Review: Doggerel


I was contacted by this book’s publisher–obviously, I think, because of this blog’s name–to review Doggerel: The Moving Memoirs of Rescue Dogs and Their Second Lives, in Poetry and Prose, by Angela Patmore.

The book contains photos and poems for 50 U.K. shelter dogs who were either recently rescued or in need of a home. The proceeds from the book go to the Association of Dogs’ and Cats’ Homes, a U.K. rescue organization.

Patmore, a former organizer for Scruffts, the U.K. dog show for mixed breeds, clearly has a lot of love for homeless dogs. She is, however, not a poet. I know that this book isn’t intending to achieve any high literary acclaim, but the poetry is so abysmal that it’s almost embarrassing to see it in print (e.g., “When dogs are indoor angels just/Their wings are made of light/But when you look up into the sky/Whole outdoor ones go sailing by/Invisiball to sight”). The photos were nice, however, and I always like reading about dogs who have been rescued; I’d just rather read about them in a format that wasn’t nonsensical verse.

The second half of the book is a how-to guide for U.K. residents who are planning to adopt a dog. There is a comprehensive directory of U.K. shelters and rescue organizations, and Patmore places particular focus on rescuing greyhounds, which I appreciated. She includes general statistics on the dismal state of dog adoptions in the United Kingdom and implores her readers to consider adoption.

The brief training recommendations made me wince. It’s more of the same, worn-out, disproved dominance theory stuff: Make sure your dog knows that you are the alpha, always eat before your dog–and the absurd recommendation that you should pretend to eat some of your dog’s kibble before you give it to him, just so he knows that you’re “in charge”! Wow. That’s a new one. To teach heeling, Patmore says, “If he pulls ahead, which is much more likely, give a jerk on his collar and say ‘Heel!'” All I could think about was that poor dog’s neck, not to mention his increasing lack of comprehension…

I wish I liked this book more, particularly since I was given a review copy. Overall, this may be a nice little book to hand off to adopters who walked out of your U.K. rescue organization with a new furry companion, but it’s not one that I would recommend to anyone who wants to learn anything about raising a rescue dog. The bad poetry, for me, obscured the meaningfulness of these dogs’ memoirs and almost served to cheapen their experiences, by reducing their complex histories to silly couplet rhymes and forced syntax. If you really want to learn about rescuing dogs, I’d direct your attention to PetFinder’s adoption book or Love Has No Age Limit, which provided far more valuable information in 50 pages than this book did in 186.

3 thoughts on “Review: Doggerel

    1. This is actually the only bad review of DOGGEREL any of us could find. Everybody else, including a good many celebrities, journalists and dog authorities, have said that the poems were ‘moving’, ‘hilarious’ and ‘entertaining’, and as I gave my royalties to the charities to help re-home unwanted dogs, the book has hopefully done some good and found a few dogs homes that might otherwise have been destroyed.

      I should also point out that your review contained certain glaring inaccuracies, two of which rather annoyed me. First, nowhere in my (half a dozen) dog books have I ever advocated dominance training – indeed I constantly warn against it because it is cruel and ineffectual. Second, the poem you quoted to illustrate my literary incompetence was actually a light-hearted bit of ‘doggerel’ (meaning bad verse) by one of the dogs. Some of the others are by me – I am a former International Fulbright Scholar with a couple of degrees in English. Hope that clears up any misunderstanding.

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