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dog eared

  By: Julia Karnysz Lane

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What the Dog Did: Tales from a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner

Journalist Emily Yoffe bravely shares her experience as a first-time dog owner in What the Dog Did, a compelling, quick read that will make fellow dog lovers laugh, cry and most importantly, sympathize. In fact, Yoffe’s wit and hard-won wisdom will appeal to anyone, even the dogless few who remain immune to canine charm.

Said “charm” varies; dogs can be loyal, loving, gentle companions, but as Yoffe soon found out, they can also be stubborn, sensitive and tough to housebreak. Yoffe would’ve remained a happily devoted cat person if not for her husband and young daughter’s constant pestering. The latter was particularly insistent, going so far as to tell her mother, “Dogs are who I am.”

Part of Yoffe’s reluctance to get a dog stemmed from the near certainty that she would be the one walking, feeding and training this new family member. Sure enough, not only was that true, but she also was the one who put the most effort into finding a dog that best fit their lifestyle.

Like most prospective dog owners, she considered getting a dog one of three ways: from a breeder, rescue organization or shelter. Yoffe enjoyed learning about purebred dogs, but she grew cynical about the sheer variety. Often, she felt that “dogs like this are bred just to prove it could be done.”

Adopting a rescue dog seemed like a good idea, but there were drawbacks: “I started looking at the Web sites of local rescue organizations. I discovered most of the people in this worthy business are dogists. They despise humans because humans neglect and abandon dogs. They believe all dogs are superior to all Homo sapiens, except those Homo sapiens who share their view of canine superiority.”

At a shelter, her daughter fell in love with an adorable beagle, but the owner claimed her the following day, breaking the little girl’s heart. Eager to find another beagle, the family attended an adoption fair hosted by BREW (Beagle Rescue, Education and Welfare) and adopted a sad-looking little beagle they named Sasha.
In the trying months that followed, Yoffe knew that her days of being a carefree cat owner were over. Despite Yoffe’s earnest efforts at training, Sasha continued to run in the opposite direction when called, pee in the house and sneak into the basement to eat kitty poo. But despite these challenges, Yoffe realizes she is changing. “The lowest point in my transformation into a dog person came one drizzly night at eleven P.M.... Now here I was, sodden and tired, waiting for Sasha to relieve herself.

“After she squatted repeatedly without effect and with apparent distress, I finally bent down to check out the problem. Illuminated by the streetlight, I saw something white and stringy hanging out of her rear end. As if slipping on a surgical glove, I stuck my hand into one of the plastic newspaper bags that now always fashionably bulge out of my pockets. ... I grabbed the object and yanked. It was long and stretchy , with a metal circle on one end, and when I finally confiscated all of it ... I realized I’d seen it before. It was the strap of my favorite bra.”

This anecdote will serve as a litmus test for more squeamish readers, as the tales of other people’s dogs that follow are just as graphic — though of course, funny. (The Lab who devoured a loaf of freshly baked bread that continued to rise in her warm tummy immediately comes to mind.) Most readers will be nodding their heads, remembering the crazy antics of their own beloved dogs past and present.

True to her profession, Yoffe smartly balances the zany entertainment with a few sad, sobering tales, as well as interesting facts about dogs, including their history of domestication. And while it helps to be a Fido fan, anyone who appreciates good storytelling and a humble narrator will love What the Dog Did.

Julia Kamysz Lane is the author of New Orleans for Dummies, 3rd Edition, which features dog-friendly travel advice. Email her at

Photographs by Cami Johnson,