I liked the idea of this story. I have been a pug owner for about 12 years total now, with two pugs over those years. They are a wonderful breed. Doesn't every pet owner like the chance to read books about their particular type of pet? I figured this would be a fun book and it was. It is a funny and amusing book about Margo, who's a writer and owner of two pugs. She tells numerous stories of her pugs, along with their adventures, misadventures and everything in-between. Margo Kaufman is the author and this is a story of her life, her husband and her adorable pugs. She says she had always thought of pugs as dogs, until she got "Clara". That's when everything changed. Clara was apparently a miniature pug, wearing only 13 pounds when she was grown. (Our pug weighs 19 lbs, just for comparison sake.) When you're only one foot tall, six pounds less makes a huge difference!
I found that I actually got a little tired of the cute pug stories about halfway though the book. That surprised me, but I felt almost as if the author was trying to be a little bit too clever. That's when the central topic gradually changed. Not sure if she ran out of pug stories to tell, but eventually Margo began to talk about how much she wanted to adopt a baby. She tells in detail about their decision to adopt a baby, initially from Asia and then about her trials and tribulations involved in adopting a baby from Russia.
This was when the book became interesting again. I noticed that the topics of baby and adoption became primary and the pugs secondary. In fact, the pugs were even hardly mentioned after awhile.
Kaufman is really pretty hilarious and I found myself chuckling out loud at some of her vivid descriptions of (one of) her pugs, such as the following:
"Sophie barked at anything - a dog barking three thousand miles away, a plant swaying in the breeze, a magazine subscription card falling to the floor, the rug shifting, if I stood up, if I sat down."
Kaufman also describes the personalities of her pugs, Sophie, Bess and Stella, but especially Clara, the tiniest one packed with the most character. She describes Clara as a 'Napoleanic' pug who attacked "German shepherds, pit bulls, giant mastiffs", etc. It didn't matter the size. She had them cowering. Kaufman and her husband, Duke find that they will basically do anything for their pugs too. Kaufman wrote an article for "Pug Talk" Magazine called "Ugly Dogs and the Women Who Love Them". That title alone made me smile. I have to agree with Kaufman that pugs are pretty much an acquired taste. They don't have conventional-looking snouts, but look as if they've been chasing parked cars (as my Dad likes to say).
The author touches on the movie from 1989, "Milo and Otis", which is a movie entirely about a kitten and a pug (with human voices) and their wild adventures. Kaufman calls this movie the pug version of "Gone with the Wind." She also talks about other famous pugs, such as "Bandit" from the Johnny Quest cartoon and also mentions how pugs were a part of Chinese royalty. The late Duke and Duchess of Windsor also loved pugs and had several. Of course, she also mentions the alien pug from the movie, "Men in Black" which is at least partly responsible for their growing popularity in recent years.
Although Kaufman mentions all of these details, most of the book is made up of stories of Clara's being adorable while in meetings, at the store, at home or during travel with the author and her husband. Kaufman has the ability to find humor in just about every situation with her pug present. There were several occasions she mentions, that I could relate to, as a pug owner. Kaufman says that she would take Clara shopping at Staples in the shopping cart baby seat. I have actually done that as well in stores that permit pets. It was also amusing when Kaufman discusses the pug "comfort-seeking gene" and how mind-boggling it is to witness. I have seen evidence of this also. Kaufman describes a scene: If there is nothing in the room with a pug, they will take whatever is available and make it into a pillow. Kaufman uses three socks on the floor, as an example, in an otherwise bare room, which became a cushion when her pug pushes the socks together. It's true!
Of course, some of the events and people that Kaufman mentions in her book are a bit outdated already. This book was published in 1998. For example, she worries because she imagines John and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy being followed by her mother around New York.
The writing style is easy to read and flows smoothly. Kaufman's writing and humor reminded me a little bit of the late Erma Bombeck. I was able to read a large portion of the book in a couple of hours. It definitely kept me interested, the first chapters mostly about Kaufman's adventures with her pugs and the later chapters, her difficulties in traveling to Siberia in the middle of winter to adopt her infant son. Even with her the staggering amount of red tape and jumping through hoops to get the legalities of the paperwork accomplished, Kaufman is hilarious as she describes her ordeal.
Whether you are a pug fan or not, or simply a person who likes dogs, you should enjoy this book. It's a heartwarming story of a woman with a big heart.
Also by Margo Kaufman
"This Damn House!"
"Clara" was published in 1998. It is just 304 pages long.
A Plume Book
She dedicates this book to her newly-adopted son, Nicholas.
A sad note: I learned that author, Margo Kaufman, just two years after this book was published, died of cancer (in 2000). She had fought and beat cancer prior to the writing of this book, so it was sad for me to learn of this. If I calculate correctly too, this means she was only able to enjoy her newly-adopted son for a very short time.
Margo Kaufman was known for her participation on Los Angeles' KABC-FM, in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. She made occasional appearances on National Public Radio's humor-quiz show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" too.
~thanks for reading~
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