Another Bad Dog Book

I had gone to the bookstore to read the gossip magazines for free when I saw it—yet another best-selling book about someone’s adorable, out-of-control dog. Usually these types of bad-dog stories center around a yellow Lab or similar large, loping breed, though the subject of this newest memoir was, according to the title, “a very bad beagle.”

The description on the back cover read pretty much the same as all those other bad-dog books that fly off the shelves. The doggie main character was an exuberant, incorrigible scamp with a habit of overturning houseplants, eating table legs, and making madcap dashes through restaurants, offices, and other public venues, all while teaching its owners life lessons like the value of commitment, and what it really means to be a family.

The very bad beagle’s mischievous eyes looked up at me from dozens of display copies, all hogging the most precious of real estate in the bookstore—the new release table at the entrance. Just seeing that cute face and those floppy ears, on a hard cover no less, aroused all of my considerable professional jealousy and frustration. My new release should have been the one on that front table, that is if I had bothered to write a new release. Unfortunately, my career as an author had not been going so well, at least not since I had discovered the Watch Instantly option on Netflix.

“In this heartwarming and hilarious memoir,” I began reading aloud from the cover copy, my voice dripping with disdain.
“I’ll be in the music section.” My daughter, who had come to the store with me to kill a rainy afternoon, quickly made her escape. This wasn’t the first time she’d heard me rant about dog books.

I returned the bad beagle to the table, face down as a form of protest. Of course the store showcased other, equally predictable instant best-sellers: yet another vampire book; another paean to Jane Austen; another celebrity autobiography penned by a ghost writer. Oddly enough, I felt no resentment toward these types of books, maybe because they seemed so far removed from my own realm of interest and ambitions. Vampires? Sure, I’d love to have sex with one, but what’s the fun in writing about it? Jane Austen? To me, Jane Austen was like horses, one of those common female obsessions totally lost on me. And celebrity life stories? I fantasized all the time about how great it would be to be a celebrity, specifically a member of the royal family. But if I was a royal, I wouldn’t deign to talk to anyone as common as a ghost writer.

But a bad-dog book! As I grabbed some magazines and headed to the café for a Caramocha, it hit me why this breed of book irked me so much. Bad-dog books are the one genre both publishers and readers adore . . . and I should be exploiting.
I have a bad dog. In fact, I’ve had several bad dogs throughout the years, all of them as incorrigible as any of those troublemakers whose life stories have been made into major motion pictures. What’s more, I am a dog person from a long line of dog people on my mother’s side of the family. (My father’s side, fussy Jews from Romania, are more like plastic slip-cover people.) I’m sure those best-selling bad-dog authors on their fancy book tours endlessly brag about how much they love their pets, but are they dog people like my people? Are they willing to kiss their dogs on the lips, regardless of where those lips have been?

My current bad dog is named Eli, a tiny creature with blackish, fuzzy fur and big, pointy ears. Given that Eli was a stray, his actual pedigree remains a mystery, but he appears to be a disheveled Chihuahua Bat. Eli weighs only nine pounds but has defied our four-hundred-dollar invisible fencing system. One time when I took him to town, he dashed into the open door of a costume designer’s studio, and peed on her imported Italian silk fabric. He also scratches a lot (though the fleas have finally been eradicated), and won’t let anyone pet our cat in peace. Eli has only lived with our family a short time, but already he has taught us countless life lessons, not the least of which is to forego the idea of carpeting or area rugs for the foreseeable future.

Yet, for all Eli’s bad-dog behavior, I love him with all my heart. In fact, on my “Happy List,” which I keep taped to my light therapy Sun Box that I use as my desk lamp, I accidentally ranked him above my husband and kids. And if we’re talking about best-selling potential, Eli even has a heartwarming back-story. He was a rescue dog, found wandering the streets of Hartford, Connecticut. After he was picked up and taken to a shelter, the veterinarian who first treated him determined that she needed to pull nine of his little rotten teeth. Unless you happen to be a starving kitten dumped into a library drop box in the middle of a Midwestern snow squall, a back-story doesn’t get any better than that.

As I sat in the café thinking about my dog and how much more fascinating he was than most celebrities, an idea started to take shape. I pushed aside the gossip magazines I had been skimming, retrieved a notepad from my purse, and began to write… (con’t)