From dogs to divas, here are some summer reads

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Dogged Pursuit by Robert Rodi

c.2009, Hudson Street Press

Dog lovers are a contradictory bunch. We bring home an adorable little bundle of fur called a puppy, aiming to make him a shining example of good citizenship. The applause will be deafening! Other dog owners will be envious! Little Pupsie would to learn not to jump on people, not to burrow beneath anything embarrassing and to never, ever climb on furniture.

Then, he’s taught to jump, burrow, and climb on furniture. It’s called “agility,” and in the new book, “Dogged Pursuit,” by Robert Rodi, you’ll read about one man’s leap into a growing sport and what it taught him about himself and his dog.

During a dinner party some years ago, Robert Rodi was telling fellow diners woeful tales of “raising a fiendishly intelligent, demonically driven Shetland sheepdog.” That was when Rodi learned about agility, a dog-and-human competition consisting of hurdles, tunnels, weaving poles, teeter-totters and platforms. Rodi started working with his dog, Carmen, and she was quite good at it. Unfortunately, she suffered a career-killing injury and had to be retired. But agility was in Rodi’s blood now.

He needed a new dog. After applying online for other dogs in his Chicago area, Rodi found Dusty, a scruffy, funny-looking “cryptic blue” Sheltie, available from a nearby rescue group. Although Dusty seemed to be almost indifferent to agility training, Rodi set out to make the pooch a pro.

Following agility classes, Rodi entered Dusty into competitions around Chicago, joining the All Fours agility group. The group was friendly enough, but Rodi felt uncomfortable, out of place, like he didn’t belong. Although Dusty had won a few ribbons early on, he started acting as if he didn’t know what he was doing anymore and his scores were embarrassing to Rodi. Agility was turning out to be more irritation than enjoyment.

Willing to try anything for the elusive alphabet soup that follows a champion’s name, Rodi consulted his teammates. He hired a “dog whisperer” and tried aromatherapy for the both of them. He tried to keep positive and focused, for Dusty’s sake. But anyone who’s ever loved a dog knows that you can’t teach a dog something the dog doesn’t want to learn. When Rodi took a break – literally – everything leaped into place.

“Dogged Pursuit” is funny and sweet, a true dog-lover’s tale with one caveat: while it initially appears that Rodi sees Dusty as a means to an end, it quickly becomes obvious that he adores the pup. But, while his readers are learning that, Rodi tells a story every dog owner has lived – that of trying to make a dog do something he won’t do for you, but is perfectly willing to do for someone else.

As the human Mama to a long line of like-minded canine couch potatoes, I looked forward to reading this book, and I’m happy to say it’s a tail-wagger.

If you’ve been jumping from book to book in search of something good to read, get this one. “Dogged Pursuit” is the pick of the litter.

The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success and Betrayal by Mark Ribowsky

c.2009, DaCapo Press

For most of your life, they’ve been in your background. When you were a child, their voices came from your parents’ record albums and you hummed along. As a teen, you turned up the car radio when they came on; Golden Oldies, but no less enjoyable. Later, they brought back fond memories of friends and the fun you had. Even now, they’re still in your background – in supermarkets, waiting rooms, and on-hold phone calls.

So, how much do you really know about Diana, Mary and Flo? In the new book, “The Supremes,” by Mark Ribowsky, you’ll get a good look at the women – and the men – that started a music revolution.

Although they grew up in the same Detroit housing project, Diane (her name as a child) Ross didn’t know Mary Wilson or Florence Ballard well until a part-time pimp and music agent re-introduced them in a seedy hotel room. Mary and Flo needed more voices for their “girl group”; the agent already had approached Diane and a girl named Betty McGlown about singing. Almost from the beginning, there was trouble amongst them.

Even though Flo had assumed leadership from the outset, Diane, according to Ribowsky, angled for the head spot in the group. Mary, it seemed, played a peacekeeping role by alternately siding with Flo, then defending her. McGlown left the group to get married.

Accounts differ as to how girls (then called The Primettes) came to meet with Barry Gordy, but Ribowsky says the meeting almost surely happened when Diane used her connection to Smokey Robinson, asking him for an introduction. Unimpressed after an audition, Gordy reportedly told the girls – then teenagers, and still in high school – to come back when they grew up.

Once signed on to Motown, the girls (later re-named The Supremes) rose in popularity, partly in thanks to the writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Diane began a long-time affair with Barry Gordy. Flo left the group after a not-very-well-handled meeting and died, nearly penniless, at 32. Cindy Birdsong (who replaced Flo) and Mary Wilson still perform together now and again.

Ribowsky says they no longer share a stage with Miss Ross.

Filled with stories of astounding chutzpah, betrayal, back-stabbing and deviousness, “The Supremes” is a scandal-lover’s delight. Ribowsky says in his introduction to this unauthorized biography that he had to winnow through countless other sources’ information to try to determine the truth, some of which we may never know.

Although I enjoyed reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel that it was the same old thing, but more of it. Ribowsky surely presents a well-researched account and there were a few surprises here, but if you’ve read any other book on the Supremes – whether by a Supreme or not – you most likely won’t learn much that is new.

Still, if “Baby Love” and “Love Child” have always been in your background, you shouldn’t miss this book. For diehard fans, “The Supremes” should be at the front of the reading list.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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