There are names of writers and dog trainers that have been swallowed up all to soon in the literary world. One of those names that deserves to be brought back to the forefront is Carol Lea Benjamin. She has been writing about dogs and training since at least 1976, and her words and counsel resonate even more accurately today. She might even have been considered ahead of her time…At the end of this review, I’ll guide to some of her other titles that I think should be on every dog owners bed stead, quickly at hand for reading.
Carol Lea’s latest book is a collabarative effort with C. Denise Wall. The two authors have different experiences with pups from the same litter of Border Collies. Carol Lea is searching for a Service dog that will help alleviate the pain she suffers from Crohn;s Disease, and Denise is a tried and true Sheep herder, looking for a working dog. The story of how they accomplish these goals is the basis for the book.
Upon first glance thru the book, a luxury I allow myself before real reading, I could have mistakenly called this book “Charming”, and left it at that. But that wouldn’t reveal one tenth of the value of this story. It gets this charm from the wonderfully simple, often poignant, always meaningful illustrations that Carol Lea provides. In fact, the book is a foundational primer on raising puppies. Period.
Seen from the eyes of someone wanting a sheepherder, C. Denise (Also the Breeder) describes in great detail how she selects her breeding stock, and how she looks for the qualities needed. The fact that the puppies decide to arrive during Thanksgiving Dinner, humanizes the life that a dedicated breeder will often live. The Puppies must come first, whether or not the turkey is being served. There is much to be gleaned from Denise’s ideas on raising the pups, and acclimating and socializing them. As a good breeder, she also takes pains to choose puppies for her clients. Always a sign of a professional…Denise’s writing has a straightforward but empathetic tone…she loves her dogs, and wants the best for them, and she has high standards when choosing where her pups go, and with whom.
Carol Lea then takes up the story by describing her current Service dog Flash. A much beloved friend and helpmate that is approaching a deserved but reluctant retirement. She is obviously well aware of, and grateful for, the relationship she has with her dogs. Her training is centered around letting the dog learn at it’s own pace and ability. She also describes a beatiful method of allowing an older, experienced dog, influence the young up-and-comer. Dogs always speak dog, and they make great teachers. Carol Lea names her puppy “Sky”, and she jumps into her new life in the city eagerly, with Flash taking her as apprentice.
The juxtaposition of “City Dog/Country Dog” was a smartly chosen angle to write this book from. Twice as much is taught about what each dog needs to learn to do its job, and fulfill it’s owners needs.
My favorite chapter, an eminently quotable essay, is titled,
” Conversations With My Dog”…Here Carol Lea really shines with her descriptions of coming to understand what her dogs are telling her thru energy, body language, and behavior. Carol Lea “sees” her dog thru eyes of understanding if not empathy. She wants a dog to care for her, but she really wants that dog to be happy and fulfilled. The relationship is beautiful. The dog becomes a full partner, rather than a “servant”, in knowing what is expected of the job, “Service Dog”.
I could write on, but giving away details is not my purpose. My goal is to get this book into as many hands as possible because of it’s tone, and because it’s NOT a technique book. It’s teaching is gentle and comforting, never heavy-handed. You’ll learn more about training a dog reading this “story” than any straight, hard book of technique. Enjoy the guidance from a more “emotioned” point of view.
Check Carol Lea’s website for purchase of the book here:: http://clbenjamin.wordpress.com/
Also, Amazon has a huge and complete collection of Carol Lea’s books. She even writes mystery books for the younger set, which have been awarded several honors.
It is truly an honor to be able to review the work of such a bright star in the Dog writing world!!!