Advice from the Experts

New pet books make great holiday gifts

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Tribune Media Services

Books make wonderful holiday gifts. Here are half dozen inspiring choices for the pet lovers in your life:

"Raising My Furry Children," by Tracy Ahrens, with guest story by Steve Dale (Weaving Dreams Publishing, Watseka, IL, 2011; $18.95).

A cardboard box with two cats inside was dropped at the front door of Kankakee County (Ill.) Animal Control. "My owner is dying and can't take care of us anymore," the note attached to the box begins. Here Ahrens' story also begins. The overwhelming majority of pet owners consider their pets members of the family, and for millions, pets serve almost as surrogate children (or grandchildren). Ahrens tells stories about her own pets; some are funny, some touching, and all offer lessons.

I contributed a story about a Brittany named Chaser, who changed my life. Following that, Ahrens writes about her Brittany, Speckles. Many cat stories follow. A portion of the book's proceeds will benefit American Brittany Rescue.

Perhaps, you can relate to what Ahrens says -- or not. In one story, she explains:

"Since I live alone, well, with my pets, I have a habit of not closing my bathroom door while I'm in bathroom taking care of business. I tried a few times to close the door behind me, but little paws instantly poke under the bottom crack of the door, persistently scratch on the door, claw at the carpet outside of the door, or attempt to pull open the door from the bottom by grabbing it with claws...So, I instilled an open-door policy between us."

"The Puppy That Came for Christmas: How a Dog Brought One Family the Gift of Joy," by Megan Rix (Plume Book, New York, NY, 2011; $14). All Megan sought was to have a family, but repeatedly, her dreams were dashed. Then her husband, Ian, had an idea, wondering if raising pups to become service dogs might be fulfilling for his wife. Guess what? The antics of raising puppies was appealing, and certainly the dogs were trained for important work. Eventually, raising and giving of herself to pup after pup began to take its toll on Megan, however -- until Traffy (cq) came along. I sniff a Lifetime movie here.

"Duffy: The Tale of a Terrier," by Gary Porter (Beaver's Pond Press, Edina, MN, 2011; $22.95). The story of any terrier will have attitude, since this is part of terrier territory. I generally am not a fan of books as told by a pet, but I smiled a lot as I read. The book begins as Duffy has entered a place called heaven and begins recalling the story of his life. There could be a movie here, too, for kids.

"Dewey's Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions," by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter, New American Library, New York, NY, 2011; $15). This best seller -- probably already being developed into a movie -- is now available in paperback with new Dewey stories. Here's a great gift for cat lovers. Dewey was dumped down a book return shoot at the Spencer Public Library in Iowa. Today, the cat's antics have put the small town on the map.

"Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself," by Julie Klam (Riverhead Books, New York, NY, 2011; $22.95). The true stories in this book about rescuing dogs make it seem like that old adage is true: At some level, the dogs realize and appreciate being saved. The author also points out how rescuers benefit. One tale focuses on Morris, an abused, abandoned Pit Bull-mix, and how the mad scramble to find him a home helped mend the author's wounded marriage.

"ZooBorns Cats! The Newest, Cutest Kittens and Cubs from the World's Zoos," by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 2011; $11.99). This small, "awe'-inspiring picture book wins the award for Cutest Book Ever, and is a must have for cat lovers. Newborn wild cats are featured from zoos around the world. Sadly, nearly all species depicted are endangered or threatened.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207 or send an e-mail to Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is He also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute," and is a contributing editor to USA Weekend.