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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm not ordinarily a reader of woman-meets-dog books-- I picked this one up planning to give it to a friend who recently became the wildly enthusiastic owner of a poodle puppy.
I ended by reading it myself, and with more interest than I would have expected, given my own dogless state. At first, I just wanted to find out more about the mystery surrounding Libro, a fifty-pound hunk whom the author found cowering in Central Park in pitiable condition. (The eventual solution to the mystery, while incomplete, is surprising and touching.) Then I got pulled into the book's deftly-drawn portrait of the existence of a contemporary single professional woman on New York's Upper West Side. Libro's new owner isn't a sweetie-pie; she's actually a pretty tough cookie for whom caving in to love, mutual dependence, and emotional intimacy with both humans and dogs is, at least at that point in her life, not the easiest thing in the world.
Bark If You Love Me, the literary result of her struggle, is kind of an offbeat book in its genre--it's nowhere near as cuddly as its title suggests, and some of the narrator's efforts to cope with the trials of being a first-time dog owner may distress some dyed-in-the-wool pet owners looking for the printed equivalent of a warm puppy. But Libro's an extremely likable protagonist, and the story of his fate as an adoptee and the author's as his somewhat ambivalent adoptive owner held my attention to the end. In sum: a tough, sophisticated, very New York woman-meets-dog story that's as much about a certain kind of contemporary American woman's existence as it is about a very, very nice dog.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who's ever owned a dog knows that there's a lot more to it than patting Fido and filling up a food dish. It really is an entry into an enormous club, filled with veterinarians, new friends, neighbors you've never known until your dog starts sniffing them, and relatives you thought you knew right up until the time they start giving you unsolicited opinions about ringworm. Louise Bernikow relates her entry into this club with light-hearted humor in her new book Bark If You Love Me.
This is a non-fiction book but a light read that is very much like a novel. In the first chapter, Ms.Bernikow does something her mother always warned her not to do: she brings home a strange male. This time, it's a boxer she names Libro. You don't need to own a dog to laugh at the quirky characters she and Libro meet. At times, she realizes with some surprise that she feels motherly toward him. There is a lover (human), and a mystery over Libro's past, but through it all, she laughs gently at herself and learns what a trusting, reliable relationship can mean to a single woman, even if it is with a dog.
Berkinow is a journalist whose writes about women's history and the nature of being single in contemporary society (see: The American Women's Almanac : An Inspiring and Irreverent Women's History.) Her latest book will make you laugh and if you don't own a dog already, might make you think seriously about getting one.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
WOOF!
I'm barking. I loved this story.
Basically, a woman takes in an abandoned dog.
Not so basically, Louise and Libro need each other. They grow to understand each other. They take care of each other. They both make mistakes (Louise's perhaps worse than Libro's). A human-to-animal relationship is different from a human-to-human relationship in that, with animals, love really can conquer all.
And Louise's reaction to Mickey -- classic! and beautiful!
I laughed out loud. I gasped. I sobbed. I finished the book and emailed a long-lost friend with whom I renewed contact this evening. I emailed him to suggest that he read the book immediately.
"Bark If You Love Me" was referred to me (cat person) by my brother's girlfriend (dog person at the boxer level). It was every bit as wonderful as she said. When I return this to the Bookmobile, I will strongly suggest that the librarians recommend this book to people of all ages.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've been buying copies of this book for all my dog-loving friends and all my friends who are ex-Manhattanites and miss it every day. I'm also giving it to my struggling, beginning writing friends who want samples of really fine writing. And then there are those folks who just love a good read! There is so much to like about this book it's hard to know where to start. I love the way she evokes the upper west side. I've lived there, long ago, and recognize the smells, sounds, and sights and the long and short views immediately. In addition to capturing the sense of a very specific place, she succeeds in evoking the idea of place as character. I love how, when she "accidentally" becomes a dog owner/lover/keeper for the first time in her life, she discovers that in this neighborhood she's called home most of her life and assumed intimate knowledge of, she suddenly discovers a parallel universe--the world of dog people. They've been there all along! And suddenly what was most familiar is brand new. I love how this writer, whose career I have followed for decades, finds a new way to be politically active, alive, accountable. Most of all, I love the writing -- the sheer professionalism of a skilled writer whose craft has been honed to the point of complete invisibility and absolute beauty. If I were teaching writing, this is the book I would use to show students the marvelous variety of sentences we have available to us. I would use this book to talk about subtlty, evocation, urbanity, subtext, and disciplined style. I'm not a dog lover but I'd let Libro give me a kiss. I might even kiss him back -- if his keeper had brushed his teeth recently.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I agree with the other reviewers that the book is a fun, light read - for the most part. I was enjoying the book until she wrote about the dog having chewed up her appointment book and she "kicked him. hard. in the ribs. he ran for cover under the sink." I couldn't read anymore. I understand that the book is about how the two of them came to understand, trust and love each other. I just would have preferred NOT having to read about her abusing a dog that was so loving and had, most likely, been previously abused.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Having just gotten my first dog at the age of 29, I was really enjoying this book. Until I got to the part where the author's dog eats part of her organizer one day when she is out. The author writes, "I kicked him, hard." I was appalled! This woman adopted an ABUSED animal and then beat it the first time it did anything wrong? Anyone who has ever lived with a pet knows that you have to be flexible with regards to housetraining and chewing and all of that, and I just couldn't relate to the author at all after reading that passage. I reluctantly applaud her honesty for sharing that bit of information with her readers, but I frankly wish she'd spared us.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I love dog books. I bought this one on the basis of a quick glance at a few of the sentences. The writing looked clean, unsentimental. I don't require much in a good dog story.

My mate, my dog, and I went away to a cabin for a few days and I looked forward to indulging in this book. There, blithely reading along, doing my best to ignore the author's self-centered narrative, waiting for the part where the dog redeems her and she finds herself and becomes less Manhattan-shallow, suddenly she makes a confession that makes me ill. She comes home one day to find the dog in the bathroom, where she sends him when he is bad. Apparently, he knows he's done something wrong. She goes into her office where she finds her datebook chewed to shreds. Furious, she storms back to the bathroom and kicks the dog, "hard."

Ugh. Even thinking of it now it's like I've been kicked in the stomach. How can you kick a *dog*? How, especially, can you kick a dog that you've already seen cower from past abuse?

It's great that she confessed, and I hope she never did it again. But I didn't stick around to find out.

I tried. I tried to pick up the book I thought I was going to be reading and keep on. But it made me sick, and finally, I realized I couldn't keep reading a book written by a woman who abused an abused dog. I don't care if it was just once. If you kick a dog who already knows it's done something wrong, a dog that has already cowered from past abuse, there's something wrong with you and you should not be owning dogs, much less writing about them.

If you want to read a good dog book, there are plenty of others. Pick one of those instead.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Who knew that adopting an abandoned dog could open up a whole new world? With this memoir, which is about so much more than dogs, Bernikow takes us on a tour of the strange continent of dog people who inhabit her New York City neighborhood.
Eccentricity may be the defining characteristic of this Manhattan microcosm. Friendships, love affairs, and animosities ebb and flow in and around the dog park. And it's not just dogs doing the socializing. Indeed, the common bond of dog ownership brings together disparate folks -- professors and entertainers, gay and straight couples -- whose lives become inextricably entwined. Indeed, a dog-induced romance stands at the center of the plot.
Dogs bring out the best and worst in everyone, it seems. In a city that can often be anonymous, passers-by inquire into the dog's age, well-being, and history. Tough-looking men turn into mushballs. And presumed friends deride bad doggie manners.
The politicized factions that emerge in response to the City's crackdown on dogs are described with humor and affection. Only in New York could an organized band of dog-lovers agitate for greater off-leash privileges!
Bark If You Love Me is, of course, a great gift for dog-lovers and New Yorkers. It's also a delightful read for anyone who appreciates a light-hearted and well-written slice of life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
I adored this book. Obviously, I'm a dog lover and like the author a single not exactly 20 or 30 something woman living alone. Like the author I never intended to become a "dog person". I loved her stories. However, what I loved best about the book was it's cover. Who could resist that face and title? More important was the subtitle "what if mr. right turns out to have four legs and a tail?" I can honestly say it's the only book cover I've ever ripped off a book and framed for my wall. Like dogs? You'll like this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie" because I loved Steinbeck, not because I loved French poodles. I read "Bark If You Love Me" because a bookseller friend of mine handed a preview copy to me knowing that as a writer I love good writing. This book is good writing, a quick read, filled with insight about life (and dogs), and much cheaper than 45 minutes with my shrink. (It also just reduced my Christmas gift decision-making by about a third.) Get it and chill.
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