Book Review and Author Event: Julie Klam with *You Had Me at Woof*

  • You Had Me at Woof:  How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (October 28, 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487767
  • Back-of-the-book blurb:  The hilarious and heartfelt chronicle of a woman learning the secrets of love, health, and happiness from some very surprising teachers: her dogs.

    Julie Klam was thirty, single, and working as a part-time clerk in an insurance company, wondering if she would ever meet the man she could spend the rest of her life with. And then it happened. She met the irresistible Otto, her first in a long line of Boston terriers, and fell instantly in love.

    You Had Me at Woof is the often hilarious and always sincere story of how one woman discovered life’s most important lessons from her relationships with her canine companions. From Otto, Julie realized what it might feel like to find “the one.” She learned to share her home, her heart, and her limited resources with another, and she found an authentic friend in the process.  She was surprised and delighted to find that her dogs had more wisdom to convey to her than she had ever dreamed.  And caring for them has made her a better person – and completely and utterly opened her heart. 

    She Is Too Fond of Books’ review:  I have to say this right off the bat … I’m not a dog person.  I’m not anti-dog; I was raised with a collie (seriously, my little brother.  Mum has pictures of him in the playpen with me when I was 8 months and he was 8 weeks!), but, due to my boys’ allergies, we don’t live with a dog. 

    I tell you this so you don’t think that You Had Me at Woof is a book for dog lovers only.  It’s for people like me, too.  People who appreciate a well-written story with a little humor, a little lesson, and a lotta love.  Let me tell you how I came to read it:

    A few weeks ago I was invited to an author reading at the Brookline Booksmith and an after-event hosted by @DeliaCabe at Finale Desserterie.  Yes, that’s right – good books, good people, good food – I’m in!

    Julie Klam’s reading was very well-attended; I didn’t take an exact head count, but I’ll estimate 60 humans and 4 canines.  Julie was especially pleased to see the Boston terriers in the crowd, and had a bag of treats for all four-legged friends.  I asked permission of the mom to post this picture of her son giving a treat to one of the dogs.

    I hadn’t yet bought the book when I was sitting listening to the author, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  She is funny!  Humorous and personable, which come through in her writing, and in her conversation with the audience.  Julie handled the Q&A with ease, responding to questions with a knee-jerk honestly that was sincere and no-holds-barred. 

    One excerpt she read is about a weekend she spent at Omega Institute, opening herself up to ‘animal communication.’  As she read, I could hear a combination of sarcasm, self-deprecating humor, and introspection (after all, she was attending the seminar – what did she hope to learn from it?).  When asked “Do you hear the crickets … what are they saying?” that first night of the program, Julie was eager to answer “chirp, chirp!”, but her classmates heard conversations:

    Now the class was on fire.  The crickets were warning one another about a storm coming from the Northeast, assigning the task of who was to bring what to the shelter (“Don’t everyone bring dessert!”).  There was also a pregnant cricket and another one who was mad about missing the season finale of Home Improvement.  I walked back to my cabin alone, where I heard a squirrel say, “Hey, do you believe these people paid five hundred bucks to try to figure out what crickets are saying?”

    This anecdote is from the chapter titled “How to find the parachute color that’s most flattering to you.”  Julie has her first Boston terrier, Otto, and wonders if having a career involving animals might be a good fit for her.  At the end of the Omega Institute weekend she decides:

    There is great value in putting your toe in the water.  … We all need to find what’s comfortable for us, and sometimes the only way to do it is to find out what doesn’t fit.  I was glad I’d taken animal communication, but what became clear to me from the experience was that my favoirite part of it was telling the stories.  And being with my dog.  And it turns out writers can bring their dogs to work.

    Each chapter is structured this way, telling a story of her journey to being part of the Boston terrier rescue network.  I didn’t know there was such a thing – devoted groups of people form a kind of underground railway for dogs who are abused, abandoned, or otherwise homeless.  These rescue groups exist for all types of breeds and mixes.  I’d call them informal groups, but Julie talks of electronic listservs, veterinarians who offer reduced rates, shelter employees who advise when a dog is admitted; there are standards for fostering a dog, and for adopting one.  While it’s not informal, the rescue groups definitely began as grassroots efforts.

    At the end of each of the ten chapters, Julie summarizes the lesson she’s learned from that experience.  Some lessons include:

    • How to find the right one for you
    • How to keep the yin from strangling the yang
    • How to listen to that still, small voice
    • How to mourn the loss of a friend
    • How to find happiness

     I laughed, I cried (page 114, there I was sobbing, as the rest of my family watched football on Thanksgiving Day), I learned. 

    More of a ramble than a review, but here’s the bottom line:  You Had Me at Woof is a memoir of a woman and her dogs, sharing how she set out to give them a home, and found herself in the process.  And it’s not just for “dog people” (come on, look at the cover … who could resist that face?!?)

    FTC disclosure:  um, did you read the post? I bought this book at an author event

    7 comments to Book Review and Author Event: Julie Klam with *You Had Me at Woof*

    • We have two Boston Terriers and I really want to get this book for my husband, who I think would love it. They are such funny little dogs, and I am really excited that there is a book centered around them. I think I am going to go out and get this one today for his Christmas stocking. I know he will love it. Thanks for this wonderful post, Dawn!

    • I want this book! My dog, Frodo the Wonder Dog, needs new bedtime reading. :-)

    • I have heard such amazing things about this book — I am collectively sold! :) xo

    • I hadn’t heard of this book before but now I can’t wait to read it.

    • I am a dog person and bought this book recently. You’ve made me really excited about it. I can’t believe you haven’t heard of rescue groups before.

    • If there is a dog on the cover, it means I am going to cry. And generally (but not always) I try to avoid books that do this to me. But that sweet little dog face! How can you resist that face? Very cool that you got to meet the author.

    • Zibilee – you must get this book for your husband – then read it after him! Especially having Bostons, you’ll really connect with it. Let me know how your husband likes it

      Meg – it’s a given that ‘dog people’ (and their Wonder Dogs) will enjoy it, but it’s also appealing to non-dog-people :)

      Rebecca – I like that the stories are entertaining/moving, and there’s a wrap up (a life lesson) in each one.

      martha – Fun, too, because I read it hearing the author’s voice (look for a youTube video to see/hear her mannerisms – charming)

      Kathy – not at all on my radar! Now I know there are rescue groups for all kinds of breeds (probably for cat breeds too, right?!)

      Sandy – got to meet the author and the dogs at the reading (but I didn’t pet any!). Yes, you’ll cry … only in a few places … Lots of laughs, too!

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