Spokesdog's Canine Couch
A journey about dogs and their people by Diane Rich
5 Tips to Stimulate your Dog’s Brain
Did you know you can tire your dog out by teaching and reviewing new behaviors? Dogs benefit by mental stimulation and can learn new tricks well into their senior years. There is no need to cap your dog’s vocabulary by only teaching the basics and ending your dog’s education with sit, down, come, stay, and cookie.
How Many Words Does Your Dog Know?
Dr. Stanley Coren published a book in 1995, The Intelligence of Dogs and based on studies stated that a dog has the ability to learn about 165 words in its lifetime. Should an owner choose to put in the extra time, Coren goes on to say that the dog may be able to learn up to 250 words.
Chaser, a Border Collie was taught by Dr. John Pilley, author of Chaser: Unlocking The Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words to understand the identity of specific objects and when asked by Pilley to fetch that particular object, did so and astounded everyone. Although Coren listed the Border Collie as the smartest of all breeds, I do not believe you need to parent a B.C. to create a genius canine.
Teach One New Word a Week
If you expand your dog’s hard drive with words that are associated with objects or actions you can create not only a thinking dog, but a happier dog and one that will be less inclined to become creative presenting unacceptable behaviors due to boredom. A friendly reminder when teaching new behaviors is to be clear and patient and make the learning process a positive one for your canine brainiac. Seek out professional training help if needed.
The Pros and One Con of Puzzle Type Toys
Puzzle toys that dispense food once the dog learns how the object works have been created to help alleviate a dog’s boredom when family members tackle their own busy schedules.
1. These puzzle toys may help take the dog’s mind off the owner’s absence
2. The toy may motivate the dog learn to use its nose
3. By trial and error the dog may learn to problem solve to get or find the treat.
The only con in my opinion, is that these toys do nothing to create a human-animal bond which feeds off doing things with your dog not just for your dog. So, my recommendation is to include problem solving type games your dog can enjoy solo in addition to interactive games you create by teaching your dog new behaviors.
Tips to Stimulate your Dog’s Brain and Enhance your Bond
Beyond the basics are a variety of tricks you can teach your dog. The most popular tricks are; high 5,
perch, on your side or some call it play dead, bow, roll over, sit pretty. There are books and
Youtube videos available as a guide to help you teach your dog all kinds of new behaviors.
2. Expose the Nose
Continue to expose your dog’s nose to new places. The familiar walking route around the block is fine but exploring new real estate is stimulating for your dog
c Diane Rich 2014 You can continue to train your dog while on hikes to advance the dog’s response to you around nature’s distractions. Sit, stay and come responses at home or in a classroom around familiar dogs is a good start but responses do not usually generalize well when adding distractions outside of those environments
3. Explore Your Local Parks and Engage in Meet and Greets
If getting to a local trail or finding unique real estate is not convenient, and your dog loves kids, go to a park where there are children playing. If your dog is calm and you get the parent’s permission, introduce your dog to the child. Control the interaction, have the dog sit or down so both the child and dog can relax and have a good experience.
c Diane Rich 2014 You can use words or cue such as, say hi to give your dog permission for the meet and greet
4. Find it Game
Teach your dog the name of an object and have your dog find that object. If your dog knows how to fetch and will bring an item back to you, this new object can become the item for this game. Once she masters finding one object, teach her the name of another one and so on. The game advances to become one that makes your dog think to find the particular object of your choosing. This game is super fun for both pet parent and dog.
c Diane Rich 2014
You can also teach your brainiac to find or get an object, hold the object and drop or give the object in your hand. Three different behaviors and three different words or cues to add to the dog’s growing vocabulary. In this example I had trained Chase to do the above but also go to a room I selected with the toy I selected so is practicing 4 behaviors. 1. find the specific toy 2. goughnut chew toy is the item which he is to bring to a particular room in my home, in this case I used 3. family room and he was asked to 4.hold it until I got it from him. So, in total for this one exercise were 4 words. Each behavior with its specific cue was initially broken down and trained separately and understood before I sequenced the behaviors.
I am a huge fan of this popular and very addictive team sport. Good instructors will teach you how to motivate your dog and most importantly will teach you the art of communicating with the dog before and while running the course.
c Diane Rich 2014 Your dog can learn names of all the obstacles along with other cues to make it through the course
May your relationship and your dog’s hard drive continue to grow.
I was looking forward to reading an advanced copy of Nick Trout’s newest book, Dog Gone Back Soon. This is Trout’s second book about Dr. Cyrus Mills. The debut novel, The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs introduced this endearing character to readers.
Dr. Cyrus Mills unenthusiastically inherited his father’s failing Veterinary practice at a clinic called Bedside Manor located in Eden Falls, Vermont. Dr. Mills is a fish out of water as he is a pathologist and supremely more comfortable behind the scenes analyzing dead animals and only communicating with other Vets. Taking over his father’s practice means not only treating the live animal but the author infuses Mill’s worst nightmare throughout the book which is communicating with the pet owning public straight on, not the reclusive Mill’s strong suit.
In Dog Gone Back Soon, Cyrus continues to evolve learning how to manage and resurrect a Vet clinic but is now saddled with Guy Dorkin, the office manager of a national chain called Healthy Paws who is coming after him and his clinic like a rabid dog. Dorkin vows to put Mills out of business.
Mill’s style of compassionate Veterinary care is unique to the money hungry Dorkin who pads the bill of unsuspecting clients and commissioned Vets at Healthy Paws. Mill’s garners a variety of new friendships around town, one being a grateful computer geek who is the one who finds out that Dorkin’s paws are mired in a variety of unethical business practices at the rival clinic.
As a pathologist Dr. Cyrus Mills has the innate drive and motivation to get to the bottom of a living patient’s (the pet) condition or disease rather than just throwing a pill at the symptom. One challenge Mills faces is that his heart and compassion for diagnostics were not improving the bottom line of his clinic as he did much of his work for free or nearly free.
Trout weaves drama, humor, love, personal and professional growth and new-found friendships throughout this book. The dog lover will connect with Mill’s conflict about an orphaned dog named Stash.
I not only thoroughly enjoyed Trout’s heartwarming and entertaining story but didn’t want it to end. I look forward to more stories about Dr. Cyrus Mills and Bedside Manor.
Nick Trout is a staff surgeon at the prestigious Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. He lives with his wife and labradoodle in Massachusetts. Dog Gone Back Soon hits the shelves
on April 8, 2014.
The Seattle Kennel Club
I look forward to this dog show every year and today’s events did not disappoint. If you missed
it today at the CenturyLink Event Center, no worries you have tomorrow, March 9th. This is a wonderful
family event and one of the best opportunities of the year to meet a number of dog breeds and
talk with breeders and owners about your favorite canine.
Meet the Breed
c Diane Rich 2014
Get up close and personal at the meet the breed ring where you can talk with the owner who may also be the dog’s breeder to get great information about the dog. These Basenjis were wonderful ambassadors for the breed.
Smart phones were on the ready everywhere and amateurs along with professional photographers had one goal in mind; capture candid and staged moments throughout the show.
The Seattle Kennel Club hosts a variety of activities and demonstrations all drawing big crowds. There is is something for everyone.
Boeing K-9 Program
c Diane Rich 2014
This dog searched through a variety of bags and detected explosive chemicals or compounds in this particular bag and alerted the handler by sitting. Boeing’s program provides talented dogs with superior noses and strong drive trained in explosive detection work. This program was established to provide security in the aftermath of 9/11. These working dogs have important jobs but when not at work are a part of the handler’s family. Their reward for finding explosives is a tennis ball.
The Seattle Police Department Canine Unit is another crowd favorite. Mark Wong, a k9 officer has entertained and educated the public at the Seattle Kennel Club for a number of years. He is here with his police dog, Ziva demonstrating how they catch the “bad guy.” The female officer, TJ San Miguel plays the “bad girl.” Mark stresses the fact the dog has a job to do but when off duty Ziva is a family dog. Ziva made the news recently capturing a real “bad guy” over Christmas 2013.
The main floor is only a part of the show. Go upstairs and you will find breed groups and rescue organizations where you can mingle with an assortment of dogs and continue your education at any of the booths.
Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue
This sweet Chihuahua is a 3 year old neutered male looking for a forever home. I spoke with the foster mom who said he is housetrained, micro-chipped, vaccinated, crate trained and people friendly.
Contract SPDR if you are interested.
Here is the link for more information about the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show
The Right Stuff
I get emails and calls weekly from people who want to learn about therapy service as they believe
their dog would make an ideal therapy dog. I love these calls as therapy service is near and dear to my
heart so I am more than happy to guide the caller towards their goal.
c Diane Rich 2014
Some pets are better suited to visit residents in a long term care or retirement facility, some pets may do well visiting patients in a hospital environment or at a facility that serves people battling a specific disease. Some teams are well suited for programs geared towards children. Years ago there were not as many choices as there are today so if you pass your therapy test, you are sure to find a program that speaks to you and is a great match for your team’s talent.
Does Your Canine Have the Right Stuff
I believe a good therapy dog is born, not made. It is not enough the dog loves the family, friends of the
family and familiar people living in the neighborhood. And, it is not enough the dog just tolerates
the love and attention from strangers. This well trained and social dog must adore strangers and enjoy
that adoration and close contact in a calm manner.
Point to Ponder if you are interested in this amazing volunteer opportunity
1. The dog, actually the team which is defined as handler and pet must pass a standardized test given by an evaluator representing a therapy organization. Once the team passes the test, the handler then must register with that organization.
2. The dog must perform basic obedience skills on leash which include; walk on a loose leash
sit, stay, down and come. All test exercises must be performed without using a treat.
There are other exercises the team must perform that helps the evaluator observe general behavior
of the dog and handling skills of the owner in specific circumstances that simulate situations that may be
experienced during an actual therapy visit. Most of the organizations list all these required
exercises online for your review.
3. The various therapy organizations usually list their approved collars or harnesses on their website.
If your dog wears a pinch collar which is not an approved collar for any of the therapy organizations
it is best to retrain your dog on an approved collar or harness before taking your test.
4. The dog cannot show any sign of aggression or reactivity towards dogs, adults or children
5. The dog must not over-react to noises.
6. Some of the people the dog visits may be in a wheelchair use a walker or cane or have an
unsteady gait. The dog must be calm and relaxed around any type of medical equipment.
There are some dogs that will not walk on a slippery floor and if this is the case, your
dog may have some challenges in certain facilities or at schools.
c Diane Rich 2014
7. The handler must be proactive to ensure the visits are safe for the pet and people s/he visits
8. The dog must have a solid “leave it’ so they can pass by a food cart or medical cart. The dog
will need to ignore a patient’s stuffed teddy bear, a plate of uneaten food or used Kleenex within reach.
9. The dog should not lick, jump on or lunge at people or be overwhelmed if surrounded
by many people wanting to love him or her
Do You Have the Right Stuff
The dog is only half of the team as the handler plays a critical part in the success of that team
and the success of each visit. Therapy service is not an activity where a handler spectates
and lets it all happen.
1. That handler must be a proactive member of that team at all times and be an advocate for the pet
2. If you are intimidated or uncomfortable talking with strangers or talking with someone who is sick,
then this may be something to work on as it is important to help create a nice meet and greet with your
dog and the interested stranger.
One of the major therapy organizations approves species other than dogs. So, if your cat, llama
or mini horse has the right stuff you will absolutely put smiles on the faces of anyone you visit.
c Diane Rich 2014
I would encourage you to do some research on therapy service. It is an addictive activity that
will make your heart smile and your dog’s tail wag. Please feel free to contact me if you
have questions or want more information on therapy service.
I was invited to join in a conference call to interview Cesar Millan about his new TV show, Cesar 911. In the Dog Whisperer it was the owner who contacted Cesar for help but for this new TV show the call could come from a neighbor, family member, relative or coworker for emergency help with a problem pooch. After a whistleblower contacts Cesar the viewer can only imagine that the intervention with the dog’s owner may not be met with open arms.
Cesar first begins the process by interviewing the whistleblower to get the details. The next step is working with what hopefully will be a cooperative owner who may be in denial about the problem or has just given up on finding a solution. Millan will work with the community to help rehabilitate the dog and their family.
During our phone interview Cesar stated, “this show is more about training the human than the dog.” Cesar believes it is the “actions of the humans that create the problems.” In one case Cesar told us that it was the victim of a dog bite who called him for help.
Cesar 911 debuts March 7th at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT in the U.S. on the National Geographic channel.
The show is produced by ITV Studios America in association with Leepson Bounds Entertainment. Millan, David Leepson and Jordan Roberts serve as executive producers. Each episode will include two stories within a community.
Take a sneak peek at the trailer provided by Nat Geo Wild
Meet An Ancient Breed
I wanted to introduce Luna to my readers along with a general overview on the breed. I asked the owners to give me a little back-story as to how they found Luna and am happy to share their story with you.
This breed is also known as the Formosan Mountain Dog, Formosan Native Dog, Formosan Aboriginal Dog, Formosan Hunting Dog among other names. Formosa was another name for the island of Taiwan. This is a very ancient breed native to the island of Taiwan and little is known about its ancestry.
This little hunting dog only weighs in between 30 and 40 lbs with a shoulder height up to 21 inches. Japanese researchers through genetic testing have concluded the breed is a direct descendant of ancient Southeast Asian hunting dogs which were similar to the Dingo-like dogs.
As the dog is primitive or feral in nature, it can be territorial and is protective of the family, loyal to one member of the family and possibly the entire family. The hunting instinct is hard wired in this breed so the prey drive is high and this little hunter may chase and kill small animals. This breed may not get along with other dogs but if raised with other dogs could be compatible. The TMD is generally reserved, wary of strangers and independent. Primitive breeds are highly intelligent and you must establish yourself as the leader without using harsh training techniques.
The Story of Luna
We adopted Luna about 6 weeks ago from Ginger’s Pet Rescue. She was born in captivity from a pregnant feral female that was rescued in Taiwan. Her mama was rescued by a group in Taiwan with affiliates in the US.
Gingers pet rescue, also known as deathrowdogs.com had their dogs at a pet store in Renton, Washington a couple of months ago. After losing our 2 labs in the last 3 years and acquiring a Shih Tzu we decided that the Shih Tzu needed a companion after losing her big lab buddy. We did not want another big dog but a medium 20 -40 pound dog is what we were searching for. We liked the idea of a rescue dog but were not committed to adopt one; until we me Lotus, which we renamed Luna.
We looked at all of the dogs, many were old, abused or disabled. While our hearts were saddened by these poor death row dogs, we found Luna and a few of her siblings… or death row inmates. We were impressed by their rather exotic look and the story behind them. Evidently, only a week before, they had been flown over from Taiwan in hopes to find a foster home. She had all her shots, was spayed, chipped and checked out by US customs. My wife and I took her for a walk around the strip mall with our Shih Tzu then I took her by myself for another lap. Then we sat down in a quiet corner outside. I asked her if she was the dog for us and she licked my ear. That was a good sign. I talked to her and she seemed to want to communicate with me although she probable did not understand English much less human.
I was impressed by her and talked to my wife and we decided to give her a go. She came with a 30 day return policy if things did not work out. We had to sign an agreement that we would only return her to Ginger’s pet Rescue if we were going to give here up. That told me that Ginger was committed to finding a good home for these puppies. She was 5 months old when we adopted her.
Her breed is a Taiwanese Mountain Dog. They are evidently descendants from the Formosan Mountain Dog which almost became extinct in Taiwan. She is very sweet, affectionate and alert. She has boundless energy when there is something or someone to play with. Otherwise she sleeps. She has a voracious appetite yet remains very lean. She has been pretty easy to house train taking notes from the Shih Tzu dog, her new boyfriend, but although they got along when they first met at the pet store, there was a lot of “drama” the first week. We never experienced such growling and alpha quest. However, after about a week, the Shih Tzu dog realized the new addition was permanent and stopped freaking out every time Luna was in his majesty’s presence. They have become very close and play all the time.
The Shih Tzu dog is very headstrong and does not realize he is smaller and less defensive. The little guy really holds his own and I think Luna respects him for that. He will put Luna in her place to the degree that he can and Luna usually backs down, but not always. We decided we needed outside help. Our Labs were so easy. This pair was going to need some professional counseling.
After an extensive google search, we enlisted the help of Diane from http://www.spokesdog.com We were a little skeptical at first because she was mostly interviewing us, not the freaking problem child we had adopted. However, after the interview we saw her work miracles communicating with Luna and getting her to focus, obey a command and get rewarded with a non-Costco sized treat.
The second session was even better. She incorporated the Shih Tzu dog into the training exercise. The little man is very well behaved and Diane showed Luna how to behave based on Pepi’s calm demeanor. Then she trained the dog, then US how to teach Luna to lie down, stay, recall to a whistle, teach the dog to “touch” her hand and most importantly how to “settle” when the doggies are going at it too rambunciously. Luna is a gift to us and I feel like we are becoming a gift to her otherwise life as a wild dog.
Thank you Ginger and thank you Diane.
Thank YOU for giving Luna a wonderful, forever home.
Where: CenturyLink Field Event Center
When: March 7-9, 2014
America’s most popular breed, the Labrador retriever, leads the way in entries again this year for the highly popular shows with 51 entries Saturday and 49 Sunday. Runners-up Saturday are the golden retriever and Australian shepherd with 33 each. Next are the Papillons and Rhodesian Ridgebacks with 29 apiece, followed by Great Danes 25, French bulldogs 24, Basset hounds 24 and whippets and boxers 22 each.
The Sunday Top Ten entries following the Lab include Australian shepherd 36, golden retriever and Rhodesian Ridgeback 31 each, Papillon 30, French bulldog 27, Great Dane 24, boxer 22, Basset hound 21 and Basenj and Keeshonden 20 each.
Two breeds, the rat terrier and Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, recognized last year by the American Kennel Club as eligible for conformation competition, will be competing here for the first time.
The rat terrier is an all-in-one dog – able to do virtually anything it is trained to do – and is easily trainable and exceptionally intelligent. It excels in conformation, agility, obedience, rally obedience, terrier racing, earthdog, barn hunt and lure coursing.
Smallest of the Podengo family, the perky Portuguese Podengo Pequeno is an active rabbit hunter with a long history. It is still used today in its homeland by avid huntsmen. In the U.S. it has strong potential in conformation, agility, obedience and lure coursing competition.
Saturday’s entry total is 1753 dogs with 156 breeds; Sunday has 1721 dogs and 158 breeds in conformation, rally, agility and obedience. Sixty-plus youngsters will be competing in junior showmanship each day.
c Diane Rich 2014 Agility is always a crowd favorite
Add to that a new free feature from 6-8 p.m. Friday, March 7 showcasing American Kennel Club Foundation Stock Service (FSS) and Miscellaneous Breeds only and conducted by the Hungarian Pumi Club of America. The 19 breeds in the American Kennel Club’s Miscellaneous Class may compete and earn titles in Companion events and also select Performance events, along with Junior Showmanship. But these are breeds the general public does not see often.
If you’re considering a new dog and uncertain about what breed, there are dozens of breed club, animal-welfare and animal-rescue organization personnel there to answer your questions. Those manning the booths know their breeds and will answer your questions candidly and honestly.
c Diane Rich 2014 Breed specific rescue organizations along with breed clubs will be upstairs from the main event. Go visit, ask questions, pet a dog and have fun.
A separate Meet the Breeds presentation throughout both days will allow attendees to discuss each breed’s features and interact with the dogs.
c Diane Rich 2014 Meet the breed offers an excellent opportunity to ask questions about your favorite breed
For those wanting an inside explainer on what a dog show is all about, guided show tours, led by a Seattle Kennel Club member, will be available each day from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., with sign-ups at the club table near the front doors.
Action-packed demonstration events will feature Ewe-Topia herd dogs, Boeing K-9 explosive-detection dogs, Emerald City K-9 Freestyle Dancers, Seattle Police Dept. K-9 Unit officers and their four-legged partners, K9 Nose Work and others.
c Diane Rich 2014 Nose work demo
New demo features by Family Dog Training Center in Kent include a Canine Good Citizen test demonstration Saturday and a talk/demonstration about the interaction of dogs and children Sunday.
Add to these more than 60 vendors selling a wide assortment of canine products and you have a can’t-miss event for the entire family.
Show Hours and Admission Prices
Show hours each day are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is adults $14, children under 4 free, children 4-14 $7 and seniors over 62 $12. Only dogs entered in the show events will be admitted on the premises.
To avoid major traffic congestion Saturday, arrive early, as the kickoff to the Seattle Sounders Major League Soccer season opener is at noon.
Mouth Watering, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Dog
By Gayle Pruitt
Dust off your apron and let’s get started. I must begin by complimenting Joe Grisham on his photos. Every one of the photographs from cover to cover is absolutely gorgeous. I understand that all the dogs he photographed for this book are dogs from rescue. And, the food which one would think is easier to shoot comes from the heart and talent of the author. I have watched professionals photograph food; the lighting, angle, foreground and background need to be spot on. Great job.
I have many cook books created for humans and several books with recipes for dogs but Pruitt’s book offers simple, healthy recipes for both species and am happy to add it to my collection. Normally I would not mention the foreword in a book review but this one was worth mentioning. The foreword was written by Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH(Master of Public health), CCN (cardiovascular nursing), who specializes in nutritional medicine. He states he is “proactive with my human patients and do not wait for them to get sick, but encourage them to do something that positively affects their lives each day.” He goes on to say that his “belief translates directly to the care of dogs.” I liked this man’s approach to health.
Gayle Pruitt, who lives in Dallas, Texas, is a certified nutritionist and chef and her passion includes health, food and animals. I liked her too. She encourages pet parents to cook for the family dog and offers what appears to be delicious recipes along with suggestions how to make the process a little easier for those of us who just cannot squeeze another task into our busy day.
The author offers tips such as buying in bulk and and what to save during the cooking process like peelings that can be used for other recipes. Why throw away the peelings when they can be used for soup or broth. Pruitt suggests making a batch of cooked rice, quinoa, millet or oats every 2 weeks, freeze in individual servings and when ready, defrost, add veggies and a protein for your dog and voila you are done. Brilliant, time-saving idea.
Pruitt also has a chapter on what equipment to buy to make food prep easier. She recommends an inexpensive juicer, a food processor and a 15-20-quart enamel pot for making bulk foods and suggests staying away from aluminum pots. Pruitt’s preferred essentials is listed in her book.
Gayle also discusses vitamins and minerals, lists the benefits and what real foods provide those nutrients. . This chapter does not separate the vitamin and mineral requirements for humans from dogs which I think would have been helpful. She did specify the benefits of Vitamin C for dogs.
So the caveat before jumping on the chef wagon and adding any supplement to your dog’s diet or using any of the suggested recipes is to ask your Vet first. He or she will know your dog’s health history and know if what is suggested is good for your dog. A Vet’s concern would be making sure the patient (the dog) gets the required amount of nutrients, doesn’t get too much of a good thing, and should your pet have a health condition what food sources to avoid.
Pruitt did address the world of spices and herbs for dogs and what worked for her dog. She noted that adding a little fresh ginger and fennel seeds to her dog’s food improved the dog’s digestion almost immediately. Again, this is something to run by your Vet before adding herbs or spices to your dog’s diet. She listed parsley as safe for dogs and states it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is good for the digestive system and cleans up the liver. She also states that Turmeric with its active ingredient curcumin, based on scientific research is beneficial for many conditions. I have read and heard about the benefit of this ingredient from Andrew Weil, MD and Dr. Oz, but always thought it was only for humans.
I recommend this book. It is well done and provided some motivation for me to cook more than I already do for my dog. Meanwhile, I am getting hungry so am going to end this blog, go the kitchen and look through my pantry and refrigerator and make a shopping list.
There is warning on the back cover: Recipes in this book may cause drooling.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book to review. Please talk with your Veterinarian first before preparing any of the home cooked recipes or adding any of the suggested supplements, herbs or spices to your dog’s diet.
Diane Rich Dog Training, LLC
By Kristin von Kreisler
c Diane Rich 2014 The Golden Retriever mix in this photo was found under a truck in Eastern Washington when she was about 5 months old. Luckily someone rescued her, she was put up for adoption and found her forever home. And, like Grace, the Golden Retriever in Kristen’s novel learned to trust and love again.
An Unexpected Grace
Von Kreisler‘s story is about Grace, a Golden Retriever that was severely mistreated by her original owner. Unfortunately like millions of dogs around the country, through no fault of their own these precious beings start out their innocent lives with people who have no business or aptitude to care for a potted plant let alone an animal. Devoted dog parents will read An Unexpected Grace and relate to the deep bond and heartfelt connection that can develop between the human and canine species. A dog can bring healing powers to a person in need and the right person or family can bring healing powers to a dog in need.
Kristen’s novel is also about Lila Elliot who struggled with her own demons that were not so easy to ignore once faced with tragedy and coming face to face with one particular fear that just happened to have a tail. Lila survives the nightmare of a shooting rampage at her office where several colleagues were killed. Lila was wounded. Physical wounds heal but emotional scars can be too overwhelming to face and fix alone. Help and healing can come from supportive friends and family, a shrink, a physical therapist and yes, a dog.
After Lila was able to leave the hospital her best friend, Cristina offered her family’s home for Lila’s recovery where she would be able to house-sit while this friend and her family were away. However, Lila would be sharing this home with Grace so pet-sitting was part of the package. Lila was attacked by a dog as a child so carried a life-long disdain for the species.
Cristina told Lila that Grace is up for adoption and Adam, another character in the story would be trying to find a home for Grace. It wasn’t like at first sight between Adam and Lila either as Adam was an avid dog lover so they did not see eye to eye about Grace. It was not too difficult to predict the outcome of this relationship.
Lila and Grace, both victims and both broken needed the exact same thing but neither knew how to get there. The author takes the reader on that ride of how they learned to love and trust each other. This ride is predictable also. Although I was first empathetic with Lila due to this tragedy, not so easy to like her. It may not be an author’s goal to get the reader to fall in like with the lead character but in this case even with a positive ending, I still did not care for Lila. Falling in love with Grace, now that was easy.
To help the human heart and spirit recover and heal from personal tragedy many victims need to know “why” something happened. Lila was obsessed with finding out the reason why the shooter committed this horrific act and her obsession with trying to get her answers was drawn out past my attention span. The author created a character, a physical therapist who offered sage advice to Lila trying to help heal her soul and heart while performing various therapies to help the physical wounds heal. Easy to like this character also.
Von Kreisler’s passion for dogs is the underlying theme throughout the book and easily relatable by dog lovers wanting a happy ending. For that reason you will enjoy the book.
If you choose to adopt a dog, try to look past the eyes of a dog behind the glass or bars at a shelter that may not be bright and shiny. With proper guidance, patience and your love, you can put that sparkle back. Dogs have been around humans for thousands of years and have become dependent on us for food and shelter and have an innate need to belong. The fact that most dogs if given a chance will forgive some or all of the human race for the cruelty they endure by the hands of one person or people in general tells us a lot about a dog’s general nature. The abandoned and abused dog that is lucky enough to find that special someone to love them will relish the opportunity to love them back.
About the Author
Kristin lives on Bainbridge island in Washington which is a nature lover’s paradise and a perfect environment for this author who clearly loves animals. Kristin’s previous best selling books about animals were non-fiction.