Dog people are dog people even when they don't currently have a dog in their lives. They are the dogless people you see crouched down scratching furry bellies and looking up chatting with the dog's owner on the sidewalk. They are the ones who melt when they see canine cuteness. They are the ones talking to strange dogs in highly pitched baby voices asking a dog not even their own, "Who's a good girl? Who?" For a long time, Alison Pace was one of these people. And then she found the love of her life, Carlie, a fluffy West Highland white terrier. Her pet memoir You Tell Your Dog First is both a memoir of her own life amongst dogs and a paean to life with her beloved Carlie.
Told in short chapter essays, Pace shares her history with dogs, from her childhood filled with a parade of much loved canines of almost every stripe and breed to her adult, dogless life in New York City and finally to the life she builds once Carlie comes into it. The love that Pace has for all the dogs of her life is clearly palpable here as she recounts trusting dogs to know when someone is a friend or isn't good boyfriend material. When she realizes how much she wants a dog in her life, she sets out to remake her life so that she can realize her dream, searching for pet friendly apartments (no easy feat in the city), researching breeds and temperaments, and preparing to welcome a wriggly, tale-wagging, cold black-nosed, furry dog into her life.
Alison Pace has written a charming memoir and clearly she and Carlie make a happy pack. The tone of the book is chatty and friendly and most dog owners will find things in Pace's life that resonate. She is sometimes a bit over the top in her love for Carlie but she recognizes her excesses and writes of them with what one must imagine to be a wry grin at herself. Pace has certainly captured the joys of living with dogs and the many varied ways in which we dog owners bask in unconditional love that comes from our pooches. She also tells beautifully of the way Carlie connected her to the world, made it less impersonal for her, allowed her to drop her guard just a little bit and meet some of the wonderful people she might otherwise have walked on past. Because of Carlie, she knows the neighbors in her apartment building and meets folks in the park. And not only is she more connected to people, but she has a loving and perfect confidant who keeps all her secrets in her fluffy, white terrier. Dog lovers of all sorts will enjoy this light and pleasant read.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.