Dogtown – The Book

Up to this point, every product we have ever mentioned on the blog has been one that we have purchased and used.  We have steadfastly refused to review other products or to accept advertising on the blog, but – like many dog bloggers – we received an invitation from National Geographic to review their new book, Dogtown – Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Redemption by Stefan Bechtel.  We agreed, but on the condition that we very clearly disclosed that we were receiving the book for free.  So consider us disclosed.

DogTown cover

As you know, we are passionate about rescue, since all of The Herd except Natasha are rescues.  And some of The Herd came to us with quite a few issues.  Thus, we tend to be huge fans of training books by Patricia McConnell and have enjoyed the works of Cesar Milan (go with McConnell if you want more of the science behind why dogs respond as they do).

Anyone who enjoys dogs – and, in particular, rescue dogs – will enjoy the stories inside Dogtown.  There are 17 dogs profiled as well as 8 of the people who work at Best Friends.  The stories will certainly tug at your heart and you will find yourself rooting for the dogs to succeed.  And I dare you to read the book without your eyes tearing up in places.

Which is my only challenge with the book.  Packing that many stories into a book certainly achieves the emotional goal, but I really wanted to understand more of the background.  I am not much of a TV watcher in general, but I have seen a couple of episodes of Dogtown on the National Geographic channel.  Where the chapter was familiar to me from the TV show, it felt like I was reading the script, and not getting additional background information.  I really craved hearing more of the how and less of the headline news.

My suggestion would be to take one, two, or no more than three of the dog stories and turn them into full books themselves.  The final chapter in the book is about Mister Bones, a heartbreaking story of a stray that spent 12 years at Best Friends before finally finding a forever home for the last four months of his life.  But rather than having less than 20 pages dedicated to his story, I would have loved to have spent 200 pages understanding more about the challenges, about the training techniques that worked and those that failed, about the volunteers like the “Jersey Girls” who worked with him, and finally more about the Baltimore family that adopted him.  I was certainly entertained with his story, but I really craved to be educated as well.

But, despite that shortcoming, the book is an good read and the stories are powerful.  I particularly enjoyed the vignettes about some of the staff that work there with the background story about how they became involved with Best Friends.  Great stories showing that we all have to start somewhere in learning about dog behavior.

The book also served its purpose in having me spend time on the Best Friends website.  The work that Best Friends does is absolutely amazing.  I salute everyone involved in rescue, but they do take on some of the most difficult animals and are tireless in their efforts to rehabilitate animals.

The book should be widely available.  I did note that it was available for my Kindle (now there is a product plug where I had to pay retail for the product), so certainly available at Amazon and other retailers.

P.S. – We all noticed that Mango gave a review yesterday as well, we encourage you to go read it here.


  1. Steve & Kat on November 17, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the review. For some reason, my mom wants a Kindle, so if she gets one, maybe we should put this book on it for her.

  2. Mr Koda MD on November 10, 2009 at 3:17 am

    I must get Ma to read it to me! I like hearing stories of lucky doggies.
    Cesar Milan is my hero, he is lovely and nice to the doggies.
    Thats for the review!!

  3. Norwood on November 9, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    I agree.. I love hearing the stories but want to understand what failed what worked and how certain “issues” evolved. Right on. Mango’s momma also had an excellent review.

  4. Teddy Bear on November 9, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    We don’t have the National Geographic channel so we’ve never heard of Dogtown. Thank you so much for this post. My sister is a rescue so we know how special all rescues are.

    Teddy Bear

  5. Hero on November 9, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    My mom loves that show and I love barking along to the dogs I hear on the tv. Thanks for sharing your review. That book will definitely be on my mom’s list of books to read.

  6. the Army of Four on November 9, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Great review!
    Tail wags,

  7. gus, louie and calie on November 9, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    What a great review mom. We may have to just check it out at the library…

    Big Sloppy Kisses
    Gus, Louie and Callie

  8. Huffle Mawson on November 9, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Sounds like a good read! I wonder if we can find it in Australia?

    Huffle Mawson

  9. Jake and Fergi on November 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    We just told Mango! Guess what we just learned! Our Rescue Angel (see previous posts, if you want) PJ is going to be volunteering at Best Friends in a couple of weeks. That’s where she got her late Airedog. And she said (don’t quote us!) “if there is another Airedale there, he or she is coming home with me!” We’re excited to get her first hand account! And maybe we’ll get a new friend – another rescue. (You know, I coulda landed there …. )

    Fergi (and Jake)

  10. Elizabeth & Luna on November 9, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for the review, I will take a look at it!!

  11. Wild Dingo on November 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I would love to read it, but i hate trying to read through welled up eyes! thanks for the review and thanks for the good thoughts re: juno belle jodhpurs. we still don’t know anything yet. fever came down. on fluids and antibiotics. she’s transported to my normal holistic vet who will have her on fluids and run some more tests. waiting for more tick panels too…fever went back up during transport tho to 103. 🙁 she wouldn’t eat at ER, but snapped up salmon zukes at my vet’s office from me. probably too stressed to eat yucko hospital food!

  12. Sam on November 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks for the review. You and Mango have definitely given a lot of good information on the book. Sounds like a worthwhile read, though, like you, I would prefer to have 200 page devoted in-depth to one case, so that by the book’s end, I feel a heightened sense of attachment to that dog character.

    I’m such a sap with these kinds of things. I turn on the TV and watch Dogtown, or SPCA shows, and the tears just start. So I’ll definitely need a box of Kleenex if I take on this book.

  13. Stella on November 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I have watched Dog Town on National Geo channel for the last year at least. It is my understanding that the only animals that come there are those who are not accepted any where else. It is sad in places but the number of dogs who would have been killed, but now walk away with new owners, is amazing. If an older dog needs a difficult or complex surgery, he gets it. As a user of Vets, I have some knowledge of how expensive this kind of treatment is. But if it will give a dog six months of a good life, they will do it. I often watch and say to myself, how did this get started? Did a millionaire leave them some huge bequest if Best Friends would create this place? Because to me it is apparent that with a full time professional staff and volunteers, most dogs who get placed or fixed, come out with a huge price tag around their necks. I am not saying this shouldn’t be, but in most of the world, this would not be possible.
    So how is it possible for Dog Town to operate? I am entranced with what I have seen there, but I would like to know more!

    Jo, Stella’s Mom

  14. Denns the Vizsla on November 9, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    We’re glad to see rescue getting attention like this!

  15. Jake and Fergi on November 9, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Thank you, just as we thanked Mango, for sharing your review. We really value your perspectives, and are so glad that more and more resources (books and people like you) are available to educate others about the trials and tribulations, joys and celebrations of rescue. It takes a village. And you’ve become part of it.

    Jake and Fergi xxoo

  16. Kira on November 9, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Wooos Thank woo for promoting this wonderfully magical place. My Mom donates a portion of all of her sales to help support the efforts they are making each and every day!
    Wooos to Best Friends!
    -Kira The BeaWootiful

  17. KB on November 9, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Sounds like a good book, although a tear-jerker. The vignette about Mister Bones already made me feel sad but happy… Thanks for the review.

  18. The OP Pack on November 9, 2009 at 8:10 am

    We saw Mango’s review too. Perhaps there will be a sequel that will include more of what its reviewers are seeking. Both of you have had enough positive comments about the book to make Mom add it to her list. Thanks for sharing. Woo!

    Tail wags, the OP Pack

  19. MAXDOG on November 9, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Thank you so much for your review. We did read Mango’s yesterday, but it has been great reading two perspectives. Seems like National geographic has been busy recruiting book reviewers. 🙂
    Thank you for taking the trouble to tell us about it. We’ll certainly have to look out for it.
    Max’s mom in SA

  20. Jack & Tori on November 9, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Sounds like a great stocking-stuffer. I’ll paw it down on mom’s list! We’ve never watched Dogtown either, but mom loves touching stories. Thanks for a great review, Herd!

    a-roos & woos,
    jack n’tori

  21. Mochi on November 9, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Mom loves that show and she needs to get that book! Mom and dad went to visit Best Friends in September when they went on their trip. Since they were staying in Las Vegas they only had enough time for the tour. They hope one day go back to volunteer for a few days. 🙂

    Thanks for the book review!


  22. Khyra on November 9, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Tank woo fur sharing!

    Dogtown is an inkhredible khoncept…As is the BestFriends reskhue!

    PeeEssWoo: My mom is still smiling about the woo from one of woo!

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