PUPPY CHOW IS BETTER THAN PROZAC: THE TRUE STORY OF A MAN
AND THE DOG WHO SAVED HIS LIFE by Bruce Goldstein (DaCapo Press,
Perseus Books Group, March 15, 2008)
Review by Nancy Yanes-Hoffman, THE WRITING DOCTOR, at www.writingdoctor.typepad.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, 585-385-1515 16 San Rafael Drive, Rochester NY 14618
Nowadays, most books have subtitles (I should talk; my books do, too). It’s as though writers are dissatisfied with the bare bones of their titles. They want to reach out from the hidden bottom shelf of a crowded bookstore and grab you by the sleeve. “Stop!” the subtitles order. “Don’t go into somebody else’s would-be masterpiece. Read me instead!”
Bruce Goldstein’s adoring memoir, PUPPY CHOW IS BETTER THAN PROZAC: THE TRUE STORY OF A MAN AND THE DOG WHO SAVED HIS LIFE (DaCapo Press, Perseus Books Group, March 15, 2008), is a perfect example of the popular subtitling genre. If you’re a dog lover, the subtitle will convince you to grab this book. Bend down, drop your umbrella and purse on the way, and see what Goldstein has to say for himself about his love affair with a Labrador retriever puppy.
Victimized by a virulent bipolar disorder, out of a job, dumped by his girl, and unable to respond to psychiatric therapy and a parade of such drugs as lithium, Paxil, Wellbutrin, and, of course, Prozac, Goldstein was well on his way to giving up. He calls one early chapter before he meets his puppy, “Mom, I Don’t Want to Go to Life Today.” And he doesn’t.
At last, heeding his psychiatrist’s desperate recommendation to get a dog, he braves a hurricane to adopt the last (and best?) of a Labrador litter. Black as the proverbial ace of spades, his dog is dubbed “Ozzy” after heavy metal’s Prince of Darkness, the Satanic figure who haunts Goldstein’s imagination. Soon, this furry bundle takes over Goldstein’s life—while calming his lonely fears.
With Ozzy at his side, Goldstein is lonely no more. Ozzy magnetizes women on the streets of New York. His “puppy harem” oohs, aahs, and “stuck to me like the New York Knicks defense.” Walking his dog followed by a caravan of women, Goldstein realizes, “I finally had an epiphany of sociological and biological proportions. I had finally solved the puzzle man had been trying to figure out since the beginning of time: all of these years the key to meeting beautiful women was picking up a bag of fresh puppy poop.”
Ozzy is not only “man’s best friend,” he turns out to be “Manic’s best friend,” returning the frantic, obsessed Goldstein to the world he would leave behind. Goldstein gives Ozzy, “my mood-swing messiah” all the credit for keeping him on an even keel. “Thanks to Ozzy, I was really looking forward to my future—the place I thought I’d never get to see.”
Goldstein ends his story with a poignant prayer, “I thank God this book was written by Bruce Goldstein. Not in memory of.”
Is PUPPY CHOW overly sentimental? Maybe. But humor saves it. Is it for dog lovers only? Maybe. And then again, maybe not. Because the subtitle is right. Ozzy does save Bruce’s life. More, it’s about what we all, sick and well, must learn to expect from ourselves, no matter what. And finally, it’s about how the magic of love, even a dog’s love, can save us when we’re lost.