Archives for posts with tag: dogs

Gizelle's Bucket ListPerhaps it was too soon, I told myself as I picked up the book from the new non-fiction shelf here at the Joplin Public Library.

A little more than a month earlier, we’d had to put the family Collie, our beloved Molly, to sleep at the estimated age of 12. The house still felt quieter without her sweet presence, and my dog, Buster, seemed to miss her. But the book seemed like it would be a fast read, and the cute photographs were enticing. Determined to be strong, I grabbed it and headed to the library’s self-checkout machines.

“Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life with a Very Large Dog” was a mixed experience for me. I found myself smiling at the familiarity and ugly crying by the time I reached the final page.

From the moment 19-year-old Lauren Watt and her mother meet the female brindle English mastiff puppy, it’s love.

“The puppy felt so right in my lap,” Watt writes. “I looked down at her and couldn’t believe this was real. Years later, I’d recognize this look as the way a few of my friends gazed at their shiny engagement rings, like they are about to start their lives, like their adventures were about to begin. … I felt as though I’d fallen under a spell, enchanted.”

(I felt a similar emotion when I first saw a picture of my current dog. I’d spent nine long months grieving the loss of my first dog, but the moment I saw a picture of Buster, I just knew he was the one. It was time to move on.)

A handful of cash and one check later, Watt and her mother head home, having named the puppy Gizelle, after the innocent princess in the movie “Enchanted.”

Gizelle fit right into the family pack, and she started to grow. And grow. Watt grows up with her, eventually graduating from college and heading to New York City, giant dog in tow. Somehow, she finds an apartment big enough for herself, her canine companion and a human roommate.

Life in the Big Apple is an adventure for Watt and her giant dog. Daily walks turn into encounters with colorful strangers, thanks to Gizelle’s attention-getting presence. The duo go for night-time runs in Central Park, Watt feeling totally safe in the dark with her dog by her side. Gizelle shows off superstar moves in a costume contest at a dog park.

When Gizelle develops a mysterious limp at the age of six, Watt begins to face the fact that her best friend won’t be around forever. The limp eventually leads to a devastating diagnosis: Gizelle has bone cancer. Watt is heartbroken: “Never, ever could I have imagined this news would hurt so badly, that it would take my breath away, that finding out would feel like I could not ever go on. I sat down, and I sobbed.”

Always a list maker, she resolves to write down things she wanted to do with Gizelle, as well as things Gizelle loved to do. She creates Gizelle’s Bucket List.

The pair take road trips. They eat the best lobster rolls and doughnuts. They enjoy ice cream while sitting on a wooden boat dock. They visit the beach. They ride in a canoe. They play in piles of autumn’s colorful leaves.

All too soon, Watt resolves that it’s time to say goodbye and make that final vet visit. The last pages of “Gizelle’s Bucket List” are difficult to read, especially if you’ve ever lost a pet. Watt doesn’t shy away from the realities of putting her dog to sleep.

Ultimately, “Gizelle’s Bucket List” is about learning to live in the moment and love as unconditionally as a dog does, lessons we all could benefit from. Take a journey with Lauren Watt and Gizelle; you won’t regret it.


dog's purposeI must admit that I dreaded seeing Lasse Hollstram’s latest film, “A Dog’s Purpose.” Months before, I’d been unable to watch the trailer without crying, so that didn’t bode well for the film. And I tend to avoid dog films after the trauma of viewing “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” (also directed by Hollstram) led to night of sobbing and wadded-up Kleenex, and days of sadness.

But the allure of cute canines was too strong, so I succumbed and popped “A Dog’s Purpose” in my Blu-Ray player the other night. Although I shed a few tears, much to my surprise I was able to power through and enjoy the film.

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron, “A Dog’s Purpose” depicts the story of one dog who, in his quest to find the meaning of his life, reincarnates again and again.

Once he gets past a short life as a stray dog, he is reborn as a Golden Retriever and finds himself attached to young Ethan, who names him Bailey. The two are inseparable, even as Ethan grows up and finds love.

Bailey lives his a long life and, sadly, must inevitably let go of his happy existence. He is reborn as Ellie, a female German Shepherd. Bailey’s new life is one of hard work, as he is a police dog partnered with the taciturn Carlos. Ellie’s days are spent chasing criminals, making drug busts, and tracking kidnapping victims, and her nights are spent trying to break through to the lonely Carlos.

After Ellie makes an early exit, Bailey reincarnates as Tino, an adorable Pembroke Welsh Corgi. He is the faithful companion of lovelorn college student Maia, joining her on her journey as she falls in love, gets married and starts a family.

Bailey lives a good life as Tino, but eventually must move on. He takes the form of a St. Bernard-mix puppy who finds a new home when he is given away in a parking lot. Sadly, his new existence is one of neglect and loneliness, as he is banished to growing up in a barren yard. When he is driven away from home and dumped, he follows his nose and finds himself in a familiar place, with a familiar person, and with a new name: Buddy.

I won’t reveal anything more about this final chapter of Bailey’s life, other than that some of the tears I cried during “A Dog’s Purpose” were from pure happiness.

Just a note: Bailey and his various incarnations are charmingly voiced by Josh Gad, whom younger viewers might know from his work as Olaf in “Frozen” and LeFou in the live-action “Beauty and the Beast.” If you’re in the mood for a sweet story and cute dogs, I recommend checking out “A Dog’s Purpose,” available on DVD from the Joplin Public Library.

We see them all too often in our community: stray dogs wandering the neighborhood, running in and out of traffic, scavenging for food and water. It’s not uncommon for people to look the other way and assume that the dog will be okay. Reading “Good Dog” might make you think twice before turning away next time.

Ivan is a good dog. He just wants to figure out where he belongs. Is it on his own? Too lonely, and too hard to find adequate food and water. With a human? He’s not sure he’s cut out for the domesticated life. With other dogs? In his quest to find his place, Ivan joins with a pack of dogs and, while he enjoys the companionship and benefits, finds the personalities and politics difficult to accept.

Don’t worry – I’ll tell you right now that Ivan’s ending is not a sad one, so no need to break out the Kleenex. And the story is not a complicated one with extremely detailed, colorful drawings and dialogue bubbles popping up everywhere. In fact, I found that the black and white illustrations and low-key, to-the-point language were a refreshing change that added to the retro feel of “Good Dog.”

I’ve run out of space here, but don’t let that keep you from the Joplin Public Library’s graphic novel collection. If none of selections above appeal to you, you might try “Lost Cat” by Jason, “Number Cruncher” by Si Spurrier and P.J. Holden, or “A Contract with God” by Will Eisner, all relatively new additions to our collection. And there is always the Teen Department, whose shelves are well-stocked with graphic novels.

A popular genre at Joplin Public Library continues to be graphic novels – not just for the teens and children, but for the adults. In fact, on a regular basis, the library adds graphic novels to its adult collection. Below are some that I’ve been devouring lately.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch

Although this one is more of an episodic memoir with lots of cartoons by the author, I regard it as a graphic novel because the illustrations convey so much of the story. I hadn’t read this prior to its selection by my book club, nor was I familiar with the author’s blog that is the source for most of this book’s material, but I fell for it from the first page. You have to love someone who re-creates a drawing she made when she was 5 years old because she doesn’t really know what else to use as an introduction.

The subtitle of “Hyperbole and a Half” is “unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened.” This lengthy description pretty much sums it up. Brosch lays it all out there, from her quirky behavior as a child (obsessed with sugar, she once crawled through the window of a locked bedroom to gain access to her grandfather’s birthday cake, all of which she ate) to her battle with chronic depression.

Dogs figure prominently in Brosch’s world. When she was a kid, her family decided to adopt a Helper Dog to keep their other one, Simple Dog, company. Unfortunately, Helper Dog turned out to have some issues. This story’s title says it all: “Helper Dog Is an —hole.” As an adult, she acquired her own Simple Dog and Helper Dog. Her tale of moving across the country with them and their difficulty adjusting had me laughing with sympathetic understanding.

And if you’re ever having a bad day, flip to “Dinosaur (The Goose Story),” about a wayward goose that finds its way into Brosch’s yard and house. It’s epic. And lest you think she’s making everything up, she provides screen shots of video she took of the goose.

The subtitle of Jim Gorant’s “Wallace” is “The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls — One Flying Disc at a Time,” and it makes the dog sound like a superhero.

He is, at least to his owners, pit bull fans, and admirers of canine athletes around the world.

Gorant, also the author of “The Lost Dogs,” a remarkable book about the dogs confiscated in the Michael Vick dog-fighting case, has penned another touching and truthful story. “Wallace” tells the tale of a talented dog and his dedicated human partner, but it’s also about living with the frustration of public perception of a much-maligned group of dogs: pit bulls, a catch-all label for the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Terrier, and various mixes.

Despite the fact that pit bulls were once considered the ideal family pet and have found much success in therapy and assistance work, search and rescue, law enforcement, and movies, the mere mention of these dogs frequently elicits a negative reaction from citizens, landlords, insurance companies, the media and local governments. Communities, including many in our area, frequently ban any pit bull-type dog.

Gorant spotlights this issue while also telling the very personal story of Roo Yori, his wife Clara, and their dog, detailing Wallace’s journey from the day he was discovered abandoned in a house, to his world-wide fame as a canine athlete.

The couple first met the young dog when volunteering in their local animal shelter. Over time, when Wallace’s behavioral problems became so severe that the shelter manager considered euthanizing him, Roo and Clara lobbied to foster him.

Roo worked hard with Wallace, exercising him for hours a day to channel his energy, often using creative methods such as installing a spring pole for the dog to jump at and grab on to (a method employed by dogfighters, he later learned to his chagrin) or attaching tires to a harness so that Wallace could drag them around the yard.

Eventually, Wallace became manageable. However, because he still was not without issues, and because they’d become so attached to him, the Yoris decided to keep the dog lest he end up in the wrong hands.

Knowing that Wallace was a tremendous athlete, Roo entered him in weight-pull competitions, a popular sport for pit bulls. Wallace was successful, but things really started happening when Roo discovered his aptitude for catching flying discs — aka, Frisbees. The two worked together tirelessly, developing free-style routines and forming a partnership that took them to the top of a sport usually dominated by more agile, lightweight dogs.

In one beautiful passage, Gorant describes a night-time game of fetch in the park: “Roo threw the disc again and the process repeated itself. The experience felt surreal, disc and dog disappearing, Roo standing alone, isolated, listening, and Wallace reappearing, almost materializing out of the wet clouds,” he writes. “Visual cues were impossible and Roo dropped most of the verbal ones, too. Still, they connected and fell into a rhythm.”

In addition to the typical challenges encountered by athletes, the Yoris and Wallace met their share of obstacles, many of them personal. But they also faced down communities with breed bans and fellow competitors who shrank in fear from the dog when they learned he was a pit bull.

They became tireless advocates, speaking out against misconceptions and prejudices and holding up Wallace as an example of a pit bull success story. They began to change people’s minds.

Wallace and Roo went on to earn flying disc championship titles at the 2006 Cynosport World Games and the 2007 Purina Incredible Dog Challenge National Championship.

When the duo won the Cynosport title, Roo called his wife with the good news and contemplated their journey.

“Their dog, the dog that no one wanted, the pit bull that a ‘no kill’ shelter had wanted to kill, had outrun, out-jumped, out-hustled, and out-hearted all the herding dogs and retrievers and shepherds,” he thought. “Wallace was a world champion.”

Wallace and Roo began to slow down a little after those big wins, competing less but still continuing their advocacy work by appearing at conferences, schools, and public events.

Sadly, Wallace has since been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer. The Yoris are choosing to treat him holistically, knowing his body can’t handle the stress of chemo and radiation, and are working on checking items off a Wallace “bucket list.” So far, according to his Facebook page, Wallace remains happy and healthy.

No one knows for certain how much time Wallace has left, but his legacy will be felt for a long time to come.


Lisa E. Brown is the Administrative Assistant at the Joplin Public Library.


Probably the first books I checked out at my public library as a child were books about dogs and cats, specifically breed books. I’m still at it these, ahem, several years later. We recently got two “Ultimate Guide” books, one on dogs and one on cats (The Ultimate Guide to Cats by Candida Frith-Macdonald and The Ultimate Guide to Dogs by David Alderton). They are both extremely well illustrated, with several pictures of each breed and each breed includes an information guide to the originating country, the weight, colors available, and an icon indicating the amount of coat care needed for the breed. Dogs also have an icon for exercise level (low, medium, or high) and height, while cats get icons for build (cobby, lean, or medium) and temperament (placid or active). The divisions are somewhat unusual, owing to the fact that the books are English. Dogs are divided into companion, terriers, hounds, gundogs, herding dogs, and working dogs, which is a little different from the AKC groupings most Americans are more familiar with. Cats are divided into shorthair, longhair, rexed (curly coated) and hairless, and breeds with unusual features (odd tails or ears like Manx and Scottish Fold) and hybrids, which consists solely of the Bengal.

Again, given that the books are English, the breeds are also a bit different from American breed book listings for both cats and dogs. That’s a bit of a plus to my way of thinking, since there are a few listed that aren’t normally found in American breed books. The dog photos are also very interesting, since ear cropping is not allowed and  tail docking is limited in England and you get to see natural Dobermans and Great Danes, Schnauzers, etc.

The dog book is very prescriptive about dogs and their temperaments, stating absolutely that certain breeds should not be allowed around children or be kept as pets. I don’t know that most breed experts or behaviorists would necessarily agree that Rottweilers should categorically not be around children, so you might consider taking that advice with a grain of salt.

The cat book has, aside from the aforementioned, very detailed and interesting information about the genetics of coat colors and the science behind the varied eye colors of cats. I would recommend both books for those interested in the subjects, keeping in mind the quirks of both.

For more cat information and some interesting anecdotes, cat lovers would enjoy Cat Calls by Jeanne Adlon and Susan Logan. Adlon is described as New York City’s first full-time cat sitter, and she’s been at it for more than thirty-five years. She also started the first store in Manhattan for cat items and writes an online column on cat care and behavior for

I didn’t think I would be likely to learn much from the book, having had cats since I was two years old, but I did pick up a tidbit or two. For cat novices or those with just a few years’ experience, I think there is a lot of really good information here. The chapter (yes, a whole chapter) on litter boxes is worth the price of admission.

I did enjoy the anecdotes about some of her more interesting cat sitting situations, although I think she was a little over reactive to the tarantula kept in one home. After all, he was in a terrarium!

So, these are just some of the latest additions to our large section on pets that might pique your interest. If cats and dogs aren’t your thing, check out the books on turtles, snakes, lizards, fish, horses and more!