“The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout”

Coverage of Jill's puppy adventures

By Jill Abramson. Henry Holt & Co. $22.

If you’ve ever been owned by a puppy, Scout’s misconduct should be all too familiar. This entertaining volume, however, is really the tale of two Scouts, city girl and country girl, which shouldn’t be too surprising, since both environments are polar opposites.

Scout is English standard golden retriever, which is a misnomer in itself, since she is white coated. She is owned by a New York professional couple, the author Jill Abramson, New York Times managing editor at the time and now executive editor, and her husband, Henry, a consultant.

After the busy couple’s beloved West Highland white terrier Buddy, dies at age 14 and their two children have grown and left home for careers, they face the empty-nest syndrome, leaving Abramson admittedly disconsolate.  And add a serious pedestrian accident on a New York street to that and you have all the ingredients for a cheer-up campaign by family and friends.

Part of that is tied to Henry’s insistence to a get a new dog, which eventually results in purchasing 9-week-old Scout from a breeder near Boston.  Both Abramson and her husband do their homework beforehand, but nothing totally prepares them for the test the perky puppy is about to unleash.

Her blog on the New York Times web site detailing the psychological roller coaster of raising Scout attracts huge readership and avails her to all sorts of experts when problems arise, in addition to leads from friends and co-workers for issues such as chewing, leash pulling and all things puppy.

Despite the angst surrounding Scout’s destruction of Henry’s glasses twice, Abramson’s boots, assorted furniture legs, etc., each quickly recognizes a huge void associated with prolonged time away from Scout.

And the fast-growing puppy changes the couple’s lifestyle, too. “Thanks to Scout, Henry and I were doing more as a couple,” says Abramson. “We took long walks with her and often planned special outings we knew she would delight in, like hiking on the trails near our house in Connecticut.”

Not all country girls like the big city, however. Hence the determined couple finds the starkly different New York City environment poses an entirely new set of challenges for their four-legged pupil.

Scout’s continued escapades, however, prompt the owners to re-examine their commitment to the Clicker Culture, eventually producing much-improved behavior from the pupil.

Abramson says, “When Scout came into my life, an indispensible dog did not just happen along, if not exactly by her first birthday then certainly by her second. It wasn’t the clickers or puppy kindergarten or feeding her the right ingredients that made her such a fine companion. More than anything else, it was the passage of time, and the inevitable calming process that occurred as Scout aged. Almost as important was the change in Henry and me: we came to understand that everything we do is more fun and interesting when Scout is by our side.”

Abramson’s compelling narrative is presented in a vivid and refreshing cultural context that poignantly reflects the human-animal bond doesn’t always come easily – and is best appreciated after plenty of hard work and commitment.