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Book Review
The Good Life Begins with a Scottie
by Joseph Harvill, ed.

Review by: Kate Connick, Feb. 2003

No finer celebration of Scottish Terriers can be found than Joseph Harvill's The Good Life Begins with a Scottie. This delightful paperback is an anthology of 25 articles which had originally appeared in Great Scots Magazine. Divided into three sections - understanding, nurturing, and celebrating the Scottie good life - the overall effect is a shamelessly sentimental, creative, and thoroughly enjoyable tribute to this remarkable breed of dog.

My favorite chapters are those written by Harvill himself, especially the first chapter which discusses Scottish Terriers as a reflection of Scotland and the Scottish people. Independent, courageous, loyal, dignified, reserved, and big beyond their physical size - Scotties are most Scottish indeed. Harvill convincingly proposes, "The independent spirit of the Motherland is replicated close and small in the terrier that bears her name."

Most breed books grow weary with dry discussions of history and conformation standards, but this book is alive with sentiment. Nowhere is there dreary discussion of showring champions or fancy pedigrees. Instead, this book focuses on the bond between human and Scottie, and the characters of both are best illustrated through brief chapters that share personal triumphs and trials.

The reader meets WWII veteran Anver Habhab who couldn't leave his beloved Shorty behind during the war and managed to sneak him along as a mascot and morale booster. We meet Seamus, who bravely battled bladder cancer under the care of his owners, Markie and Kevin Shalloe. Then there's Zoe, Pam Trickett's church-going Scottie, and and June Bug, Tunia Hyland's therapy dog. Nicholas Nash's irascible paraplegic Scottie, Jet. Lee Netzler's pheasant-hunting Scottie, Rusty. The characters come alive to give the book itself spirit.

Each story gives the reader a gut-level feel for Scotties and the bond between Scottie and owner. The terror of losing a puppy in a winter snow storm is poignantly captured by Harvill as he recounts an episode where his dear Nati disappeared. Similarly, the reality of puppy destructiveness is honestly and humorously illustrated in the tale of Willie, the wheaten destructo-pup who ate important documents, ripped up carpeting, and relandscaped the yard to suit. It is this very personal touch which makes this book and these stories so effective.

Ironically, the chapters which try to be most instructive are weakest. The chapters which discuss selecting a puppy and initial puppy training seem to break with the mood of the rest of the book, for example. Although there is certainly information tucked within, one doesn't read this book for serious education or lesson planning. One reads it to bask in the fun and love that go hand-in-hand with sharing life with a Scottie dog.

If you or anyone in your life has a Scottie, you'll love this book. It's an enjoyable, clever, and warm tribute. As an added bonus, Harvill includes a list of recommended Scottie books with brief but helpful comments to guide the reader.

The Good Life Begins with a Scottie by Joseph Harvill, ed.
Published by Tartan Scottie Press, 2000. ISBN: 0970370105

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