Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Dog Diet - a memoir

Earlier this week I was doing a story for my column about “Dogs’ Night Out,” an event sponsored by the Ritter’s ice cream franchise. In advance I Googled the phrase “Dogs’ Night Out” to learn more about it and one result contained a reference to a local bookstore. This result turned out to be a blog post by Patti Lawson, author of The Dog Diet (2006, HCI), about her book tour. The post was so interesting I wanted to know more about Patti, her dog Sadie, and her book. A quick search online revealed that my library owned a copy of the book and it was available for checkout.

So who is Patti Lawson; and what is The Dog Diet?

Patti Lawson was an English teacher turned attorney who in the spring of 2002 adopted a small puppy from a shelter. While she adored her new bundle of fur, her lack of experience with puppies led to one chaotic episode after another. One result was that she found it impossible to eat in peace or even finish a complete meal for a few weeks.

Patti’s description of herself prior to the advent of Sadie into her life resembles that of a professional dieter. But one day, a few months after Sadie’s arrival, she realized she had not weighed her self since the puppy had arrived. Prepared for the worst she was amazed that she had lost a significant amount of weight without following any of her previous regimens. How could it be?

But she made an even more important discovery about herself since adopting Sadie; that even though a puppy was a lot of responsibility, and dealing with the high energy and immaturity took learning new skills, she was a much happier and content person on the inside. So she set out to find out how this came about and how to keep on track.

While Patti talks about diets, dieting and healthy eating, the foundation of her book The Dog Diet is the story of how she says Sadie saved her life. She describes how focusing on Sadie’s needs and observing her dog’s approach to life helped her to see that she had been substituting the comfort of a full stomach for the fullness of living that she craved but wasn’t finding. She credits Sadie’s enthusiastic example of joy-filled living for succeeding where professional, and well-paid, lifestyle coaches had failed.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section is title “Shedding Pounds.” It is not only about weight loss but also how she and Sadie came to be together and the self-discoveries that followed. The second section is about “dogercise,” reducing stress and enjoying life. In the last section Patti describes in detail the various aspects that make up what she developed as her “Dog Diet.” Some of the topics in this section are about meals and menus, shopping, recipes, and eating healthy while traveling.

While the sections have different topics the overarching theme of Patti’s book is about attitude. She makes it clear that there is a difference between self-discipline and self-punishment; and that the difference can be traced to an individual’s attitude and view about life and living. The Dog Diet is a poignant, yet fun and heartwarming read. Between the pages of this book you will find a sense of hope as well as an enthusiasm for discovering what makes your own life tick.

Patti’s blog can be read at The Dog Diet.

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