When I first read about this book on another blogger's site I expected something along the lines of lighter Erma Bombeck with a canine in the lead, giving a family's day-to-day a new dimension and teaching them a thing or two about themselves in the process. I got something different - an incredibly sincere and intimate collection of essays about a life that is often unglamorous and riddled with insecurities but is held together by love, family and friends.
Considering the title I thought that Eli, the saucer-eyed pooch, would be more present in the book but besides the first chapter, which is dedicated to the story of how he came to live with the Coles, he only appears one more time and doesn't display any uproarious bad-dog behavior. I think he's more of a quiet presence, a comfort for Joni when she needs it. And with everything she has on her plate I'd say she needs and deserves quite a bit of it.
While reading this book I was repeatedly impressed with Joni's willingness to talk about things that a lot of us save for conversations with people we trust the most, such as the times we realize that our parents have grown old, our desire for our careers to be a bit more glamorous, the challenges or raising children and the days when we wish our friends weren't quite so perfect. This willingness to be vulnerable in public makes Joni more real to me than a lot of other writers, especially because she doesn't try to be "writerly", she just tells her story with wit, attention to her surroundings and skill that makes reading it very much like talking to a friend who has a particular talent with words.
I absolutely loved the last essay and thought it was a wonderful finale. It talks about the reasons the author is uncomfortable with being born in the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese calendar. Incidentally I was also born in the Year of the Dog and have always had mixed feeling regarding what it says about my personality. Joni got to the bottom of hers and helped me understand mine better and gave me some food for thought in the process (the alpha-dog idea is great). She actually gave me plenty of food for thought throughout the book as since as you know I like books that make me think Another Bad-Dog Book gets a 4.