Pup Culture by Victoria Lily Shaffer
“A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can't get it by breeding for it, and you can't buy it with money. It just happens along.”
E.B. White on Dogs
As I read Pup Culture and write my review, my little brown dog, Tanto is curled up in my lap, comforted by my warmth, while he tends to my emotional needs.
Author Victoria Lily Shaffer always loved dogs, at just ten years old, leading every family bike ride into the city to the pet shop just to "visit the puppies".
After trying to find a family dog from breeders while growing up and that not quite working out, Victoria came across PetFinder and AdoptAPet, websites dedicated to finding pets available for adoption. This was the start of something her for her, she was sold.
In her new book, out Oct 26th, Shaffer talks in detail about the family dogs, Jake and Riley, and the enormous impact they had on family life while growing up.
She also talks about the struggles of adopting her first dog Rue, independently, sans parents. The unexpected hurdles of adopting a dog with severe anxiety, medical issues, and barriers to training, which led to a very distressed little pup. Lucky her passion saved her, and she had no intention on giving up. It may not have been what she imagined, but she persevered.
|Rue, Courtesy of Victoria's Instagram|
When adopting her second dog, Echo, it wasn't easy either, but again she pushed through it all and didn't give up. The problem with many who rescue is that they don't understand the obstacles, the PTSD and backgrounds of the dogs they're adopting, predicting an easy, well-mannered and trained dog with little to no work involved. Unfortunately that's not realistic, with most of these dogs requiring more love, care, compassion, and attention than other dogs.
Shaffer talks about rescue organizations in detail, the legitimate, and the fraudulent ones. She discusses how she found the one that ultimately changed the course of her life forever, one based in San Diego and Los Angeles that she's still committed to today. More on those guys later.
Pup Culture contains an array of interviews from Glen Close, Vanessa Williams, David Letterman, and Dan Levy, each talking about their beloved pooches. Levy states, "I think dogs teach you things about yourself that you might not even know. I mean, I think Redmond has taught me so much about compassion and love". A gorgeous addition to an already beautiful book.
I myself have always been obsessed with dogs. Found it easier to connect with them than humans to be honest. Dogs are everything; therapy, kindness, compassion, love, and so much more, all packaged up into one incredible little being.
I was a volunteer coordinator for a non-profit dog rescue in Toronto called Save Our Scruff. It was part of my full time job, and was one of the best gigs of my life to date. Although I did it in my free time, it often meant fostering dogs on the weekends such as feisty little Fonzi the dachshund, Bowie the Husky, and gorgeous Ella from the Dominican Republic. As well as this, I often jumped at the chance to look after my employers three beautiful dogs, two boisterous boxers and a shy mixed breed from Mexico. It was kisses galore in that house, and I absolutely loved it.
One of many fond memories I look back on from my Save Our Scruff days was late one evening when we had five dogs flying via cargo from Mexico with American Airlines with a short layover in Miami and a change of carrier to West Jet. Turns out, West Jet double booked two of the dog spots and could only take three of our rescues and suggested we board the other two until the following day. With nowhere to put them at short notice and no contacts in Miami, I panicked. With one hour's notice, I took an Uber to Toronto Pearson, frantically booked a flight, chauffeur, dog friendly hotel in the back seat of the sedan and was on a flight with moments to spare. A few hours later I had the dogs in my care and not long after, the three of us were cooped up in a hotel room watching TV, me in my robe and the two of them sniffing around, exploring.
I had grown so attached to them in those 48 hours that by the time we got back to Toronto I was devastated to leave them. Tears aside though, they both ended up in their furever homes not long after.
Pup Culture is the work of author, dog owner, rescuer, advocate, and producer Victoria Lily Shaffer. Owner of three rescue dogs, Rue, Echo, and Alfie, she's combined her passion for show business with her love for animal rescue advocacy, creating content to inspire others to #adoptdontshop.
Shaffer is affiliated with Mutt Scouts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit rescue dedicated to helping homeless, abused, and abandoned dogs. Mutt Scouts is dedicated to saving every dog they can, regardless of age, breed, medical or behavioural need. If you're interested in adopting one of their mutts, check out their about page.
|Courtesy of Victoria's Instagram|
Victoria has dreams of starting her own dog accessories brand one day, and I just can't wait to see all of her rescue pups rocking their leashes and collars. I can just imagine Rue, Echo and Alfa strutting down Rodeo Drive in the latest gear.
I adored this book. It was charming, the pictures throughout were beautiful. Victoria is clearly passionate about what she does, working tirelessly, and going above and beyond for every dog in need.
Pup Culture is stuffed to the brim with incredible tips. Everything from applying for your first rescue (there's a reason you haven't heard back on your application form), to bonding new dogs with existing dogs in the household.
If you're getting a new pup, Victoria has you covered with a Puppy Necessity List which I could have used before spending $1000 on Amazon last year. Turns out my pup's favourite toy for the first while was a twig he found outside... he didn't even acknowledge one of the $80 toys I bought him. Shaffer's list is realistic, budget friendly, and the items can be found anywhere. She'll tell you how to repurpose old toys, and even how to create your own.
I've never travelled with Tanto, but I'm hoping to when we get through COVID-19, so Victoria's tips on travelling with a dog felt invaluable to me. He's only been to the airport once, when I picked him up. I'll never forget that morning when I was a complete bundle of nerves and excitement. As soon as I picked him up out of his crate I knew I'd spend the rest of his life with him by my side, never letting him go.
|Ricki, courtesy of Mutt Scouts Instagram|
The tips go on and on, and by the end of this book I found myself scrolling through the Mutt Scouts and Victoria's Instagram pages, ending up in a complete social media wormhole, pulling myself out about 600 posts later.
The outcome of Pup Culture will be a brain filled with puppy knowledge and dozens of questions and answers on whether you're you're ready to take the leap into owning a dog or not.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as will any dog lover, or anyone who is considering a dog. There are so many heart-warming moments and times when I wanted to call Mutt Scouts and say something like "WHERE THE HECK IS MADONNA, I'LL TAKE HER!"