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Project Happily Ever After With Dogs (or not)

Through work connections, I meet and know many, many terrific writers. That means I often get to read advance copies of new books. So, imagine my surprise when a book about marriage included some VERY telling experiences with DOGS.

So, here is a book review and my commentary about what we can all learn from the dogs in the family.

Project Happily Ever After: saving your marriage when the fairytale falters

[Technically the publication date is December 28, 2010, (just in time for New Year’s resolutions) but some booksellers are already shipping copies ordered.]

Author Alisa Bowman is somewhat famous online for her book trailer, where she admits fantasizing about her husband’s funeral. She is also well known in blogging circles for laying her marriage bare for all to see, including bedroom stuff that often makes me blush.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would learn anything of use from the book since I think I’m in a great marriage. And, here is what I found …

Bowman’s book gives good advice for those who need to work on their marriage, but it also offers information I found VERY validating because all the things she and her husband learned to do are things, it seems, Tom and I do naturally after 23 years together (18 of them married).

So, around here we had some interesting discussions about Bowman’s experiences and what we thought about the situations, the emotions that ensued, and the resolutions found.

Trust me, in the section when her prince turns into a frog, I was HATING that guy. Seriously, hating him. Even Tom was aghast at some of the things, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t just playing along with me being aghast.

We still marvel (not in a good way) at what happened to the money for a second honeymoon. Selfishness of the jaw-dropping variety. No joke.

Alisa and Mark Bowman with their first dog, Rhodes

Personally, I would NOT have married someone who was at all hesitant about having dogs in the family, conceptually or in practice. That’s a relationship no-go for me, so when Bowman had to cajole her husband into getting their first dog — Rhodes, a doberman (with uncropped ears … yippee!) — red flags flew high.

Bowman (as in many families) took on the majority of Rhodes’ care and training.

I knew it was a harbinger of things to come. And, you bet she had to renew the finagling to get him to agree to a baby. Can you say resentment all around?

Still, that could have worked out, if it weren’t for all the other mitigating factors, including that Bowman took in a troubled Weimaraner, named Jasmine, at the worst possible time.

Alisa and Mark Bowman with Jasmine (left) and Rhodes (middle)

A volunteer at a local shelter at the time, Bowman sought help and advice for Jasmine, and even the breed rescue folks recommended euthanasia.

So, she stuck it out until Jasmine actually injured her, while in the nursery with her newborn.

She was tired. She was depressed. She was miserable. Bowman called her husband. He called a friend. Jasmine went away, and in the book, Bowman essentially says that everyone needs to know someone like that … someone who solves problems, no questions asked.

I felt heartsick, after reading that.

The Rest of the Story

You know me, based on past book reviews … I wanted to know MUCH more.  I wanted to know all about Rhodes and how he was trained. I wanted to know what happened to Jasmine because I feared the worst.

So, I asked, and here are Bowman’s answers.

Q: What’s the story with Rhodes? How is he? What kind of training did you do with him?

Rhodes is still with us. He’s a very healthy 11-year-old-ish (don’t really know his age) dog. He runs 4-6 miles with me, walks to school and back each morning with me and my daughter, and is a good lap dog.

He still occasionally gets into trouble. He likes his toilet paper. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, when he was a puppy, I did an old-school training class that I probably would not take again. Tons of people had recommended it to me, but the teacher used to yell at the dog mommies and daddies. It was pretty stressful.

I’ve since found a place that’s kind of far away. It’s where I did agility training with him. But they are much less militant, and it’s probably where I would go if we got another dog at some point.

As for books, I read the Monks of New Skeet. I tried a lot from that book (even jingling the keys whenever I feed him and then jingling them whenever I want him to come). I read a lot of other dog books, but the Monks book is the one that really stands out.

Q: I’m afraid to ask, but what happened to Jasmine after she left your house?

Our house was not designed for a dog like her (no back yard, no basement, not a single room that was configured in a way that would allow me to pen her), and she somehow tore herself out of every dog crate I tried.

Our friend eventually did rehab her (to a certain degree) and found a loving home for her with two women who had another dog just like her (same problems), a big fenced back yard, and no plans to ever have children.

I think the biggest lesson I learned from that experience is that there are times in your life when you are ready to take in a dog — and times when you just aren’t.

When you are 6 months pregnant and your husband is opening a new business? Not a good time.

Book Giveaway

I will soon have an official copy of the book to giveaway. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by asking for marriage-related comments, so let’s just say that I will give a copy of the book to the first person who emails me privately —>

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

sarah henry - December 28, 2010

I loved your insights, Roxanne, which gave me some inkling into your own happy union. Since you’ve had a hellish year, it’s nice to know you’ve got a great hubbie in your corner. Brownie points, natch, for all the canine connections.

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. - December 21, 2010

I would never be able to marry someone who wasn’t gung-ho about cats, so I’m with you on those raised red flags! You can tell so much about someone by the animals they gravitate to (or not).

Ruth Pennebaker - December 21, 2010

You amaze me, Roxanne — picking up all kinds of subtleties from this excellent book I thought I already knew inside and out. Thanks for your very different perspective.

MyKidsEatSquid - December 21, 2010

I would have had a hard time marrying a non-dog lover too. Non-cat, no problem, but I’m a sucker for dogs. My shelter dog seems beyond training, but luckily at 12-pounds and just 5 teeth left, biting and bad behavior haven’t been a big deal. As for my marriage, today is our 14th wedding anniversary–yeah.

Kristine - December 20, 2010

This book sounds interesting. While I also and perfectly happy with my practically marriage, I don’t think it ever hurts to read new perspectives. Especially dog-related ones!

Thanks for the review, I will have to check it out now.

Susan - December 20, 2010

Can’t wait to read this book. I love you tied in the dog connections in your review!

Jennifer Margulis - December 20, 2010

Those are such cute photos — of you and your hub and dogs and of Alisa and her hub and dogs. I ordered the book from Amazon and got it in the mail. I read it in two days. I feel like my marriage is very good but I learned A LOT from reading this book. Full disclosure: Alisa is a friend and colleague. But I’m still in awe of her honesty and quick-paced writing. You’ve been married for a long time Roxanne! (You have me beat.) Glad to know your relationship is still so solid!

    Roxanne Hawn - December 20, 2010

    Ha ha! Jennifer, both those photos are of Alisa and her family, not us. If you want to see really old (and cute, if I do say so myself) photos of us, give this post a look … includes a recipe for my fav chocolate pie, AND it features a very old photo of me and Tom.

Sheryl - December 20, 2010

Thanks for another look into the author’s life…this time with a dog (a *real* dog, not a nickname for her hubby-turned-prince ! 🙂

NoPotCoooking - December 20, 2010

Leave it to you to get the dog details! I’m glad both dogs are ok and happy!

Kerry - December 20, 2010

nice perspective for a review, Roxanne. thanks.

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