Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Clubs: Anything But a Dog!

"If you're an animal lover, you'll love the critter tales as much as the special-needs storyline...really lifted my spirits." --Terry Mauro, About .com

Anything But a Dog! is a mother's harrowing search for one pet to suit two daughters--one a tomboy, the other disabled by congenital CMV.

Excerpt (followed by reviews, book club discussion questions, author interview/bio and purchasing info):


“Mom, can I have a dog?” my six-year-old daughter Jackie asked, standing next to me while I washed the breakfast dishes.

I cringed. The dreaded day was here—all kids inevitably ask for one. And why wouldn’t they? Movie dogs like Lassie drag you from burning buildings and keep you warm when you’re lost in a blizzard. But by the time we're adults, we've learned the truth about them: they urinate on your new wall-to-wall carpets, dig holes in your leather recliners to hide their rawhide bones, and bite your neighbor's kid.

“No, you can't have a dog,” I said, bracing myself for the age-old argument.

“Why not?” she demanded.

My mind raced for good excuses. Might as well start with the standard one: “A dog is too much work. And I know I'll end up being the one who walks it in the pouring rain.”

“I promise I'll take care of it. I will, I really will!" Jackie exclaimed.

“Sure,” I thought, “that’s what they all say.” Avoiding her pleading eyes, I picked up a plate sticky with leftover syrup. “The truth is,” I said, “we just can't risk a dog around your sister.” I hated admitting that. I didn't want her to blame her little sister, three years younger, for being so fragile. But taking care of Elizabeth, who was quadriplegic from cerebral palsy, was already enough work without adding a dog that might playfully nip at her.

I know! I’ll give Jackie the “lip-severing story.” That’ll convince her we can’t have a dog around her sister.

“When I was 13,” I began, “I talked Grandma and Grandpa into letting me have a Weimaraner. His name was Bogie—short for Humphrey Bogart—and he was a nipper. One day, my two-year-old cousin Suzannah wa s playing on the floor underneath the table with a Popsicle stick in her mouth. Bogie snapped at the stick and bit her lip off! My grandmother got the lip off the carpet and wrapped it in a paper napkin to take to the hospital. But it couldn’t be sewn back on. A surgeon fixed Suzannah’s face, but when we got home, my mother loaded Bogie into the back seat of the car and took him to the vet’s. I never saw him again. He took the ‘long walk’ as they say in the Lady and the Tramp movie.”

I paused so Jackie could let the horror of the incident sink in.

But all she wanted to know was, “Where’s Suzannah’s lip now?”

“Gosh, I don't know! The last time I saw her lip it was stuck to the napkin, all shriveled and mummy-like on my grandmother’s bookshelf. But that’s beside the point; can't you see how dangerous a dog could be for your sister? She can’t speak—how would she call out to us if she was in another room and the dog was bothering her?”... (to read the rest of the chapter, click into:

Anything But a Dog! also includes tips on how to prevent the #1 viral cause of birth defects--congenital CMV (more common than Down syndrome), which was the cause of Elizabeth's disabilities. Most OB/GYNs still do not warn their patients the necessary precautions to take.


"Saunders takes readers on a road trip as harrowing as any Dog Whisperer training challenge...Beyond the laughs about a dizzying pet search, Saunders' dog tale is about a mother who candidly reveals her family's burden, love, and acceptance of a daughter born with severe disabilities-and the people, and pets, forever touched by her life." — Rockland Magazine

"Sheds light on a disorder that is preventable and not talked about enough. If you're an animal lover, you'll love the critter tales as much as the special-needs storyline...really lifted my spirits."

"Wow! Laughed, cried, hugged my pooch...couldn't put it down! What an incredibly touching story. I, like WAY TOO MANY others, had never even heard of CMV before. I will share it with my book club -10 more people to help spread awareness!" Susanne Sullivan Kirkland, Bountiful, Utah.

“A hilarious set of pet tales! This mini-classic shines with the assurance that every child is beloved and valuable."-- Dr. Elisabeth Schafer, author of Vegetable Desserts: Beyond Carrot Cake and Pumpkin Pie

"Very touching, moving, personal; a joy to read. I laughed out loud and I cried. I congratulate Lisa on producing a very good piece of work.” Gail J Demmler-Harrison MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Director of the Congenital CMV Disease Registry and Research Program, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas

"The book is so well written and so endearing that you won't forget it once you've read it. Believe me." David Sisson, retired English professor

Book Discussion Questions

What do you think motivated the author, Lisa Saunders, to share her story about her daughters and their pets in Anything But a Dog!?
Does Lisa convey her story with comedy, self-pity, or a little of both? Which events were the funniest? Could you relate to any of them?
How does this book compare to other memoirs you have read? Is it more honest or less honest? Did some of the Lisa’s honesty shock you? Why?
How has this book changed or enhanced your view of people with disabilities?
Are there benefits to adopting an older, calmer dog?
How did you respond to Lisa’s "voice" or writing style (use of dialogue, punctuation, etc.)? How does she “show” the story rather then “tell” it?
What did you know about congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus) prior to reading this book?
What impact, if any, will the life of Lisa’s daughter, Elizabeth, have on the future of unborn children? What steps should a pregnant woman take to reduce her chances of contracting congenital CMV?
Has reading Anything But a Dog! given you hope for handling the challenges in your own life? If so, how?
Will you remember this book a year from now? Would you recommend this book to a friend? If so, why? Do you want to read more works by Lisa Saunders? If so, visit her Web site at

About Lisa Saunders: "I am a full-time writer at the State University of New York at Rockland and a member of its Speakers Bureau. Aside from ANYTHING BUT A DOG!, I am also the author of RIDE A HORSE, NOT AN ELEVATOR, and EVER TRUE: A Union Private and His Wife. I live with my husband and a beagle/basset hound mix in the lower Hudson Valley. As a a public speaker, I talk about CMV prevention, the Civil War, and writing and publishing family history and memoirs. For more information about me or my work, including CMV prevention, how to purchase the book, visit me at: If you would like contact me, write to: Lisa Saunders, Suffern, NY, at

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