Barking Blondes: Dogs and books

Joanne Good and Anna Webb

Steyn 3 300x225 Barking Blondes: Dogs and booksSteyning Bookshop is dog friendly. Woof! Woof! Nestled right in the heart of the South Downs, it is a Tardis of a building, with a teenage fiction section stretching way back into an English country garden. It’s also the home of the proprietor, Sara Bowers and her family.

Whilst many urban bookshops panic at the thought of inviting dogs to attend an author’s signing for a canine-related book, Sara positively encouraged it. Mind you, if our book had been about sheep, we felt, they also would have been enthusiastically herded through the front door.

For any avid readers out there, can you imagine a better way of spending a sunny Saturday afternoon? In an independent bookshop’s country garden, being read to, surrounded by attentive dogs and their owners and shaded by apple trees. During the signing there was home-made cake and tea served in bone china.

This was only our second public reading and our two dogs. Molly and Matilda were thankfully as chilled as the audience. They, like us looked out at the front row and spotted an alert Jack Russell sitting on a knee alongside a languishing Pyrenean mountain dog with his chin resting on a sandal.

Scientists have proved that the presence of a dog in an environment relaxes people. Just looking at a dog makes people smile and stroking a mutt reduces blood pressure, helping to the brain focus through the release of happy hormones such as endorphins and calming hormones like dopamine. That’s why in the workplace having a dog in the office increases productivity, reduces stress, gets staff talking to each other and puts the workplace in a better mood – dogs set tails and tongues wagging.

Another project that highlights how dogs help in a literary sense is Bark & Read, a new initiative promoted by the Kennel Club. As well as having pets for therapy which encourages schools to let calm, well behaved dogs, sit with children who are learning to read. With a dog by their side, kids are less self-conscious about reading out loud, and enjoy the positive response from the dog that doesn’t judge or tell them off for making any mistakes. This gives the child more confidence and results show that dogs help speed up the learning process for children in the classroom.

Maybe this was why our reading was so successful? Molly calmly sitting on our knee calmed any jitters we may have had – although Molly falling asleep after the first paragraph was a little disturbing – we tried not to take it personally. Maybe she had set a precedent to the other dogs who all seemed transfixed by the proceedings.

Certainly welcoming dogs into commercial spaces is a canny move. The Hound Pound is a strong currency with 27 per cent of households owning a dog. We know dog owners are more likely to spend when their dog is not ostracized but invited to share the retail therapy experience.

We had to sympathise with Andrew Neil this week. Like us with our Late Night radio show, his dog made a regular appearance in the studio. Apparently now due to Health and Safety the golden retriever Molly has been banned. Tricky this one. Legally dogs are not permitted where food is being prepared. The odd studio vending machine surely doesn’t count.

Could it be, that these animals are simply upstaging us? Was Molly’s golden smile more interesting than Andrew’s script? We recalled the time a cab driver stopped us in Euston Road, lent out of the window and said: “Me and her indoors used to tune in to your show just to hear your Bulldog snoring in the background.”

Well, I suppose every listener counts.

Barking Blondes’ by Anna Webb & Jo Good, published by Hamlyn, £12.99

The Barking Hour, every Thursday, BBC London 94.9FM

  • MrReasons2Bcheerful

    Great blog as per! It is so true about allowing our dog in to partake of a retail experience! Its a shame when you consider tose shop you have to forego because some snooty owner doesnt like animals there.
    It has been known for Bruno to do the doggie equivalent of a doggie V-sign: a quick lift of his leg whilst looking back at the shop owner in sweet revenge…

  • madgooner1

    Best combination books blondes and buns!

  • marcbletchley

    evening jo and anna
    im a bit late getting here for a read i had forgotton to look at the facebook page.
    you’ve cirtanley put steyning on the map now i even had to google it to where it was.
    great reading as normal and hope saturday went well at the doggie do in south mimms it did get mentioned on three counties wirelsss.
    cheers woof woof from bletchley towers
    ps yes my favorite bit matilda snoring through valley fontaine news classic

  • 5brian5

    Hi Jo, Anna, Molly and Matilda; Your book shop experience sounds wonderful! I wish I could have been there to enjoy the experience with you four, as well as lend you my support. Its odd that you were talking about oxytocin in last weeks blog, as I was skimming though the “ABC’s” (Australian Broadcastng Corporation) science page on their website, and they had an article on oxytocin and how it affects mothers with newborns. Its amazing how hormones and their levels, as well as neurotransmitters and their levels affect, everything in our bodies that makes us human. The other day on 94.9, I heard a presenter who was sitting in for someone else say, in response to a caller: “animals are not family members”! I couldn’t believe my ears! Not family members? What are they then? House plants! I don’t ever look at my cat Tula, or my sons dog Logan, as pets, cats, dogs, animals, or anything else, except what they are. To me they are family, and recieve the same respect and love as anyone else who’s that close to me. Possibly, its that neandrathal backward and ignorant mode of thinking, that has made dogs unwelcome at 94.9. All you need to do, is walk into a public washroom to see who the real animals are! I Love This Blog!!! Take care of each other! Brian (Detroit)xxxx PS; I hope I didn’t offend anyone, but thats just MY opinion!

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