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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.
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.
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