Book Review: Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington

Dan A. Nelson’s practical hiking guide, Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington, includes necessary information to ensure satisfaction for dog owners and their dogs while enjoying hikes in Western Washington.

Although dogs aren’t allowed on national park or monument trails, there are plenty of wonderful hikes to enjoy in Western Washington. In this guidebook, Nelson describes 85 hikes, complete with quick references for distance round trip, difficulty on a scale of one to five, highest elevation point, elevation gain, best season, map, contact information and GPS coordinates, followed by detailed descriptions of the individual hikes.

In addition to specific destinations, at the beginning of the book Nelson goes into some detail about hiking with a dog in general, which I found particularly interesting. In the “Getting Ready” section, Nelson emphasizes the importance of good training, including use of a leash on the trail. Permits and regulations must be obeyed, not only for human and dog safety, but for the sake of the environment.

“Leave No Trace” is discussed in detail and encompasses much more than hauling your own garbage out. It means camp a distance away from a water source such as a lake or stream, not wash in the water, but collect water in a container and take it back to camp. Camp on hard ground so you won’t trample grass or fragile vegetation. Nelson gives many more examples of ways to keep the wilderness intact by leaving no trace.

The trail etiquette section was an eye-opener for me. For instance, when dog owners meet any other trail users, dog and owner must yield the right-of-way, stepping well clear of the trail to allow the other users to pass without worrying about “getting sniffed.” Another: When a dog meets a horse, the dog owner must yield the trail and ensure the dog remains calm. Also, stay within view so that the horse isn’t suddenly spooked when he sees the dog.

Another rule of etiquette I learned is that when hikers meet other hikers, the group heading uphill has the right-of-way. There are many more important points the author makes, points that make sense once the reasons are explained.

Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington is a valuable reference for hikers with dogs, or even without dogs. Dan Nelson is the author of several guidebooks, all published by The Mountaineer Books.

Book Review: Dog Crazy


Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue is a fun light read targeted toward dog lovers. It would be a bonus if you happen to live in San Francisco—the descriptions of the various districts and parks are richly described as the story unfolds.

Maggie Brennan is new to San Francisco. She and her beloved dog recently moved into the downstairs apartment of her dear friend’s house. She’s opened a business as a pet bereavement counselor. Unfortunately, she knows too well the deep feeling of bereavement. Shortly after she moves to San Francisco, her dog and constant companion of 13 years, suddenly dies.

When a disheveled Anya Ravenhurst arrives for counseling, she makes it perfectly clear that she doesn’t need counseling, she needs her dog back. She’s only there because her brother insisted she needed counseling. But what she needs, she claims, is someone to help her find Billy, her dog that’s been stolen.

That might not be such an unreasonable request except for one thing: Maggie has recently developed agoraphobia. It’s been 98 days since she’s left her apartment, since her dog died.

Dog Crazy is a great read, loaded with wonderful physical and personality descriptions of all manner of dogs. It’s also an enlightening novel about the fear associated with agoraphobia and the extreme will power it takes to overcome an anxiety disorder. The book skillfully captures the special love between a human and her dog, the pain of separation, and the healing power between a dog and its owner.

To learn more about the author, visit

Book Review: The Divinity of Dogs

Divinity DogsJennifer Skiff has gathered a precious collection of stories about dogs and their people in The Divinity of Dogs, True Stories of Miracles Inspired by Man’s Best Friend. Skiff, an award-winning television producer, journalist and author, is personally and professionally involved with dogs in the U.S. and Australia.

The book is divided into sections: Love, Comfort, Intuition, Healing, Gratitude, Loyalty, Passing, Compassion and Forgiveness. Skiff begins each section with a personal story, followed by stories written by other people inspired by their own experiences with dogs. Each story has a picture of the dog involved and some of the pictures are so captivating I viewed them time and again.

As with many books of this nature, I gained insight into my own dog, Toby, a chocolate lab. This book has further opened my eyes as to the depth of a dog’s intuition, love and loyalty. Even when rejected, a dog will often rise above it and fill a human’s need.

Many of the stories carry messages of desperation, many of sadness, some of joy. No matter. You’ll come away enlightened, inspired, and enriched.

The Divinity of Dogs is a great read, compiled with the perfect balance of the many facets of the divine essence of dogs.

Book Review: A Dog’s Purpose

dogs_purpose_smYou don’t have to be a dog fancier to enjoy A Dog’s Purpose, but if you do love dogs, you won’t want to miss this amazing book by W. Bruce Cameron. The heartwarming story brings the reader into the lives of one soul reincarnated into several dogs’ lives.

The author shows real understanding of how a dog thinks and how he views the world and his sometimes strange humans. The dog’s first character, Toby, born of a feral mother, develops the skill of survival. The soul comes back as Bailey and he learns unconditional love and loyalty. As Ellie, now a female, she learns search and rescue. Finally, as Buddy, he finds himself at a loss to find his purpose until his search brings him to his ultimate destination and fulfillment.

I’ve had dogs all my life and I found this book a fascinating study. I wish I could have read A Dog’s Purpose years ago. One of our favorite dogs was Bo, a yellow Labrador Retriever. Now that I’ve read this book, I believe Bo’s soul had been around a long time. On the other hand, our current dog, Toby, a Chocolate Lab, has a newer, undeveloped soul. Even though Toby is a very immature 10 years old, he’ll never in this life achieve the enlightenment of the older, wiser soul of his predecessor.

One of the things I loved about this book was the author’s view of how a dog interprets our vocal and body language. The bottom line, what’s in it for him, is so true to life. Yet, a wise dog will perceive what his human needs and will do everything he can to make that happen.

A dog accepts us “as is,” unconditionally. Any dog needs basic training, and perhaps even more specialized training. Still, his wisdom and depth of personality likely will depend on his past experiences. After reading A Dog’s Purpose, I now know to be more accepting, to treasure and respect my dog’s current station in life.

Author Cameron not only draws believable dog characters, his humans are also realistic and well developed. A Dog’s Purpose is a memorable book.

Book Review: The Proof is in the Poodle

The Proof is in the Poodle: One Veterinarian’s Exploration into Healing by Donna Kelleher, DVM, gives readers a chance to explore alternatives to traditional treatment for ailing dogs, cats and horses. Kelleher seeks to treat the whole animal, the physical, emotional and spiritual facets of their lives.

In her youth, Kelleher works on Saturdays with Iris, a neighborhood healer. Gardening with Iris, Kelleher learns the healing qualities of plants, how to preserve them, how to prepare them to make teas or salves. From Iris, she also learns that public opinion isn’t as important as following your heart.

While attending Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Kelleher becomes aware of certain practices that are contrary to what she believes would be better, more effective healing treatments. She finds the common practice of dispensing chemicals repugnant, of euthanasia as being a choice too easily taken.

Kelleher becomes further trained in veterinary acupuncture and chiropractic medicine and becomes a member of the Veterinarian Botanical Medical Association. Using these skills along with those she learned from Iris, her childhood mentor, she finds ways to holistically treat animals without pharmaceutical intervention.

Not everyone will agree with Dr. Kelleher’s views. Eking out another week of an old dog’s life may be difficult for many to grasp. But to cure a disease with herbs rather than with chemicals that often introduce harmful side-effects, may make sense to many.

The Proof is in the Poodle: One Veterinarian’s Exploration into Healing offers well-founded viewpoints on healing. Whether or not you’d want to take this path, the small volume offers enlightened opinions on healing and treating the whole animal. The book is written with humor and heart.

To learn more about Donna Kelleher, DVM, visit