Canine Companions: Rescue Dogs and Beyond

Dusty in a brightly colored collar

If you’ve never met a rescue animal—and a rescue dog in particular—then you might not know that they are the four-legged definitions of gratitude and resilience. Some rescue dogs may come from previous loving homes where life circumstances forced their humans to re-home them. But just as many—and, sadly, probably many, many more—come from pasts that could include everything from neglect to abuse. Just among our four rescue dogs we’ve encountered evidence of past neglect, past harsh treatment, and, yes, past abuse of some sort.

We’ve had a total of four rescue dogs, and each of them brought their own unique pasts. With training and care, an abundance of snuggles and pats, plenty of play, and a veritable mountain of treats we now have beautiful furry family members for whom the rest of their lives will be spent nibbling goodies on our couch while watching past episodes of “Bluey.” And like our human family members, each of our rescue dogs had/have their own quirks, opinions, strange habits, and senses of humor. To illustrate this point, I thought I’d do a kind of wine pairing, matching each of our beloved rescue dogs with dog-forward books that resonate with their unique personalities in ways both obvious and perhaps not so much.

 Dusty came to us from a shelter as a senior 12-year-old Australian Cattle Dog. While the shelter told us that Dusty had had some poor treatment by men and might not warm up to my husband, we found the warmup period lasted for about 6 seconds after we buckled on her harness and leash and led her outside away from the overwhelming smells and sounds of the shelter. Snacks in our pockets also helped. Dusty was only with us for 2 years but what wonderful years those were! 

Dusty was a no-nonsense dog who knew what she liked and what she didn’t like and had the confidence to teach us “her ways.” And along the way I’m sure she probably would’ve recommended we read these all-about-dog books:

A World of Dogs

From Nosy Crow, A World of Dogs is filled with everything you might want to know about dogs. Author Carlie Sorosiak shares a wealth of dog details, from their evolutionary beginnings to the hounds of ancient history, and on to stories of real-life doggy heroes, dogs with jobs, and how dogs help humans every day. And adding extra fun and spark are illustrator Luisa Uribe’s brightly detailed and super-informative illustrations.

Atlas of Dogs

Atlas of Dogs from Albatros Books seeks to open our eyes to the unique qualities and attributes of over 200 different breeds of dog. Author Stepanka Sekaninova and illustrator  Marcel Kralik team up to bring share a wealth of information about our canine companions that is infused with fun asides and illuminating illustrations—all especially useful when trying to learn more about what went into the combination of breeds that might make up your beloved rescue dog! 

Joubi in a party hat

It took us a few years after losing Dusty to cancer to be ready to adopt another rescue dog. But as it turned out, our next dog kind of adopted us. We went out one bright winter’s morning (that also happened to be my husband’s birthday) and went to an adoption event at a local pet store. As we wandered around, I noticed a youngish brown dog always seemed to be right behind us. When I whispered this into my husband’s ear, he immediately turned around—and fell in love with the dog who would become Joubi (Joubi-part of the Japanese word for “birthday”-tanjoubi). Yep, Joubi picked us. He was a cautious 2 year old boxer-hound mix who is now a 7 year old gentleman with a deep appreciation for routines and order. I’m betting that if Joubi could read, he’d love to dig his nose into these books all about the great jobs that responsible good dogs like him could have if they chose:

Dogs Who Work cover
When Dogs Work by Opal Sinclair book cover
Dogs Who Work

Dogs Who Work from Helvetiq is about all the important jobs that real dogs do every day. Along the way, author Valeria Aloise introduces us to the breeds that excel in certain skills, from guarding priceless paintings or assisting police or gathering tennis balls! You’ll even meet the mythological dogs who could fly or bring back the dead, and the famous dog who was elected mayor. Illuminating each fascinating dog job are illustrator Margot Tissot’s adorably detailed illustrations.

When Dogs Work

When Dogs Work from Pajama Press explores the real jobs that dogs do! From guide dog to water rescue dog to actor—these marvelous dogs may surprise you with the skills they have! Author Opal Sinclair infuses each dog introduction with rhythmic text that is perfect for an energetic read-aloud while bright photographs of working dogs help preschoolers identify each unique job performed by our canine friends. The book’s Toddler-Tough format, padded cover, rounded edges, and extra-heavy pages makes this a perfect choice for early childhood story times.

Lola Says Goodbye by Marcia Goldman cover
Lola Says Goodbye

Lola is author Marcia Goldman’s real-life therapy dog, so Lola knows how important it is to give love and cuddles to someone feeling sad. But now in Lola Says Goodbye it is LOLA who needs the cuddles when her friend—Morris the Goldfish—disappears from his fishbowl. Lola doesn’t know what to think! Will Lola really never see Morris again? What does it mean to lose a friend? Lola discovers that you never really lose your friends. You are just with them in different ways.

Miso the dog in a pink wading pool

It soon became apparent that Joubi might like to have a brother or a sister dog—someone to run around and play with, someone to keep him company when we had to go off to work. So, a year after we adopted Joubi, we researched some likely pairings, toted Joubi out to the car, and off to a shelter we went. There we met this 6-month-old Viszla-Pit Bull mix whose smile filled her face—and touched Joubi’s heart. We named her “Miso” (for her miso soup tinted fur). Unlike Dusty and Joubi, Miso had been born in the shelter and had no previous experiences being part of a human family. While this presented more than a few challenges in the training department, it also meant that we quickly became her whole world—and we are overjoyed to be a part of it. As you can probably tell from her smile, Miso is all about action, suspense, and fun, which means these stories are right up her alley:

Aldo: Ghost Dog

Forthcoming this September from Tapioca Stories, Aldo: Ghost Dog brims with humor on every page, as we meet Aldo just as he accidentally “becomes” a ghost dog. Author and illustrator Joaquin Camp invites us to join Aldo as he soon discovers the joys of his new life as a ghost dog. With this newfound identity, Aldo can now steal food in the park unseen and can learn how to fly. And Aldo finds that he is very happy … almost all the time. Along with the joys of being a ghost dog are also challenges. Will Aldo’s cheerful personality and optimism be enough to carry him through his ghostly adventures to find him what he misses the most—his owner and his beloved ball?

The Dogs Next Door

Dog lovers can also look forward to the Fall 2024 publication of Patricia Carlin’s new picture book, The Dogs Next Door from Marble Press. Here we are faced with a NEW bunch of dogs who might be very good dogs when doing dog things—but what happens when they do HUMAN things? We find out when new dogs move next door to a young girl and then invite themselves over to her house for breakfast. The girl gets a bit peeved when the dogs eat all the bacon. But soon the dogs prove themselves charming as they play the banjo and swim in the river. The girl is convinced these are good dogs—UNTIL she sees their WANTED POSTER.

Be More Dog: A Tail of Happiness

Sam can find happiness in the most unexpected places: a smelly old boot, a deflated ball, even in a muddy puddle! When Dad leaves for work, Sam’s young owner needs a little help to be happy again. Can Sam show his best friend how to be a bit less sad and a bit more dog? Be More Dog: A Tail of Happiness is a funny and heart-warming picture book about finding joy in the simplest things. With uplifting text from Caroline Crowe and engaging, lively illustrations from Carlos Vélez, this feel-good story celebrates the connection between children and pets and encourages us all to be more dog!

Katsu the dog proffering booklet on puppy care

Lastly, we have our newest rescued furry family member. We actually weren’t seeking another dog, but as with Joubi this one kind of found us. A random Facebook post from a random local shelter flashed us the face of a scrawny little 4-month-old boxer mix the shelter had named “Mr. Toad.” We melted as soon as we looked into his irresistibly soulful eyes, and melted further when we learned he had been neglected as a tiny puppy. So OF COURSE we packed Joubi and Miso into the car, and met the quirky little creature who quickly and perhaps inevitably became “Katsu,” and a part of our family. Katsu is still on the puppy learning curve, all stumbles and tumbles, so the teacher in me will be assigning his reading material:

D is for Dog

Jump into Nosy Crow’s playful rhyming text of D is for Dog to meet an adorable cast of dogs! Author Em Lynas and illustrator Sara Ogilvie bring us this hilarious alphabet celebration of dogs at their mischievous best—getting marvelously muddy, leaping, lolloping, and hiding under the bed!

Open Me…I’m a Dog

When is a book not a book? WHEN IT IS A DOG! Open Me…I’m a Dog first came from Toon Books back in 1997 and will be re-released in a shiny new edition this Fall. It’s by Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) and conjures up a winning mix of dog and hardcover picture book, complete with fuzzy, cuddly pages, a tail, a sturdy cotton leash, and so much more. Bring this lovable pooch into your family and he’s sure to become a kid’s—or reader’s—best friend!

Dogs Are Great But…

Featuring Adam Wolf’s hilarious illustrations and author Štěpánka Sekaninová’s detailed descriptions of real-life dog-owner situations, Dogs Are Great But… from Albatros Books is the perfect dog guide to the pros and cons of dog care. Young dog-loving readers will discover the ins and outs of dog ownership and learn about the joys and responsibilities that come with it. This book offers relatable situations and valuable dog lessons through amusing illustrations, highlighting the potential challenges as well as delightful rewards of becoming a dog owner.

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting my rescue dogs as well as meeting their ideal books! If you are considering adding a furry friend to your life and family, we encourage you to consider opening your hearts and homes to a rescue animal, especially on this National Rescue Dog Day. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

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