Thursday, December 15, 2011

Watch Where You Step: Going to the Dogs by Jenepher Field

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): Jenepher had lost count of the number of times she’d heard this mantra from her energetic and ambitious husband, Louis. But she didn’t imagine that upon Louis’s retirement from his orthopedic surgery practice, he would charm her into starting a business they knew nothing about, building a new house and a pet boarding kennel in the beautiful countryside of Washington State. Swept along by the current of his drive and enthusiasm, as she has been many times before, Jenepher starts to learn about boarding and caring for dogs and cats. Watch Where You Step is the story of their struggles and success, and of the ways in which they evolve and grow, finding both new points of friction and new appreciation for one another as they design and build a house and a business. They learn to expect the unexpected as they cope with issues they didn’t plan for, including septic system logistics, flash floods, unreliable employees, irrational pet owners, and pets who could teach Harry Houdini a thing or two about the art of escape. Rich threads of humor and love run through their lives as they come to realize they have invested in a business that is full of heart as well as full of mayhem. Join Jenepher and Louis on the wonderful adventure of a lifetime!

And here's what I thought:   I had been approached about giving this book a read and a review, and thought it might be nice to try something a little different than what I was reading at the time.   As you can see from the above summary, this is one person's memoir about her life, especially in a time period when she and her husband retired.   What I thought was interesting about the book was that although there was a focus on the boarding kennel that the author and her husband opened, the author also wrote about her upbringing, and relationship with her mother.   The book doesn't necessarily proceed in a straight timeline, but rather, proceeds more or less, with references backwards occasionally to give detail or context.  

I admit that I wasn't as taken with the writing as I was with the subject material.  My family had a dog when I was growing up, and we've had other dogs in the family since -- and I admit I do like a good dog story now and again (and reflect quite fondly on James Herriot's stories).  It was interesting to read about the author's experiences with not only opening the boarding kennel, but with some of the customers, as well.   What I was surprised by at times was how she and her husband dove into this idea of having a kennel business, despite not really having any experience at all --- that takes some courage!    Admittedly, I didn't always understand their decisions, and at times, it felt they were a bit naive about what they were getting themselves into.  However, that's what makes this a thoughtful memoir.

Overall, a very nice book, especially if you are an animal lover.  It didn't resonate with me completely, but I thought it was an okay read. 

First sentences: A shiver of...something...ran through me.  Excitement?  Anticipation? Anxiety? I didn't know.  There was so much to look forward to; it was probably a little of each.  Here we were, behind the desk: Louis, Mary and I, waiting for the first customer to arrive.

Thoughts on the cover:  Interesting, with the golden yard and trees with the red barn and ominous-looking sky.  


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