Great dog characters in books for readers of all ages

Fiction books whose four-legged characters left memorable paw-prints on readers – of ALL AGES

I have vivid recollections of growing up reading a lime-green book about a Dachshund named Fridolin, “a happy story for children”, written by German author Franz Caspar. It was a heart-warming story about a little dog with a brave heart.

Fridolin by Franz Caspar
Fridolin by Franz Caspar

Later on, just when I thought I know everything there is to know about my favorite author, I discovered Agatha Christie’s “Dumb Witness: A Hercule Poirot Mystery”. I don’t know if it was the intelligence of Bob, the wire fox terrier, his never-ending attachment towards his mistress… or the surprisingly warm-heated side Hercule Poirot revealed in this detective novel.

Bob and Hercule Poirot in the movie adaptation of Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
Bob and Hercule Poirot in the movie adaptation of Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie

What is certain is that whenever I read this book my faith in the human race’s love and understanding towards animals is restored.

Stories passed on to generations

New generation, new interests, but the same passion for… classics. My daughter introduced me to Timmy, George’s mongrel from “The Famous Five” by Enid Blyton.

Timmy’s a much loved dog, especially by his owner, and he gets to save the children from terrible fates.

My son preferred Scamper, Peter and Janet’s dog, loyal to the “Secret Seven”, also by Enid Blyton. Scamper loves all children. Good to know you’ve got a wagging tail always there for you.

Without Fridolin or Bob, Timmy, Scamper or Little Tail, adventures wouldn’t be the same and clothes would remain much cleaner – but at a cost of many smiles and giggles.

Inspirational dogs

I don’t know where Little Tail came from. I suppose I should know, since I wrote about him in “Happy Friends”. I guess he just grew in my heart, his story spinning out of the lives of all the dogs I loved throughout my life.

Little Tail is pretty much a do-er and a dream-er; a dog of contrasts. He’s small in size, but has the courage of a lion. He’s curious, yet cautious as he won’t easily venture outside his comfort zone. He’s a dreamer, fantasizing about things he doesn’t know, yet treasuring the old book’s advice.

But above all Little Tail from “Happy Friends” by South African author Patricia Furstenberg is a devoted friend, his adventures being filled with smiles, friends and…  ice-cream flavored clouds!

Happy Friends eBook cover
Happy Friends, Happy Friends: 12 Animal Stories of Friendship and Adventure, One Happy Ending

by Patricia Furstenberg

This article was initially written for mypuppuclub.net and posted on 16 August 2016.

Dogs and the paw-prints they leave on the pages of our lives

“My dog can move mountains!”

That’s what I should have said each time our Rottweilers dug out the back yard! Instead, I moaned and complained about exposed roots and destroyed lawn.

Too late now; sadly they both passed away. But what they did left behind, except for a refashioned garden landscape, are fond memories.

Our dogs were do-ers

All dogs are. In a small or a big way they reshape our lives; always for the better.

Take Jock from “Jock of the Bushveld” by South African author Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick

Based on a real life friendship between a man and the bull terrier pup he rescued from drowning for being the runt of the litter. The story takes place at the end of the 19th century, on the backdrop of the gold mining era.

Jock grows up to become a fearless but well behaved dog, loyal to his master. Filled with authentic hunting stories the author’s love for his dog Jock transpires on every page, their genuine friendship standing out on the backdrop of a South African version of the American Wild West.

A subtle lesson

Other real life dogs made it into stories too and with a great purpose: to teach young readers empathy, how to become responsible pet owners and to hook them onto books.

Astro from “Astro’s Adventures” by Australian author Susan Day, a real dog in flesh and… shaggy fur

Astro’s companions into adventure and righteousness are also real. Susan Day’s collection of animals’ adventures, although fictional, gives you that warm feeling of justice been done. The small and the weak have been saved, the villains have received their punishment and our heroes walk into the sunset… wagging their tails.

Having Australia as a starting point, each book takes you on a fun and adventurous trip to a different location around the world.

PlayStation and Wii forgotten but story book finished and lesson learned, this is how you wish your child to end a busy day.

by Patricia Furstenberg

This article was initially written for mypuppuclub.net and posted on 9 August 2016 http://www.mypuppyclub.net/dogs-paw-prints-leave-pages-lives/

And the Oscar goes to…

Tonight, I’m attending The Oscars. Front row seats. Imagine all the glitz and glamour!

I’m especially looking forward to “The Honorary Award”. This special award is given for lifetime achievements, outstanding contributions and services to the Academy.

Only that tonight it won’t be about the big boys. So often other performances get overlooked.

Did you know that no animal has ever won an Academy Award? Is it because they woof their lines and don’t sweat the small stuff? No.

Dogs are not eligible to receive an Oscar Award.

Think of a movie in which a dog’s performance has made a long-lasting paw-pression on you. There’s a whole pack chasing through my mind!

Is it Max the English Bulldog from the TV drama “Jake and the Fatman”? It was Buford the Bulldog who played the role of Max. Did you know that Max sired a son named Taker who appeared in the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond”? Like father like son.

Or perhaps your heart skipped for joy watching the numerous movies with Benji, the mix breed who took over the silver screen in the 70’s and the 80’s? Did you know that the first dog to play Benji was a shelter dog named Higgins? He appeared in other television series and lived to be 17 years old.

Any dog deserves a second chance.

The electronic dog from “C.H.O.M.P.S.” was the first to make me wonder “what if?”

For a long time afterwards the child in me dreamed of owning a furry dog with beady eyes and superpowers.

Guess what, my dream came true! Over the years, each one of my dogs possessed superpowers… only I knew about! Tara could read minds and go from couch potato to 35 mph in under 1 sec if Mom was busy in the kitchen. Gina could tell the time, especially the garbage day and the minute when the refuge truck would dive into our street. Athos had… stage presence. He just had to show up and the street would magically empty itself of pedestrians.

Fast-forward 20 years and…

Never fear, UNDERDOG is here!!

A movie my family and I thoroughly enjoyed. Who can resist the charm of Leo, the lemon talking beagle who, every so often, gets it wrong?

What stayed with us this time was the unforgettable line delivered by Shoeshine / Underdog: “Give the dog your food!” You can watch it on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cotqLSAbC6M

I’m not psychic, but so many times throughout my life I could swear I heard my dog speaking the exact same words. While I was chewing something… anything!

I remember my darling Tara, siting by my feet in the quiet kitchen while clear, distinct drops suddenly began to fall at regular intervals. Letting out a loud sigh I visualized my father in an attempt to fix the kitchen tap once again, his tools all over the counter.

But Tara’s mirroring sigh compelled me to observe her while taking another bite of my fruit. She was quick to evade my eyes, but, alas, I had spotted the source of the leak, the real one. My dog, a huge fan of apples, was drooling. I bend towards her and this time she held my gaze with her… innocent eyes, delivering the award-winning line: “Give the dog your food!”

So tonight’s Oscar for best performance will go to… (drum role) OUR DOGS!

For their role in guarding the yard against… pigeons, from their shady spot underneath the lemon tree. Always captivating the audience!

And for acting like a pack of starving animals (even though they’ve been just fed) only because you are eating something. What commitment!

Oh, and for delivering killer lines even at the wee hours of the morning. Talking about dedication!

* Thundering Applause *

by Patricia Furstenberg

Written for mypuppyclub.net and published on 25 September and 2nd October 2016 http://www.mypuppyclub.net/oscar-goes-dog/

It’s a Cat’s Life through a Dog Lover’s eyes

When I told my husband I want to write this article his reaction was: “Whoa, baby, mine-field ahead!” But I’m a mother and a writer. Therefore, I am brave. So I ventured into the arena.

I come in peace.

I happened to befriend this outgoing, bubbly mom. Our children attend the same school. We always chatted up a storm until we hit the pet zone.

“We have dogs. You?”

“We have Mr. Whiskers!”

“Oh…”

Of course she has a cat! I should have known. She’s stylish and elegant; she’s even got that feline walk, so graceful.

I have dogs. I’ve always been a dog person.

Dogs are pack animals and so are humans.

We live in families with a well-defined hierarchy where each member has its place; the dad, the mom and the children. Or the mom and then the dad, come to think of it.

“Dad, can we…?” – “Ask Mom.”

“Dad, have you seen my…?” – “Ask Mom.”

“Dad, where’s Mom?”

A pet dog will immediately find its place within this matriarchal unit; probably right behind Mom’s cooking spoon.

Besides, a dog’s body language is universally known and easily understood. They wag their tail or show off their fangs. You know right away at which receiving end you want to be: the faithful one. When dogs love you, they surely let you know it.

Cats are… cats. They resemble teenagers.

Cats and teens are both elusive and with a mind of their own. Speaking the same language with us, yet words holding different meaning to them depending on their mood. Your disciplinarian monologue often ends with the youngster retrieving to the sanctuary of his own room. And the door slams behind because “it was the wind.” You can almost see that tail held straight up, fur puffed out.

Trying to discipline a cat is pretty much the same.

“Cat, you ate my tuna sandwich?! Come here when I’m talking to you! I said come… Oh, she’s gone.”

Up on her shelf she lays and you can almost hear that door closing with a bang.

For cats, being art of a pack is not a necessity and they usually prefer to hunt alone; but do expect them to gift you with their kill.

You can’t predict their behavior, coming or going as they please. Capricious like a teen, one moment sitting by your side if it suits them, the next moment removing themselves without apparent reason. Tolerating you. Negotiating their giving and taking, but on their own terms, quietly. Dogs, even when they’re silent they’re… noisy. Cats are inaudible. They’re there… watching you, maybe. Or maybe just ignoring you.

Except for night time; that’s when they’re sure to let you know who rules the streets.

Don’t take cats for granted.

Cats can’t be persuaded into performing a trick just because you want them to. They’ll do it if it pleases them. After all, most cats act like they believe human’s sole existence is to serve them. Probably learned it from the ancient Egyptians who held cats in the highest esteem. See, cats do perform whatever part suits them best!

Cats are independent.

Historically speaking cats have been kept around houses in order to keep vermin under control. On the Cyprus Island archeologists found a wildcat buried near a human, the remains dating since 9 500 years ago, the proximity of the two skeletons signifying that there was a close relationship between these two species  It is only during the 19th century that cats have begun to be bred as companion pets intentionally.

Dogs give their love together with their heart, right from the start. And their claws do not retract. Dogs are predictable, conventional and constant.

Humans have to earn a cat’s trust. You have to earn the right to hold and enjoy that fuzzy, warm ball of fur and purr…

by Patricia Furstenberg

Read more on House Cats on the SmithsonianMag online: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-house-cats-158390681/?no-ist

Written for mypuppyclub.net and published on 11 September and 18 September 2016 http://www.mypuppyclub.net/cats-life-dog-lovers-eyes-patricia-furstenberg-part-1/

 

 

Dog tales with tails. Take Three.

I always thought an animal’s ears were made for listening… and cooling, on some occasions.

Turns out I was wrong.

Ears give a dog his hair style

“Watch out! She’s going to shake herself!” was often heard whenever Tara, our German Short-haired Pointer pup, had finished eating. Her diet consisted of yummy, healthy treats cooked just for her.

A home cooked dog meal has advantages… and disadvantages. Advantages for the dog; disadvantages solely for the owner, since the food is wet. And a pup’s long ears have an obvious affinity for anything wet or sticky.

That’s how Tara’s NEW hairstyle was born.

Normally her broad, drooping ears would frame her face in a … long bob. She would shake them the way a maiden impatiently shakes her locks. And they would often fold outwards, our job mainly being to restore them to their initial feature.

During meal-time she would be transformed into a pony with a feathered head-piece. Her long ears would be tied together at the top of her head using soft hair elastic. No more mess.

We were careful not to keep her ears in a dog bun for longer than necessary, usually about 5 minutes, as it can interrupt the blood flow and cause damage.

Nevertheless, Tara would wear her new hair style with panache.

A dog’s strength lies in his ears. So does his hairstyle

It’s in the way he cocks his head. Not for paying attention, a dog’s hearing is four times as good as ours. Dogs simply know just how irresistible they are when doing it!

A German Sheppard, a Doberman or an Aussie, with their rose ears, would be wearing a quiff or a fringe up. Think Meg Ryan’s short, pixie style. Think Harry Styles from One Direction or James Dean.

A Corgi with his bat ears, a Dachshund or Bull Mastiff with their v-shaped ears would wear a pushed-back long hair style. Think Sandra Bullock with medium length hair. Think Cary Grant or Chris Pine.

The Hounds or the Spaniels with their long ears would definitely be on the groomed hippy side. Think Sarah Jessica Parker or Johnny Depp with long locks.

What hair-style is your dog wearing?

by Patricia Furstenberg

Written for mypuppyclub.net and published there on 4 September 2016 http://www.mypuppyclub.net/ears-give-dog-hair-style-patricia-furstenberg/

Dog Tales with tails. Take Two.

The reproachful sigh

“I was watching my favorite show last night”, my mother once told me. She’s a NCIS fan. “I was caught up in the action, the next moment the blood froze in my veins.” I look at her; she’s been an ER Nurse all her life, she’s doesn’t scare easily. There are tears in her eyes. I touch her hand. “Mom?!” “Somebody sighed, just next to me. And I was alone in the room.”

My mind runs to and fro but I don’t have time for criminal investigations. My mother bursts into laughter. “It was Tara!”

Our dog’s bedtime ritual consisted of going to bed early, when my dad would retire. Then a couple of hours later she would wake up, find mom by the TV and WAIT for her to come to bed. Wait patiently then slowly becoming restless until she would sigh. A nasal, long sigh, all the time keeping her back at her. It was Tara’s reproachful, emphasized sigh: “how much longer will you keep ME awake?”

The grumpy sigh

My husband and I had a big yard and Gina, a mature Doberman crossed Rottweiler, when we decided to adopt a puppy of the same mix. That’s how Athos rolled into our lives, a compact mass of black fur. For a few months Gina had nothing to do with the curious intruder. At first she would get up and move as soon as he came near her, like he had the plague. Later on she would just switch on her siren. Puppy approaching? Grumpy sigh on and Athos would keep his distance.

The happy sigh

This is the full of expectations sigh, the “I can SEE into your eyes that you ARE going to play with me” sigh. Usually accompanied by a head pressed tight against you.  The sigh no dog should be without. It is my favorite sigh.

Gina and Athos, the golden years
Gina and Athos, the golden years

by Patricia Furstenberg

This article was written for mypuppyclub.net and posted on 28 August 2016 http://www.mypuppyclub.net/dog-tales-tails-take-two-patricia-furstenberg/

Tales with tails. Take one.

“We’ve got a puppy!” is what you’re most likely to hear people exclaim, joyfully. No one will ever say: “We’ve got a tail!”

That tail’s a tell-tale!

Tara, my first dog, had a docked tail when I bought her.

This was long before docking and cropping became banned in Europe. Today, even without a federal law in place, most Veterinary’s throughout the world oppose these cosmetic practices.

But what Tara lacked in tail length she made up for in rear muscle strength! When she was happy, she was HAPPY, wagging her short tail, her rear-ends and sometimes even her back!

When happy, Tara wouldn’t wag, she would swing!

Love me, love my dog                     

Before Tara we sheltered a lost Blue Great Dane puppy, Honda, for a few weeks. Honda was a tall puppy, I thought… aged two, as her owners mentioned when they fetched her.

24 hours after we’d found her, our average-size apartment was already “tail-proofed”. Because Honda didn’t just have a tail, she had a secret weapon. Luckily for us it was winter, no explanations needed as to why our legs were bruised.

We soon learned that when Honda stands, the safest place would be near her head, away from her pounding end.

“Mom, where are my keys, I’ve put them on the coffee table!”

“Mom, where is my book, it was on the side of the sofa!”

“Oh, found them, the dog just wagged them off!”

Honda would lay and wag, hit the front door in the process and I could vouch someone was outside, knocking!

When happy, Honda wouldn’t wag, she would hammer!

Dog-tails come in many sizes and so do their four-legged owners. Thin or curly, crooked or straight, short or lengthy, I love a wagging tail.

It’s the sound and sight of a dog laughing.

by Patricia Furstenberg

This article was written for mypuppyclub.net and published on 21st August 2016 http://www.mypuppyclub.net/dog-tales-tails-take-one-patricia-furstenberg/

Tara, from “Gone with the Wind” to “Happy Friends”

Do dogs grow up to mimic our appearances and personalities or do we, subconsciously, pick that one puppy who best resembles us?

When I selected Tara, my first house-dog and a German Short-haired Pointer, she looked like a seal. You know, the luscious, dark furred, round bottomed sea-creature with gleaming eyes and long whiskers. I was not round-bottomed nor did I have whiskers 25 years ago. But Tara did and she also had honey-colored eyes and long ears, framing her face like well-set curls.

It’s all in the… eyebrows

Have you noticed how much a dog can communicate by just looking at you? How they’re able to turn every situation in their favor?

So did Tara, just by using her eyebrows; bringing them together, creased low over her eyes, deep in thought.

“Doing a PhD thesis on this ball in front of me. Care to help?”

Or by lifting them, curving them over her eyes, suddenly so big and innocent, this movement often combined with a small drop of drool in the corner of her mouth. “I trust you unconditionally to take care of my every need”, they’d say.

“And I need to play right NOW!”

Or by just keeping her brows motionless, only her eyes rolling slowly underneath, left, right… watching me, studying me, persuading me…

“I know we did not play during the past hour. Do YOU?”

Unconditional love

We surely mimicked each other, Tara and I, my heart joyful after hers.

She was always giving and loving, un/knowingly fueling my love for animals; teaching me that unconditional love has no limits.

by Patricia Furstenberg

This article was initially written for mypuppuclub.net and posted on 16 August 2016 http://www.mypuppyclub.net/tara-from-gone-with-the-wind-to-happy-friends/

Our beloved Tara, German Shorthaired Pointer
Tara