readers, those in kindergarten through second grade who are reading on their own. The text is relatively easy to navigate, and the 16 colorful illustrations add exciting color and depth to the story. Of equal importance is the fact that each illustration relates extremely well to the page text, a crucial factor in writing for young children. This is a wonderful teaching tool for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.” ~Linda Fasulo, book reviewer for WGCU Public Media (National Public Radio) “This book will inspire the world and maybe change the way we look at each other!” ~Marc Morrone, host of Hallmark Channel’s Petkeeping with Marc Morrone “This is not just the story of two unusual animals and their unlikely friendship. It is about everything in the world today. Lisa Fleming takes us there and fills us with hope!” ~Gerald Hausman, best-selling children’s book author, The Parrot Detective

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“Cat and Crow is a wonderful entertainment that encourages tolerance and questions cliché thinking about what’s possible in the realm of getting along in spite of differences.” ~Phil Jason, book reviewer for Florida Weekly Recommended by All Animals magazine (Nov/Dec 2011). Recommended by Cat Fancy magazine (Mar. 2012). Endorsed by The Blue Buffalo Co. Book Club: “You may have already seen the heartwarming videos of the unlikely friendship between a stray kitten and the crow who adopted her on YouTube, Animal Planet or even the Oprah Winfrey Show. But even if you and your family already know the story, Cat and Crow by Lisa Fleming is a must-have for your story-time collection.”

Big PAWprints to Fill

posted July 21st, 2012 by
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In October 2010 the world learned about Toby, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever who was rescued by Charmaine Hammond and her husband from an animal shelter and later found his purpose as a Pet Therapy Dog. At first, Toby was not what you would categorize as a dog lovers dream; he destroyed everything in his path, had quirky habits that included demolishing toilet tank lids and closets and did everything in his power to get himself sent back to his rescue organization

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Something magical happened when Charmaine realized that Toby (even though he was a dog) needed purpose and focus in his life and redirected his boundless energy into becoming a therapy dog and leaving pawprints on people’s hearts around the globe.

“Bringing kindness to the forefront is a priority for us”, said Hammond. Approximately 160,000 children miss school everyday due to the fear of bullying by other students according to the National Education Association and workplace violence continues to threaten the safety of employees around the world. Cyber bullying is on the rise, more weapons are being found in schools, and an increase in suicides resulting from bullying.
This issue requires attention and intervention.

Sadly, in late 2011 Toby passed away peacefully of natural causes, he was 10 ½ years old, but has left big pawprints to fill. Kindness was a big part of Toby’s mission. In addition to volunteering, Toby also presented to close to 10,000 students and children across North America, raised thousands of dollars for charities and enlisted more than 7,000 on his first kindness mission. Toby’s volunteer work was chronicled in the Chicken Soup for the Soul- what I learned from the dog in 2009. On Toby’s Terms (Bettie Youngs Books, Sept. 2010) was published and is scheduled to become a major motion picture in 2012. Toby’s new children’s series, Toby the Pet Therapy dog (Bettie Youngs Books), was released in 2011. The first book in the series is titled Toby the Pet Therapy dog & His Hospital Friends, and the second in the series Toby Says Be a Buddy, Not a Bully is scheduled for a 2012 release

In honor of Toby, Charmaine and her husband Christopher launched A Million Acts of Kindness – Toby’s Global Mission on February 14, 2012. This mission will be ongoing. The goal is to bring kindness to the forefront in our family, community, workplace, and ultimately, the world. We know from Toby that every act of kindness that is extended leaves a PAWsitive impact and inspires another. The mission will offer activities for classrooms to PAW it Forward, writing and literacy contests pertaining to kindness, Random Act of Kindness events and more!

DEWEY The Small -Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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Book Review by Suzanne Gunn

I CAN’T TELL YOU how many times since 2008 when “Dewey” was published that my mother asked me, “Oh, Suzanne, have you read ‘Dewey’? You really should, you will love it!” Even though I’ve always had cats along with dogs, I see myself as more of a dog person than cat person and lean more toward dog books than cat books. I finally sat down to read “Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World” by Vicki Myron, and I am so glad that I did.

This is a book that people anywhere can relate to if they’ve had a relationship of any kind with a cat. I especially think anyone who has ties with small town and farming communi­ties will appreciate and relate to this book.

The story of Dewey begins on January 18, 1988. On the coldest day, when opening the library in Spencer, Iowa, a sound is heard coming from the night book drop box. As the librarians investigate and empty the drop box, they find a tiny freezing kitten. Hearts are melted and a love affair en­sues between the library staff and the kitten. Winning over the library board, they are allowed to keep him and start calling him “Dewey” after Melville Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System.

They soon hold a contest to allow the townsfolk to help name the kitten, and he becomes “Dewey Readmore Books.” It doesn’t take long, and the townspeople fall in love with Dewey, too. People are affected by Dewey in profound ways, amazed at how Dewey seems to know what they need and who needs his attention most!

Word travels to other towns and states and even other countries, and Dewey draws people to the small town of Spencer, Iowa, for a chance to meet Dewey the Cat. Dewey was even featured in a Japanese documentary.

Vicki Myron, the library director at the time who saved Dew­ey that fateful morning, tells the story of Dewey and also shares the story of her own life and lessons she learned along the way.

Her story is one of a young mother married to an alcoholic who gains the courage to leave. Readers can find encour­agement in the single mother working full time and pursuing an advanced education while battling multiple health issues —issues so many of us face in our own lives but don’t always have the courage to talk about or admit.

This is an inspiring book about how people hold up each other and their town, and how even one cat can bring a town together like never before! The book is well written and enjoyable—definitely worth reading! I am going to call my mother now and tell her she was right! Happy reading!

Oogy

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Suzanne Gunn

Let’s start with the title “Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love.” It’s inaccurate in that anyone who gets to know Oogy has to love him. If someone doesn’t fall in love with him, it’s not for anything he is lacking. When it really gets down to it, you may be attracted by or turned off by looks in the beginning, but it’s the relationship you build, whether it’s a person, a cat or a dog that matters. It’s all about personality, chemistry and bonds made. This book is about relationships. It’s about a family and a dog who are lucky enough to find one another and, more importantly, are meant to be together.

The book begins with the story of a man’s morning. It raised more questions for me than it answered and made me want to skip pages. I wanted to get to the story of Oogy. The story goes back and forth in time, which got a little confusing. Loose ends are tied together later in the book that gave me a better sense of why the author chose to add snippets here and there that originally made me wonder, “Why is he telling us this?” Toward the end of the book, I understood more of why he told those little bits and snippets, and it was after all, his story.

Larry Levin and his two sons first met Oogy when they took their beloved, sick and dying cat to the vet to be euthanized. Oogy was a puppy used as bait by despicable people who were conducting dog fights. His ear had been ripped from his head, his jaw broken and left for dead. The police rescued him in a raid and luckily took him to a veterinarian office where the staff fought to save his life. Many would have chosen euthanasia due to the extent of the injuries sustained.

The boys and their father decided then that they wanted to add Oogy to their family. He was mistaken as a Pit Bull, which evoked fear in many of the people who would come across him, yet his personality was anything but scary and quickly won over most skeptics. Before Jennifer Levin would let them bring the dog home, she wanted reassurance from the vet that this Pit Bull would never attack or bite anyone. She was surprised when the vet said he felt comfortable assuring her that this dog would never attack anyone!

The personality of this dog was described by many who met him as sweet, smart and uniquely special. It turned out Oogy was not a Pit Bull but a Dogo Argentino, a large, muscular and impressive dog, which grows to be much larger than a Pit. Amazingly, even after everything Oogy had survived, he continued to love and trust people and only wanted to love and be loved.

The lasting message of the book can be summed up by this excerpt: “And what appeals to everyone about Oogy is that he is proof that what we all know is lurking out there— the awful and, yes, inevitable tragic loss, the unexplainable savage attack, the seemingly insurmountable occurrence— can, in fact, be survived with love and grace intact, without bitterness or resentment, and with appreciation for all that follows. Oogy is right out there in front of everyone he meets, tangible living proof that there can be happiness, love and hope on the other side of unspeakable and unimaginable horror.”

I know I could stand to learn some of those lessons and would love to meet Oogy some day 

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