[originally posted November 6, 2009]
Far be it from me to suggest I don’t love plain old good reviews of Am I Boring My Dog; I do. But sometimes a write up comes along that teaches me something new about what I wrote, putting it into a larger context that hadn’t occurred to me. That was the case with Diane Schmidt’s “Be a Mensch and a Good Dog Owner,” on the Albuquerque Judaism Examiner site; it first appeared in the Gallup Independent on October 31. She starts off by saying:
Secretly guilt-ridden that you could never achieve the successes of Cesar Millan, Dog Whisperer? Chagrined and embarrassed by your dog’s behaviors in public? Unsure if you are even worthy of canine affection? If you have been guiltily suffering in silence, look out Cesar, because there’s a new book for dog-owners from Alpha Books, publishers of the Complete Idiot’s Guides, that should spawn a whole new line of how-to books: how-to-not-feel-guilty books. It’s definitely for those of us raised on Dr. Spock. Yes, that’s us, a whole generation raised by guilty mothers who could never spank us and now we aren’t quite sure how to manage the “I’m your pack-leader” alpha dominance business with our furry friends, who by the way are not furry children; children actually are, in fact, hair-challenged dogs, as we learn in ‘Am I Boring My Dog?’ by Edie Jarolim.
Jarolim is originally from Brooklyn, where, according to her introduction, she says Lassie wasn’t exactly down at the corner deli begging for pastrami hand-outs. She has lived in Tucson now for over 15 years and she got a dog, Frankie. She wants you to know that a lot of folks who grew up in New York City and surrounds were not allowed to have dogs, and while she doesn’t mention it, we’ve also noticed some never really learned to drive, either. Nevertheless, New Yorkers get it in their heads to move out west; they eventually get houses with yards and cowboy boots and they get dogs, but some things can never change, such as feeling guilty about everything.
Naturally I’m thrilled to be considered an antidote to Cesar Millan — who, by the way, I never mention in my book; I just advocate positive or “dog-friendly” training methods. I was even more pleased to learn that, after reading my book, Schmidt decided to substitute a halter for the choke collar (you’ll have to read the rest of the review to learn about that).
But what got me thinking was the allusion to the book as part of the zeitgeist of a generation raised on Dr. Spock (also Mr. Spock, but that’s another story). Why wouldn’t the progeny of non-spankers have problems with physical punishment? Choking dogs doesn’t come naturally to us — and that’s a good thing.
It got better, thanks to one of those serendipitous (woo woo?) events. I didn’t get a copy of the original print edition of the review until yesterday, when I discovered that it ran opposite the comic pages. This made me very happy, because everyone — yes, I include myself — looks at the comics. And then I started browsing that page, and stopped short. What are the odds that the following strip by Dana Summers should have appeared opposite the review?