If you can’t handle the dog dying in a movie, you might want to avoid A Dog’s Purpose.
Because one does, repeatedly. Then again, he comes back, repeatedly.
Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose is the story of one canine soul who, when his time is up, passes into a new canine body, bonding with new owners and learning, along with them, what life is all about.
If you don’t look too closely at the premise (that dogs upon dying are reincarnated as other dogs), if you can handle watching more than one dog leave this earthly existence, and if you have the Kleenex handy, you might enjoy it.
It is told from the dog’s perspective, with Josh Gad providing the voice of Bailey, who goes through several bodies and owners before ending up — or so it seems — back with the child (all grown up now and looking a lot like Dennis Quaid) that he started out with.
Small world, huh?
(Speaking of coming back, the film features Peggy Lipton, who nearly 50 years ago, became my first true TV love as Julie on “The Mod Squad.” That program also featured Clarence Williams III as Linc, which isn’t relevant to this story, but I wanted to link to Linc. OK? Solid.)
Directed by Lasse Hallström, A Dog’s Purpose is scheduled for release in January of 2017.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 29th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: a dogs purpose, animals, book, books, bruce cameron, death, dennis quaid, dies, dog books, dog movies, dogs, josh gad, movie, movies, novel, peggy lipton, pets, reincarnation, w. bruce cameron
Programs in which kids read to dogs are nothing new, but the Humane Society of Missouri is putting a new twist on the idea — having children read to shelter dogs to boost the dog’s confidence, as opposed to their own.
In the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, young volunteers — from ages 5-16 — read to shy and withdrawn shelter dogs, helping them grow comfortable with visitors.
As a result, those shy dogs become less likely to cower in the back of their glass-enclosed kennels and more likely to get adopted.
“We saw more and more rescue animals that were shy, fearful, and stressed out in the shelter environment,” JoEllyn Klepacki, the society’s assistant director of education told Today.com. “Unfortunately, these dogs are less likely to get adopted, since they tend to hang back instead of engage when potential adoptees come through.”
In addition to helping them hone their reading skills, they learn about dogs, and their body language, and how to draw them out of their shells — all with the help of a good book and some treats.
The volunteers go through training sessions (with a parent) to learn how to interact with dogs, and the shelter has a library of about 100 donated books the children can read from, though many choose to bring their own.
Not a whole lot of staff supervision is required because the dogs remain in their enclosures — likely for liability and safety reasons — and one parent is required to accompany each child when they come to read.
Even though physical contact is limited, Klepacki believes the program is making a difference.
“These were dogs that before were hiding in the backs of the rooms with their tails tucked. You can see the connection — you can see them responding to those kids.”
Klepacki thinks other shelters could start a similar program at little expense.
“For next to no cost, the payoff is immeasurable.”
(Photos courtesy of the Humane Society of Missouri)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 26th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, books, children, confidence, dogs, humane society, humane society of missouri, kids, missouri, missouri humane society, pets, programs, reading, shelter, shelters, shy, shyness, withdrawn
Whether its lowering our blood pressure, upping our oxytocin (that hormone that makes us feel warm and fuzzy), or keeping us sane (no small task), you can bet there’s a study underway at some university somewhere seeking to unravel — and dryly present to us — more hard evidence of yet another previously mysterious way that dogs enhance our well-being.
Given that, it’s a nice change of pace to plunge into a more anecdotal account — one that looks at the near magical mental health benefits one woman reaped through her dog, and does so with candor and humor, as opposed to sappiness.
“Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself” is a book that shows, far better than any scientific study, just how valuable — no, make that priceless — the human-dog bond is.
The memoir spans a year in the life of the author, Julie Barton, starting when, just one year out of college and living in Manhattan, she had what we used to call a “nervous breakdown.”
A barely coherent phone call from her kitchen floor brought her mother racing to her side from Ohio to take her home.
Barton was diagnosed with major depression — one that didn’t seem to lift, despite the best efforts of family, doctors, therapists and the pharmaceutical industry. She spent entire days in bed, refusing to get up.
Around the same time doctors started her on Zoloft, Barton told her mother she’d like to get a dog. Her mother thought that was a great idea. A few weeks later, they were bringing home a golden retriever pup. Barton named him Bunker.
On that first night, Bunker started whimpering in his crate, and Barton crawled inside with him:
“It occurred to me as I gently stroked his side that this was the first time in recent memory that I was reassuring another living thing. And, miraculously, I knew in that moment that I was more than capable of caring for him. I felt enormously driven to create a space for Bunker that felt safe, free of all worry, fear and anxiety. For the first time in a long time, I felt as if I had a purpose.”
Barton’s depression didn’t lift overnight; it never does. But, as the artfully written story unravels, Bunker gives Barton the confidence she needs to start a new life on her own in Seattle.
The are plenty of bumps ahead, and more than a few tests, but, given we’re recommending you read it for yourself, we won’t divulge them here.
Or you can wait for the next scientific study that comes along, proclaiming — in heartless, soulless prose — to prove one way or another what we already know:
Dogs are good for the heart and soul.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, benefits, bond, book, books, books on dogs, bunker, dog books, dog medicine, golden retriever, health, humans, julie barton, memoir, mental health, nurture, nurturin, pets, reading, rescue, science, studies, thinkpiece publishing
Then decides to abort ’em
Is it right to dig them up
And publish them post mortem?
When an artist abandons or otherwise trashes a work in progress — be that artist a musician, painter or writer — it’s usually for good reasons
When an heir, agent or publisher digs up the discarded work of a dead or incapacitated artist it, and seeks to package it for public consumption, it’s usually for one:
That — more than paying homage, more than fleshing out the historical record — is what’ I’d guess is behind the publication of “new” books by two of America’s most beloved authors.
Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman — essentially the trashed first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird — was released this summer, even though some say, given Ms. Lee’s mental state, she isn’t likely to have endorsed the project.
What Pet Should I Get, by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), hit bookstores today — 24 years after his death.
Fifty years after Seuss and Lee became part of popular culture, their respective publishing houses are saying, in effect — and like an infomercial — “But wait … There’s more.”
The new Seuss book is based materials found in the author’s San Diego home in 2013 by Geisel’s widow, Audrey.
According to Random House, when Audrey Geisel was remodeling her home after his death, she found a box filled with pages of text and sketches and set it aside with some of her husband’s other materials. Twenty-two years later, she and Seuss’s secretary revisited the box.
They found the full text and sketches for What Pet Should I Get? — a project that, seemingly, Seuss didn’t feel good enough about to pursue.
As reincarnated books go, Go Set a Watchman has proven far more contentious.
On top of questions over whether Lee wanted the work published, it’s first-version portrayal of Atticus Finch as a bigot is hard for some readers to take, especially those who read Mockingbird.
What Pet Should I Get? hasn’t entirely escaped controversy.
The story line is simple: A brother and sister (the same ones featured in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) go to the pet store with permission from their parents to pick out a pet.
The can’t seem to agree. The brother wants a dog, the sister wants a cat, and some consideration is given to a “Yent that could live in a tent.”
Some reviews are saying the rhymes lack the pzazz and zaniness of Geisel’s better known works.
In addition, the book doesn’t stand up to the test of time. It was written in a day that buying a dog from a store was deemed acceptable — decades before the atrocities of puppy mills (where many such dogs came from) became known.
Among the book’s earliest critics — even before it came out — was PETA, whose president contacted Random House to point out it might send the wrong message to young readers. Apparently, Random House took the advice to heart. In an eight-page afterword, the publisher makes a point of explaining, among other things, that families should adopt rather than buying dogs and cats from stores.
What’s not addressed are the ethics of profiting off selling the unpublished works of the dead.
In the spirit of Dr. Seuss, let me conclude with a couple of modest thoughts. You can call them little point one and little point two.
Point one is a note to creative types. You might want to consider outlining in your will, in great detail, what may or may not happen to, and who should get any profits from, any unpublished works that you squirreled away in a drawer rather than burned or threw away.
Point two is that, in celebrating our beloved writers, particularly two who shaped the lives, hearts and brains of so many children and young adults, remembering their wishes should be paramount.
The publishing world is something of a zoo, and it’s not above shoveling out some stinky stuff wrapped in shiny new packages.
So be careful of that wily fox
He’s smarter than a lot of us
Watch out for tigers, snakes and bears
Beware the hippo-posthumous
Posted by John Woestendiek July 28th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, artists, authors, books, books on dogs, children's books, dead, dog, dr. seuss, estates, go set a watchman, harper collins, harper lee, heirs, literature, pet, pet stores, pets, popular culture, posthumous, publication, publishing, random house, theodore geisel, to kill a mockingbird, what pet should we get, wills, writers
Here’s an “infographic” (more graphic than informative, we’d say) that’s popping up a lot on the Internet these days.
It’s from “Knowledge is Beautiful,” a new book by British data-journalist David McCandless.
In it, he crunches data to explain the world, or at least random bits of the world, through graphics that — though they might intimidate those of us who prefer a good old fashioned story — are intended to be entertaining, artful and easy to absorb.
“Every day, every hour, every minute we are bombarded with information, from television, from newspapers, from the Internet, we’re steeped in it. We need a way to relate to it,” his publisher, Harper Collins, writes. The author’s visual presentations “blend the facts with their connections, contexts, and relationships, making information meaningful, entertaining, and beautiful.”
But we’ve got problems and questions with this particular chart — a ranking of the 87 “best” dog breeds.
(To see a full size version, click here.)
For starters, why — when there are about 180 recognized breeds now — did he limit himself to only the 87 most popular breeds?
Is that a more algorithm-friendly number? Is that the most that could fit on a page before it became so cluttered as to be reader unfriendly, or leave us feeling dog bombarded?
The infographic contrasts the popularity of the breeds with what (according to the formula used by McCandless) are the “best” breeds. The best breed, according to the chart, is the border collie. It concludes the bulldog the most “inexplicably overrated” dog breed.
McCandless ranks the 87 dog breeds based on these factors — intelligence, lifespan or longevity, ailments, grooming, appetite and costs.
In a way, at least four of those factors are cost-related, aren’t they?
How much a dog eats and how much grooming he requires both can make him a more expensive proposition, which we can only assume McCandless attaches negative points to.
The Newfoundland, for example, falls into the “inexplicably overrated” quadrant of the the chart — well, most of him does, a little bit of his big head seems to stick outside that border.
We’d hope McCandless considers a longer life span for a dog to be a good thing, worth positive points, but wouldn’t a dog gaining points in that category be losing them in the appetite, grooming and costs categories?
Of course, our biggest is complaint — on top of the sheer stupidity of picking a best dog breed — is that the chart ignores the “best” (and most popular) dog of all, the mutt.
That would complicate matters though, and infographics are all about over-simplifying. And stereotyping, and quanitfying the unquantifiable, and smugly considering yourself an expert based on what your computer has churned out, which infographic perusers should bear in mind, is only as reliable as the data it was fed in the first place.
(Photos: “Knowledge is Beautiful”)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 19th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: algorithms, appetite, best, best dog breeds, books, border collies, breeds, bulldogs, chart, compare, computers, contrast, costs, crunching, data, david mccandless, dog, dog breeds, factors, graphic, grooming, infographic, intelligence, knowledge is beautiful, longevity, newfoundlands, numbers, popularity, technology, worst
Hill, whose first book, “Where’s Spot?” was published in 1980, passed away after a short illness, according to Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children’s Group.
The book told the story of Spot’s mother, Sally, as she searched for him around the house, finding a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.
Hill was born in England. His career as an illustrator began when he became an errand boy at an illustration studio during World War II, which led to a position at an advertising agency, according to the Associated Press
While freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his now-famous flap innovation, which fascinated his 3-year-old son, Christopher.
He was so pleased with his son’s reaction to his work that he invented a story to go along with it, which, eventually, became the highly successful “Spot the Dog.”
That came after countless rejections from publishers who were wary of his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — such as a flap in the shape of a door that is lifted to reveal a grizzly bear.
“Familiar as we are today with a children’s book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s,” Minchin said in a statement.
“At that time, Eric’s idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot,” she said.
“Where’s Spot?” was followed by “Spot’s First Walk,” “Spot Goes to the Beach” and many others.
Hill, who moved with his family to the United States in the 1980s, is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 13th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, book, books, books on dogs, children, childrens, death, died, dog, dog books, dogs, eric hill, good dog reads, illustrator, penguin, pets, spot, spot goes to the beach, spot's first walk, where's spot
What do you do when the woman you’re falling in love with has a dog that, seemingly, can’t stand you?
Beef jerky, trust and patience are key, but it also helps to be Jon Katz.
The author of numerous dog books recounted in Parade last week how he came to marry Maria — an artist who was using one of his barns as a studio — and how that required much woooing of her Rottweiler-shepherd mix, Frieda.
Katz was still married when he met Maria and cut a deal with her allowing her to use a barn as a studio in exchange for helping with his animals (a herd of sheep, four donkeys, four chickens, three dogs, and two cats) at his farm in upstate New York. Both later saw their marriages end, and they began developing a friendship — or at least to the extent Frieda would permit.
Frieda was fiercely protective of Maria and, Katz writes, “whenever I approached the barn, Frieda would fling herself against the door in a frenzy, barking ferociously.”
Frieda had been dumped, pregnant, along the New York State Thruway by a man who had been using her as a guard dog. She lived in the wild before she was captured and brought to a shelter. That’s where Maria met her and adopted her, Katz says:
“They were the perfect pair, the human-canine version of Thelma and Louise, united in their devotion to each other and in their great distrust of men.”
As Katz and Maria made the transition from friends to something more, Frieda continued to act out in the presence of Katz and his dogs. At night, Frieda stayed in the barn. Even though it was heated, it was not a desirable arrangement.
“I was falling in love with Maria,” Katz writes, “and I hoped she would agree to marry me one day, but I knew I had to work things out with Frieda first.
Katz says he bought $500 worth of beef jerky, and began a morning ritual, tossing a piece to Frieda every day. He started getting a little closer to the dog on each visit and, after months, Frieda let him put a leash on her and walk her. “My goal was to get her into the house by Christmas, as a surprise for Maria, evidence of my commitment and good faith.”
Katz and Maria and their animals are one big happy family now, and you can read all about it when The Second-Chance Dog: A Love Story, comes out next month.
To learn more about Katz and his other books, visit his website, bedlamfarm.com.
(Top photo: Maria and Frieda and author Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm; by George Forss)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 25th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: a love story, animals, author, barn, bedlam farm, behavior, books, books on dogs, distrust, dog, dog books, dogs, farm, frieda, jon katz, lovers, maria, married, mix, new york, parade, pets, rottweiler, shepherd, studio, the second chance dog, trust, wife