September 2010

When the Fur Flies

Lonely Hearts Book Club Picks

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
—Groucho Marx (1890–1977)

When I first met my boyfriend, he had a sweet rescue pup named Sam, who was supposed to sleep in the kitchen. A few weeks later, the dog drifted upstairs and began sleeping outside our door. Then after a particularly loud thunderstorm, Sam was temporarily allowed in our bedroom but restricted to the overstuffed chair in the corner. That was six months ago. Now that big black dog is nestled like a lover next to my boyfriend, his head sharing our pillows. I never grew up with dogs, and I find myself actually jealous. It feels as if Sam’s comfort and happiness come above all else. Any books that could shed some light on this usurper?
—Toni, Pasadena

Dear Toni,
We hate to break it to you, but when a man is forced to choose between his girlfriend and his dog, the girlfriend usually goes. It’s just a fact of life. Classic dog stories might give you some insight, as they herald the myth of the dog as the ideal companion. Modern dog books tend to give a more balanced picture, but the conclusion is still the same: Dog is man’s best friend. And that spot on the pillow? It’s for life...

The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

This treasured novel is classified as children’s literature, though there are enough grisly club and fang scenes and raw violence to rival Cujo, Stephen King’s gruesome opus to the canine. Nevertheless, the bond between John Thornton and his alpha-dog, Buck, may help you better understand your boyfriend’s obsession.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

This tale of a fractured family’s struggles is hilariously told by Enzo, who just happens to be a dog: “Sure, I’m stuffed into a dog’s body,’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human.” After reading this, it’s impossible to look at a dog and not wonder what he’s thinking.

To Fetch a Thief: A Chet and Bernie Mystery, by Spencer Quinn

The third book in a detective series—and every bit as good as the first two—narrated by, you guessed it, a mischievous dog. Chet, a mangy fellow who flunked out of K-9 police academy, is as appealing a sleuth as his master. If you like Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich, hop on this train.

The New Yorkers, by Cathleen Schine

A deft and charming comedy of manners, with canines acting as Cupid for a group of lonely people living in the shadow of Central Park over the course of a year. Consider this the next time your partner goes out to walk the dog...alone.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski

Based on Hamlet, this 500-plus-page saga, set on an isolated Wisconsin farm, concerns the Sawtelles, who breed dogs. Seen through the eyes of mute son Edgar and his faithful companion, Almondine, the story dissects the spiritual connection between a canine and her owner. She’ll have you at bowwow.

My Dog Tulip, by J.R. Ackerley

Before Marley, there was Tulip! Now an animated feature, this book deals with the strange and wonderful relationship between the writer and his neurotic, ill-mannered German shepherd. Ackerley was a literary associate of W.H. Auden, E.M. Forster and Christopher Isherwood, who described the book as a masterpiece of animal literature. A bone-a-fied classic.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

If, in the end, you find you’re still fantasizing about your boyfriend getting rid of the dog, read this, and see what happens when a dog ends up dead in the backyard.

Have a question? You can reach Mack and Kaufman at