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.

Pup links!

“A Woman with Dog under a Tree,” Picasso. See the Afghan hound?

Dog-related links from around the Web this week:

12 Simple Rules for Dining Out with Your Dog. Pamela’s great list of tips for those who want to dine out with the pooch. We’ve taken Pyrrha out to eat with us twice now, and she’s done very well, but I think that was purely out of luck. We could certainly use these bits of advice and work on training her in that environment. (Something Wagging This Way Comes)

Ready to eat. Bowdu sings for his supper! This is adorable. Now only if I can get Princess Pyrrha to act with similar enthusiasm at meal-time… (The House of Two Bows)

Chix-A-Lot Friday: How Play Changed My Life. A great post from Chix about how lots of play and lots of exercise transformed his behavior. A good reminder. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)

Sometimes Dogs Aren’t Sad. Karen London points out that we often misinterpret dogs’ body language as indicating that they are “sad,” when in fact, they’re just calm or checking everything out. (The Bark blog)

The Adventures of Jack and Samantha. A guest post from two hiking greyhounds on Tinkerwolf. Beautiful photos and beautiful dogs. (Tinkerwolf)

The Responsibility of Rescues/Shelters. Tena reflects on the duty that rescues have to make sure that dogs are going to homes that are well-suited for them, e.g., don’t send a young Jack Russell terrier to an elderly couple. What do you think about this? Do you think the majority of rescues do an adequate job of matching dogs with compatible homes? (Success Just Clicks)

Which Type of Player Would Your Dog Be? Do you love or hate dog parks? I’m on the fence about them; I know we won’t be taking Pyrrha to any dog parks anytime soon. Maybe one day. How do you feel about them? (Dog Obedience Training Blog)

Rescue Me. My husband’s cousin is a great blogger and mom to sweet Jack, who is on the autism spectrum. Here, she reflects on their dog Mason and how much he’s meant to their family and to Jack. Really touching. (Reinventing Mommy)

To Be What They Are. I loved this post by Louise, about letting our dogs just BE what they are, permitting that expression of their lovely personality, however strange or exhausting it might be. Such a great exhortation for us as we raise our dogs. (Raising Ivy)

20 Most Adorable Animal Lists of All Time. It’s time to laugh now. Some of my favorite lists in this well-curated collection: 50 Corgis Super-Psyched about Halloween and, of course, 50 Photos of Basset Hounds Running. (Best Week Ever)

“Yappy Hour” with the rescue group

Greeting Blake
Tyler and Pyrrha greet Blake at Yappy Hour.

What is it about seeing a bunch of dogs who are the same breed together that is so thrilling?

This past Sunday, Pyrrha’s rescue group, Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, held an event at a local vineyard, adorably titled “Yappy Hour.” Many adoptable shepherds were in attendance, along with a few from Pyrrha’s foster pack. We thought it might be a good way to expose her to some other dogs, especially dogs that she was already familiar with.

I was a little nervous about how she’d do with about 10 other big dogs, but it turns out that Pyrrha has no problem with shepherds. She’s kind of a breed-ist, apparently. During the initial introductions, she showed a little nervousness, but nothing like what she displays toward unfamiliar dogs on the street. I can’t help but think she remembered some of these dogs, too. In the photo above, she’s greeting gentle giant Blake, owned by one of the rescue’s coordinators, with Tyler, an adoptable dog who’s had a rough start.

Onyx bobs for drinks, while Jagger peeks his head out.

I think she was happy to be reunited with some of her foster pack. Pictured above from her foster family: Onyx, the adoptable Belgian malinois mix, goes bobbing for drinks, while Jagger pokes his head out for a look. Jagger, owned by Pyrrha’s foster, Cassie, is a sweetheart and I wish we had him around more to teach Pyrrha some manners. I have a feeling he keeps the pack in line, but leads with a firm and fair paw.

Rawhide time
Jagger and Onyx with rawhides.

I think I may have a weakness for sables. Next dog, maybe? …


This is Tyler. He’s up for adoption and has had a really hard go of it. Cassie says he’s been returned seven times by potential adopters. So sad. He was found wandering the streets of a large, metropolitan area. Tyler looks much older than he is (which is about 4) and he’s struggled to keep any weight on. Unfortunately, after a recent check-up, the vets think he may have degenerative bone disease. He’s very gentle, though, and watches people closely. Here’s to hoping that he can recover quickly and find his forever home soon.

Cissy's ears!
Pyrrha and the adoptable puppy, Cissy (with flying ears).

We learned that Pyrrha is somewhat lacking in morals, as she is willing to steal candy from a baby. Cissy, the adoptable shepherd mix puppy above, would get a rawhide and then Pyrrha would sneak up and steal it from her. Tsk! Our girl needs to learn some general etiquette. Cissy, however, is pretty fearless and wasn’t afraid to fight Pyrrha for it; she even got it back a few times.

Relaxing a bit
Hanging out.

All in all, we were really proud of how our girl did. I think she was happy to get to spend some time in the company of other dogs, without much stress or anxiety. The only dog that made her anxious all day was a boisterous yellow lab, who came bounding up to her; all the shepherds (both old friends and unfamiliar ones) didn’t cause much fear at all. It’s clear that we need to expose her to lots of different types of dogs, but I think we’ll get there. For now, it was heartening to see her with lots of other new dogs (even if they were all German shepherds) and not stressed out.

So, question: Do you think this is possible, that a dog could be comfortable with one specific breed and not with others? Have you seen that behavior in your own dog? Does your dog prefer certain breeds, or actively dislike others?