Even before Julie Klam’s K9 memoir was released late last month, the word in literary circles was that You Had Me at Woof is the dog’s bollocks. The book more than deserves its advance praise, because it’s all about dog rescue in New York City – familiar territory for this reporter. You Had Me at Woof will have you laughing out loud (and in some places crying) as you recognize many truths, great and small, about living with dogs and how that can change a person forever. I rescue pit bulls and mutts; Julie rescues bow-wow brahmins – Boston Terriers. But the mind-expanding, heart-enlarging lessons shared in her book ring true regardless of what type of dog you favor. In fact, so entertaining is You Had Me at Woof that living with dogs isn’t even a requirement (although liking them kind of is).
What are you and your dogs doing at this moment?
I’m sitting on the couch, and they’re all around me. I have three at the moment, but we are in contract talks, my husband and I, about taking in another foster. We had sort of stopped fostering once our dog Dahlia had these two puppies. They weren’t sure if she’d been spayed or not, and they figured that she was so old that we didn’t have to worry. But I’m sure she was dumped because her previous owners knew she was pregnant. So after the puppies arrived, it was like too much was going on here; we had the four dogs at that time, and I just didn’t really have a chance to train the puppies ever – not that I was much of a trainer before!
I’m not much of a trainer either; I’m more of a pushover! Where do your dogs sleep?
All three dogs – Beatrice, Wisteria, and Fiorello – sleep in our bed, between us. There’s one by my leg, one by my husband’s leg, and the third one is in the middle, but closer to me. I’m kind of, like, insulated, whether my husband is there or not. We do have vacations from them; I have a 7-year-old daughter…
The famous Violet, subject of your previous book, “Please Excuse My Daughter”!
Yes, and sometimes the dogs sleep with her in her bed. She’s the biggest dog lover I have ever met in my life. She makes me look indifferent.
So, bestselling author, describe the scene for me: What does your sofa look like?
We have a name for it. We call our sofa Fomerly Hot! Did you see that book? It used to be this beautiful, clean sofa, and now it’s bitten and scratched.
What was your ultimate goal in writing this book?
I wanted to raise awareness of adopting dogs from rescue groups. There was a time when I didn’t know about breed rescue. By the time someone in our Boston Terrier group gets a dog to foster, we know so much about the dog – his temperament, habits, and recent history – that we can match the dog to the person who’s perfect for him. It’s the best way to acquire a dog, it really is. We have, like, one percent of a person that returns a dog.
Have your dogs been coming to your readings?
Other dogs have come to my readings, but not my dogs – they’re too unmanageable. I don’t want them crapping in the book store! But it is glorious to have other people bring their dogs, and I’m thinking, I am so lucky to be doing this thing that I love. I get to spend all this time with my dogs, plus meet all these other adorable, sweet dogs and the people who love them.
What does your daughter Violet want to be when she grows up?
She says she wants to be a dog rescuer, and that’s always the thing she talks about in school. She tells all about how we get these dogs.
Well, there’s so much to tell!
We had an incident over the summer. I went with my mother, husband, and daughter to the Morris Jumel Mansion, and when we came out, my husband said, “That dog is still there.”
Ah, a whole family of sensitive, observant dog lovers!
I had not seen a dog when we went in, but there was a pit bull with no ID that was tied to a parking sign in the middle of summer, next to a bowl of water. A woman said the dog had been there since 6 that morning; it was now around 2 p.m. The first thing we did was take the dog’s leash off the post and bring him over to the shade. My husband and I stayed there for three hours, calling all the people we knew. We couldn’t bring the dog home because of my other dogs, but I wasn’t going to leave him there – I would leave myself there first. So I ended up calling Ann Leary, then I contacted Ken Foster to see if he had any ideas.
Wonderful how many great writers are hardcore dog lovers.
I was Tweeting about the whole thing, hoping to get somebody to foster the dog. Then Ann said she’d take him, so we drove him up to her house. He was so incredibly sweet and wonderful. Ann kept him overnight, but the next day it turned out that he really didn’t like her horses. Luckily, Ann is involved with The Simon Foundation, a great rescue for pit bulls in Connecticut. It’s such an amazing place, and they do an amazing job of caring for and placing dogs. The wonderful Learys agreed to sponsor the dog we found; he’s still there, waiting for a permanent home. His name is Puck, and you can see him on the Simon Foundation site.
Do you feel your time spent helping homeless dogs has enriched you as a human being?
Every single day! A day has not gone by that I don’t feel like I’m a better person for the dogs that I’ve known and that I have and that I meet. And you know, when you get to do something good for them, it’s like the greatest feeling in the world.
What’s your latest success story?
While Tweeting and Facebooking recently, I met a woman who was looking for a playmate for her Boston Terrier – so I told her I happened to know of a stable of really fab adoptable BTs. I met her last Sunday, and now she’s filling out an adoption application!
You converted her to rescue – that’s a major mitzvah. I’ve certainly never seen humor applied so deftly to the topic of dog rescue before, so kudos to you for that too. Your book is as charming as your Tweets.
Thanks! I guess I haven’t read a ton of dog books, but I guess that was the hope, that my voice in this would make it different and help it sell a lot of copies. But I do think that cute doggie on the cover has a lot to do with it.
Is that your first dog, Otto, in the cover photograph?
No. It’s really disappointing to people that it’s not Otto! Some people have even said, “Why don’t you just say that it is?”
To buy a copy of Julie’s excellent book, go here.