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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dog Breath, written by Carolyn Beck and illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"You escaped any chance you got. If the door opened a crack, if for one second we forgot how crafty you were, out you went - raiding garbage cans, finding stinks to roll in, following your nose for hours and hours while we called and called, thinking the worst."

Dog lovers and memoirists unite! Carolyn Beck is one of us...well, I like my granddogs but have no desire to have my own. I know all the arguments, and the comfort that the love of a dog has brought to so many, but I remain steadfast in my resolve to be able to enjoy my granddogs and then send them home, leaving me free to go to work, or for lunch, or to Victoria, or to Winnipeg without concerning myself over care for my four-legged companion!

I read this book this morning and now know the joy that dogs bring to Carolyn Beck's life. It says on the back flyleaf that she presently does not have a dog, but the memories of Brandy that this book evokes assures me that there is another dog in her future. She writes with such love.

I woke
not knowing
what was real
till your nose
touched my face.

Dog breath."

Each turn of the page holds a new memory of time spent together and the love shared. It is full of laughs and little scenes that steal your heart. If you have ever owned a dog, I'm sure you share some of the same silly scenes.

Brooke Kerrigan uses her talents to great effect here, filling the pages with color and poignant images,  and using the text to help add the small details of a life shared. The drooling dog is a delight despite its mischievous ways, and has an open, almost gleeful face.

And when she dies, there is sadness...a gentle look at the bed table photo following a the mere mention of her passing:  

"Last week  you really did it:
you ate my birthday cake -
the whole thing,
candles, too -
and got yourself so stuffed
you threw it up.

I was so mad I yelled,
"I hate you!"
not knowing
you'd never steal
another birthday cake."

As with all who are loved and lost, there is much to keep their memory alive and this lovely, funny story helps readers see that. I will be sharing it over and over again. Thank you, Carolyn Beck!

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