I was not financially compensated for writing this review. I received a review copy of It’s Just a Dog through Beck Valley Books to facilitate my review. My opinions are 100% honest and 100% mine.
It’s Just a Dog, by Russ Ryan ($9.99)
Summary of It’s Just a Dog:
What if your dog died and then came back as a ghost…that could talk? Would you welcome him back with open arms or run away scared to death?
This is the premise of It’s Just a Dog, a new novel about love, pet loss, and one man’s dog who rises up yapping from the grave.
Charlie Keefe is not just your typical dog lover –– he’s a world famous dog painter, a.k.a. “The Picasso of Pooch Portraits.” Unfortunately, Charlie’s beloved muse, Pete, his lovable Jack Russell terrier, has just died. And he’s totally devastated by the loss of his furry best friend.
So, after months of grieving over his dearly departed soulmate, Charlie reluctantly agrees to foster a new puppy –– a cute Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Brownie from the local animal shelter. Soon after, Charlie is surprised to find himself falling head over heels with this new puppy girl, his ‘Rebound Dog,” as he calls her –– as well as being romantically attracted to Janelle Jordan, the head hound at the dog rescue.
But then complications arise when the ghost of his old dog, Pete, mysteriously reappears one night and comes back to haunt him and the new puppy –– setting off a bizarre chain of events that throw Charlie’s life, career, and entire belief system into chaos!
If you’ve enjoyed such classic dog books as The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Dog’s Purpose, then you are bound to find a place in your heart for It’s Just a Dog.
It’s Just a Dog is not just for dogs. It’s for anyone who has ever lost a pet –– and learned to love again. If you’re a feel-good fan of dog books, make It’s Just a Dog your special treat!
You can watch the trailer here:
My review of It’s Just a Dog:
After Charlie made the decision to allow his sick, suffering, beloved dog to be put to sleep — and subsequently got the word that he had died — he heard the poem “Funeral Blues” by Wystan Hugh Auden while watching Four Weddings and a Funeral on his plane ride home from Paris. I couldn’t resist sharing:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
But, back to It’s Just a Dog. Boy, oh boy, can I relate. Whew. I actually cried a few times while reading this novel, which I did in one sitting. I should preface my review by saying that it’s probably a good idea to at least like dogs in order to enjoy this book. Personally, I am a dog lover…so this book was right up my alley.
In fact, I had to put one of my beloved dogs to sleep (around 2006-ish), and I couldn’t be with my dog when it happened because he was in an operating room…so I could totally relate to the dilemma, the conflict, the overwhelming guilt that Charlie felt when it came to his dog’s death. I also could understand when he said, “…it left a huge gaping hole not only in my heart, but in the house as well.” That’s so true — so devastatingly true.
It’s Just a Dog really captures the emotion and the process of grieving for your pet. Because it’s never “just a dog.” Never ever ever. It’s your child, your confidant, your companion, your always-there, never-judgmental true best friend. Sure, there were moments when I chuckled, and when the story took a turn, it made me smile and warmed my heart.
Oddly enough, at no point in this novel did I scoff or roll my eyes because Russ Ryan was simply asking for too much of a suspension of disbelief. It never felt that way. Nor did it feel gimmicky or silly or preposterous that Charlie’s dog came back into his life as a ghost. It never felt insincere or unrealistic, as strange as that may sound. It was cute…and charming…and, well, it made you (OK, me) wish you (OK, I) could experience the same thing, with the dog you’ve lost. No matter how long your dog is with you, or how old they get, it doesn’t lessen the pain or the grief. It’s hard. And Ryan captures the essence of that despair and utter sadness.
And then Charlie opens his heart and his home to a new dog…and what happens (for both of them) is so sweet and uplifting. It took a lot for him to reach that point because, as he put it, “The only dog I wanted was the one dog that I could never, ever have again.” That’s a tough feeling to move past. It really, really is.
Don’t get me wrong…it’s not a downer of a book. It’s a delightful novel, and it has wonderful elements to it, from humor to anger to despair and hope and everything in between. It’s Just a Dog isn’t just a novel. It will make you laugh and possibly cry but, most important, if you have a dog, you’ll “get” it.
About the author of It’s Just a Dog:
Russ Ryan, dog lover and dog widower, has written and developed screenplays with the producers of American Pie, Final Destination, and Fireflies in the Garden. Ryan was also a writer on a truly bad teen comedy, National Lampoon’s Repli-kate, starring Eugene Levy. It’s Just a Dog is his first novel.
Ryan is also the creator of Meansheets, a vintage movie poster blog that features the best artists and illustrators from the 1940s through the 1980s.
You can purchase It’s Just A Dog on Amazon, either the Kindle version (for $2.99) or in print (retails for $9.99 — but is on sale for $8.99 right now!). Russ Ryan is donating 50% of the sales during the book’s initial three-month summer launch (ending September 2, 2013) to the Muttville Dog Rescue, a San Francisco-based senior dog rescue. Muttville believes that every dog deserves a happy ending.