I love pugs. There, I said it! When I
was given the opportunity to read, and review, this book, I couldn't help but
grin from ear-to-ear. What a treat this was gonna be; to spend time reading
about a subject with which I am intimately involved, being, along with Arnold,
the parents to our very own pug, Rosco. That, however, is the only
resemblance between the lives of the characters in Clara's life, and ours.
Permit me to explain.
The humans in this story are parents to two pugs; Sophie, and
Clara. Sophie is the elder of the two, but Clara rules the
roost. Margo Kaufman is a Baltimore born Jewish girl who has migrated to
Venice Beach, California, and surrounded herself with some of the state's
finest, and flakiest people. She, and her husband Duke, are happily married
professionals who are in the process of adopting a child from abroad.
Margo, the author of this book, obviously possesses keen maternal instincts
judging from the way she fawns over her pug children, especially
Clara. When she flies to New York City to meet with her publisher, and to
appear on several TV programs promoting her new book, she shleps Clara
along with her. She sneaks the pug into her publicist's office in her
overly large tote bag, and then proceeds to surprise everyone in the place with
the presence of the socially active Clara.
Fortunately, Clara is a very charismatic black pug, who
loves being around people, and goes out of her way to milk her audience for
all the attention she craves. It became increasingly obvious to me that
Margo has elevated anthropomorphizing a pet to an art form, and interestingly
the projected personality seems to have no use for her.
Clara's skill at winning the hearts of people she meets
apparently derives from her ability to analyze, in her own little doggie
brain, exactly what an audience, or individual, will respond to; and
then delivering a pitch perfect performance. The end goal is always
the pursuit of belly rubs or, the ultimate reward, something good to eat.
Along with everyone she meets at the publicist's office, she also wins the
hearts of cab drivers, the management, and staff of some very posh hotels,
flight attendants, TV interviewers of the highest celebrity, and anyone
else with whom she comes into contact. There is no doubt that Clara is a
lovely, and talented dog, but the key word here is.....DOG. As much as our
author would care to believe that Clara is her very own human companion, and no
matter how complex the personality that she has carefully developed for her pet
is, Clara remains very much a dog.
To be perfectly frank, I preferred the pugs, both Clara and
Sophie, over the humans in this story. Margo is constantly dropping names of
important people she knows, the finest five star hotels at which she stays (with
Clara, of course,) the fanciest of restaurants, and the cost of her own, and
Clara's personal accoutrements. She appears to place a great deal of importance
on what she owns, how much she spends, and how popular she is.
Her husband, Duke, is in this book primarily as a supporting
character. He spends quite a bit of time mocking Margo, trivializing her
anxieties, and doing his best to avoid dealing with the complications
of adopting their Russian baby. No chore seems too trivial to pass
along to his wife. The only time he shines is when there is a prospect of eating
at a Chinese restaurant or finally, in the later chapters, when they are in
Russia, and he gets to exercise his rich language skills.
All in all, I enjoyed reading the book, if only because
I related to the antics of Clara, and her sister pug Sophie. So many of the
attitudes, sounds, and behaviours she attributes to these two pups reminded me
greatly of our Rosco. That being said, however, I found the humans in this book
totally off putting. Not just Margo, and Duke, but even the people who
play a part in their lives. Most of them behave as if the world revolves around
their wishes or, at the very least, should. I recommend Clara, the Early
Years, to anyone who loves dogs, and has experienced having a dog as a member of
their family. But if you are expecting to find human characters you can enjoy
reading about, in my opinion, go elsewhere.