Dec 1, 2011

You Had Me at Woof

by Julie Klam

Searching for love in her life, Julie Klam has a dream where a small black-and-white dog leaps across a field of flowers towards her. And pretty much, that's when she fell in love with the Boston terrier breed. First came Otto, a dog she simply loved to pieces. Then she (with the reluctant approval of her husband) became involved in a Boston terrier rescue group, and started fostering homeless dogs. All different sorts of little dog characters came through her home, some incorrigible, some adorable. There was the dog who pooped all over the house, another that bit people, a third that did nothing at all, just lay there. The story that endeared me most was of Dahlia, a very aged dog no one liked much until she brought a wonderful surprise into their home.

You Had Me at Woof is an amusing, lighthearted and sometimes surprising read. The author admits openly that she does almost nothing to train her dogs, they're completely spoiled. It made me wonder a little how the rescue group gave her dogs to foster, as their behavior problems didn't get much help from her. But then, at least they had a safe roof over their heads while looking for their forever homes. It was really interesting to read about the operations of the rescue group- I didn't really know how they functioned before, and it seems like (at least this one) they are basically just a collection of big-hearted people doing what they can to help dogs in need, without asking anything in return.

Sometimes the writing in the book bothered me a bit. There were certain gaps in the story, regards to the author. For example, she never explained why she can't drive- even though it comes up as an issue a few times. Reasons for events or changes in her life also get glossed over. I didn't mind that so much- I liked that the book was more focused on the dogs, and perhaps she just didn't want to share details about her life. But it was just confusing as a reader to suddenly have an aspect of her situation different, with no explanation at all.

One thing I particularly liked was that the "life lessons" weren't overly obvious, not shoved in your face. Each chapter had a title like "How to Uncover Truths" or "How to Mourn the Loss of a Friend" (yes, some dogs die in the book. It didn't make me overly sad, though- probably because I just didn't get attached to them as characters). Sometimes I would get to the end of a chapter and then look back at its title and think about the contents before I realized that it all summed up that title "lesson". The one I didn't get was called "How to Feel Good About Your Neck." What does that mean? is it some cultural reference I don't get? can someone explain?

rating: 3/5 ........ 226 pages, 2010

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bermudaonion said...

I love the dog on the cover and now I'm curious about what Dahlia did!

Jeane said...

I really wanted to talk about it here because it was my favorite part of the book, but afraid of spoiling the best surprise there was!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I haven't read this one, but I did read her latest, Love At First Bark. It also focused on her fostering and rescue of dogs. You are right, she doesn't say too much about her private life. In that book, she mentions that her and her husband were drifting apart and a certain event pulled them back together. Her marital issues were only address in broad terms. But like you said, maybe she doesn't want to divulge everything about her private life. I absolutely LOVE that book cover.

Jeane said...

I completely understand if she just didn't want to talk about personal things. It just felt awkward every time something was mentioned incompletely- like there could have been a smoother way to transition the reader (or just not mention it at all, perhaps).

C.B. James said...

I've always thought my neck is terrific, so I can't help you with that one. ;-) This does look like a good book. My mother loved Boston Terriers. We had one growing up.