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The dog days don't have to get you down

Dog days. It's bad enough that these hot, muggy days can make us miserable. But how much worse to hear all the recent news of people with more money than they know what to do with trying to make even more money by engaging in a vicious sport that makes dogs miserable?

These dog days need some perking up, and a good dog book is sure to do the trick. The Gwinnett County Public Library offers more than 1,600 books about man's best friend.

For the youngest readers, the list includes favorites like the Biscuit books by Alyssa Satin Capucilli (Harper Festival) and "Clifford the Big Red Dog" by Norman Bridwell (Cartwheel, $3.99).

Personally, I always preferred the Carl series by Alexandra Day. My favorite is "Carl's Afternoon in the Park" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $6.95). I especially love the page where Carl and the infant he babysits plop down among a group of artists and each illustrates him in a unique style.

And speaking of artists, "Officer Buckle and Gloria" by Peggy Rathmann (Putnam Juvenile, $16.99) is worth looking at just for the Caldecott Award-winning illustrations. I also recommend "Only One Woof," by James Herriot (St. Martin's Press, $15.29), but maybe that's just because I grew up with a border collie.

Kate DiCamillo's "Because of Winn Dixie" (Walker Books, $5.99) is a favorite of older kids, and I've never met a middle-schooler who didn't love "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls (Yearling, $6.99), a real tear-jerker.

Speaking of tear-jerkers, there's one from my adolescence that I haven't seen in years. "Beautiful Joe," written by Margaret Marshall Saunders in 1893, was based on a true story about an abused dog and was one of the first literary venues that created worldwide awareness of animal cruelty.

Beautiful Joe's story had a happy ending which never actually ended because the Beautiful Joe Society (www.beautifuljoe.org.) continues to promote kindness towards animals in Joe's memory. The book is available through www.amazon.com or can be downloaded at www.gutenberg.org/etext/2818.

Skipping ahead through two centuries, the latest dog story on the market is written on three levels to capture readers of all ages. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Grogan wrote "Marley and Me" (William Morrow, $14.93), a laugh-out-loud story about his mischievous dog. He also wrote "Marley, a Dog Like No Other" (Collins, $11.55), which is the same story for young adults, and "Bad Dog, Marley" (Harper Collins, $11.55), a delightful picture book about the lead character written for tots.

And for anyone who is really touched by any of these stories and would love to provide a loving home to a deserving dog, what better way to spend dog days than to visit www.pupandcatco.com, www.gwinnettanimalcontrol.com or www.gwinnetthumane.com.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.