I was lucky enough to be offered a free review copy of this book just prior to publication, and was drawn in to it straight away by the title and subtitle, with the expectation of a much more philosophical and detailed canine take on the classic cartoon book, "All I Need to Know I Learned from my Cat". I knew that I enjoyed the author's writing, from her blogs and from her debut novel "Poison Bay", so I was interested to see how she got on with this new departure. Though I'm not a dog person (it's cats all the way for me), I am an optimist, and I really liked the format of this book, which nominates a new reason to be joyful (each dog-inspired) as the title of every chapter.
My verdict: it was delightful - not just an affectionate memoir of her much-loved pet dog Killarney, but also an intimate and poignant account of how she grew herself during her dog's thankfully long life, in career terms, in resilience and in character. There's a nice balance between the many touching moments and self-deprecating or wry humour, so that it never becomes over-sentimental or mawkish, and while unsurprisingly focusing on the dog, she doesn't anthropomorphise. It's very well written, and several times I laughed aloud over a particularly choice turn of phrase, e.g. when choosing a new puppy for her father, she comments that she didn't know that particular breed "came in other formats".
I'm sure anyone who has ever owned a dog, especially for the whole of its life, would savour this book, and it would make a great present for any dog lover. Or indeed for any optimist, or anyone who could do with spotting more joy in their life.
Mind you, all the talk of poisonous snakes and toads, to which Killarney seems irresistibly drawn (to the benefit of the local vet and the detriment of the author's bank balance) has put me right off going to Australia any time soon!
(Plot spoiler alert: it was a good decision to end the book before Killarney dies, so that the tone remains upbeat and optimistic - and it's good news too that just when Killarney is entering old age, she acquires another dog, and so the premise for a sequel to this book, which I look forward to reading.)