Title: You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness
Author: Julie Klam
Release Date: October 28, 2010
Publisher: Riverhead (Print)/Tantor (Audio)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In this memoir, Julie Klam recounts her life as an owner of Boston Terriers, as well as her work with Northeast Boston Terrier Rescue (NEBTR), and relates to the reader what she’s found as a result of owning, fostering, and caring for these loveable creatures.
Let me start off this review by making a confession: I am not a dog person. Don’t get me wrong – I like dogs. I always stop to pet them, and sometimes I want one more than anything. But I’m just not sure about the commitment they require, and whether I would be able to give a dog the attention it deserves, so I happily hide behind my building’s pet-free policy as the reason I don’t have one. With that in mind, I still wanted to read Julie Klam’s You Had Me At Woof. Though I’m ambivalent about having a dog, I felt strongly that Klam’s experiences would be relatable regardless of my personal feelings.
I’m happy to say I was completely right – dog person or not, there was a lot to love about You Had Me At Woof. First of all, I really enjoyed the way the book was structured. Klam takes the reader through the different lessons she learned through the dogs she’s owned, housed, and loved. These are universal lessons – finding “the one”, for example – that anyone can sympathize with. Though Klam’s indulgence of her dogs is beyond what some (including me) might understand, it’s done out of pure love and so is endearing rather than laughable.
The most interesting aspect of You Had Me At Woof is Klam’s work with Boston Terrier Rescue. Her commitment to this organization both impressed and humbled me. I never understood exactly what a rescue group did (to my chagrin, until I realized that Klam didn’t either at the beginning of the book), but it’s complicated, difficult, and depends entirely on the good will and devotion of people whose only pay for this hard work is to see innocent dogs placed into loving homes. I found the inner workings of the group fascinating and absolutely loved learning about them.
Klam is a very talented writer, and she kept me interested from beginning to end. I loved her little stories about the dogs she encountered. She had me laughing at times, and crying at others. I could feel her love for these dogs – even the smelly ones that did their business all over her New York City apartment – bursting through every page.
I listened to You Had Me At Woof on audio, and it was a wonderful decision. The narrator, Karen White, is engaging and tells the story very well. The listen is unabridged and runs almost 6 hours.
If You Had Me At Woof had been about dogs, I’m not sure I would have loved it. But instead, it’s about life – love, laughter, happiness, sadness, and loss – told through the dogs that come into and out of Klam’s life. I thought this book was very wonderful and heartwarming, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Klam does next.