A cat-loving neurotic struggles to raise an unruly German shepherd pup in Needham’s debut “dogoir.”
Needham, a single woman with a steady job, a house and a fenced-in yard, is ready to own a dog. But the ideal dog she imagines is a far cry from the “fluffy terror” of a puppy she ends up buying from a breeder. Smart and slyly disobedient, Athena loves biting fingers, tearing apart household objects and pooping indoors, especially in crowded stores and cafes. Overwhelmed at first, Needham, with the help of a trainer, learns to control and then to adore her energetic, big-hearted goofball of a dog. In caring for Athena, Needham becomes more mature herself. The fact that this story is predictable doesn’t mean it isn’t engaging, although its primary appeal will be to dog lovers and German shepherd aficionados. Needham devotes several chapters to training methods, medical issues that can beset German Shepherds and the raw food doggie diet. There are also tales of Athena’s crowd-pleasing antics at dog shows, an account of the time she saved her owner from a would-be assailant and the running question of whether the author’s elderly cat will ever acquiesce sharing his home with a rambunctious dog. A few sections—such as the one describing four of Athena’s canine pals and analyzing her relationships with them—could have been trimmed. However, the amount of detailed information about what actually goes into raising a dog like Athena makes this a useful book for anyone thinking of getting a German shepherd or other large, energetic dog.
Lively writing and flashes of wit make it easy to accompany Needham along the predictable narrative path from new dog owner coping with a crazy pup to proud owner of an obedient dog.