Thursday, December 31, 2009


Phoebe B. Dackel, best friend and Dog Lovers Bookshop staff dog, died at home after a brief illness on Wednesday, December 23, 2009.

"The deeper the sorrow the less tongue it has."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Bookshop Dog's Journal: Part VI

Four years ago today, Phoebe and I met; we adopted each other, and the bond grows day by day. It was a bitterly cold Friday. Phoebe left the shelter wearing a red-and-white-striped wool sweater rescued by a staffer from a heap of castoff garments. Phoebe wore that same sweater again today, a bitterly cold Wednesday. What was the fate of the dog whose sweater became Phoebe's? We'll never know. We hope that dog is still with us, safe and warm, with a spiffy new sweater and someone to love who loves that dog more than anything in the world.

Dogs who end up in shelters need more protection than sweaters, of course. So Phoebe's message today is simple: please adopt and please support the agencies that assist homeless animals. Phoebe sent her annual donation this morning. Is there a better way to celebrate our good fortune, Phoebe and I wonder, than by helping other dogs and people unite?

It's been a busy day for Phoebe. Squirrel patrol, a tennis ball rescue made daring by the weight of leaves and twigs beneath which the lost was found, and a full complement of bookshop duties. She had her naps, too, which are such appealing events that I feel reinvigorated just by being in the same room with my snoozing friend.

The forecast calls for our cold day to turn into an even colder night. Phoebe and I will bake dog biscuits. Embraced by that comforting aroma -- it ranks with chocolate and baking bread in the pantheon of classic kitchen pleasure scents -- we'll curl up with our favorite pillows and fleece throws and commune, with each other and some of the books we love best. I'll read aloud to Phoebe. She'll doze on and off and wake to ask with a sweet nuzzle for another story. She'll wear that sweater she wore out of the shelter on our bedtime walk. When I tuck her in for the night, I'll thank her, for on this special day a family was born four years ago. I’ll thank her for being my dog.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Gift of Book Care

Here's a thought for last-minute gift-giving for the book lover: it doesn't require shopping or wrapping or shipping, and it's right there at your fingertips. It's a gift of time and attention, and the recipients are not just people you care for but books that need care.

You may know someone whose books and shelves would benefit from a simple dusting. Whether that someone never thinks about it or never gets around to it, books deserve this most basic courtesy. And it's a courtesy that benefits the spaces those books live in, and everyone else who lives there, too. Maybe a friend or family member has spoken about wanting to reorganize their books, but can't decide on strict alphabetical order by author or shelving by topic. Offer to help with the tasks and decisions, or to undertake them on your own. Chances are your offer will be considered unusual if not outright unique. Revel in it! The work can be done at a leisurely pace, perhaps an hour or so every second Thursday evening or whatever suits all concerned. It's a grand opportunity for coffee and pastry or wine and cheese, catching up on the latest scuttlebutt or just shooting the breeze.

Can't imagine making such an offer? Have you ever walked a friend's dog? Gotten the mail or some groceries for a neighbor? Then helping someone take care of their books should be in your repertoire. It may take a little longer than those other acts of kindness, but since when does friendship come with a stopwatch?

It's a gift you can give yourself, too. And don't forget to reward yourself with a big bag of new books.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Bookshop Dog's Journal: Part V

Phoebe has a suggestion for everyone who wonders what to give the dogs they love for the holidays: the simple gift of stories.

If you already read to your dog, you're on Phoebe's list of best humans ever. If you've never read to your dog, why not try it one day soon? Add it to that list of New Year's resolutions and trust your dog to keep the new bond it creates growing every time you two great friends, reader and listener, settle down for another chapter in the stories of your lives.

You've got everything you need. Your favorite cuddle venue is the ideal place to start. You'll find a few minutes to spare for a trial run, and who doesn't benefit from more private time with a pal? Worried that you'll feel silly? You can count on a dog's discretion; if you feel foolish your partner will make the foolishness just plain fun.

You can, of course, impart stories without literal reading. You already talk to your dog. So tell your dog a story, some anecdote from your youth or the mystery of this morning's missing car keys. Every dog's life can speak volumes, too, if you'll lend it your voice. Phoebe loves to hear me recount how she found Theodore, her toy lizard. And who doesn't enjoy pure fancy? Phoebe and the Carl Schurz Squirrels is an epic to which we add a fantastical chapter almost every day.

But what Phoebe prefers is formal reading. She seems to consider my books comparable to her tennis balls. We're both collectors, and we share what we cherish.

What to read? It doesn't have to be War and Peace and Puppies. Begin with the TV listings, the latest sports scores, or the kids' report cards. Aim for some of the classics of canine literature. But a page or two of that novel or memoir on your bedside table, or a holiday favorite, can get you going. One of the beauties of reading to your dog is that you can pick up any story anywhere, whenever it's convenient, and your audience will love you for it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Shipping Books: Some Dog-Inspired Advice

Pack a book as if it's sentient.

Most of the books I pack are older books about members of the family Canidae, so I tend to use my dog brain and imagine that I'm settling an aging pooch into a safe and comfortable traveling case.

My point is this: If you're shipping books this holiday season, you probably want them to please their recipients. Getting carefully wrapped books to their destinations in pristine condition is part of the pleasure you're sending. So even if books aren't sentient, those who love them are. And book lovers notice and lament bumped corners and other rough-and-tumble wounds that books can sustain in transit.

Books travel best in boxes. "The book sits not on the bottom of the box but on resilient packing material: crumpled newspaper, packing pellets, layers of bubble wrap. As you look down into the carton at the wrapped book, can you see space (at least an inch, or three centimeters, is ideal) on all four sides? Once the book is resting on the packing material underneath it, it's time to tuck it in -- as you would tuck up a baby in its crib or a puppy in its basket, not with blankets or your old sweater but with crumpled newspaper or bubble wrap. When the box is closed, it should touch, not the wrapped book, but the packing material placed atop it."

After the carton is sealed, take another precaution. "Reinforce all carton edges with a heavy-duty sealing tape. Helping the carton keep its shape helps the book travel safely."

Tempted to ship in padded envelopes? Fine, but please take a few extra steps for the sake of those lovely books you've chosen. "Once the book is wrapped, cut cardboard slightly larger than the book... The cardboard must be clean and dry, thick and unbending. Place the book between the cardboard sheets, and secure them with tape... Now wrap the cardboard-secured book in another layer of wrapping, such as several sheets of newspaper. Try the envelope on for size, and if the wrapped book moves, take it out and wrap it again. Keep wrapping the cardboard-protected book until it fits snugly and does not move in the envelope."

When your parcels are ready to go, safeguard your shipping labels with clear, heavy-duty tape.

Gift suggestions at Dog Lovers Bookshop include our own guide to giving books good homes and long and happy lives: The Care and Feeding of Books: A Simple Repair Manual for Book Lovers, from which the quotations above are taken. The book is available in hardcover and paperback editions, and its authors, Dog Lovers Bookshop's owners, will be happy to inscribe copies with the personalized message of your choice. There are not only easy-to-follow instructions, but also some tales of the bookselling exploits of dachshunds Houdini and Rose. It was dogs, after all, who helped us learn how to take good care of books.