"Ivan!: A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love, and Leashes," by Tim McHugh, Turner Publishing, 218 pages, $21.95, hardcover

In another tale of ugly shelter dog meets loving family, Tim McHugh's "Ivan!: A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love, and Leashes," takes a very different approach.

This book, labeled "creative nonfiction," is told completely from Ivan's point of view. Although where Ivan's thoughts end and the author's begin is often blurred. It's more philosophy than tear-jerker.

Ivan is pretty deep for a one-eyed, three-legged, snaggletooth, lumpy-headed canine. While he does do the normal doggie things -- chasing animals, foraging for scraps -- he spends most of his life searching for his true purpose and the meaning of life. He commonly references literature and music.

This mix of doggie-dumb and incredible intelligence makes for a fun ride. If there is any criticism, it's that it seems as the story moves along, we hear more of McHugh in Ivan's head than Ivan.

Ivan's unusual take on life, love and Tolstoy may cause readers to look at their own dogs in a new way.

"Ivan! A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love and Leashes" by Tim McHugh (Turner, 21.95, 218 pages): In Ivan's "memoir" the one-eyed, three legged pound puppy grows up in a loving home of humans, the subject of his insights and curiosity.  The emotions and humor he shows along the way are inspiring and moving.  As he "writes": "My nature is love. It's that simple."

What would your giftee's dog say if he could write a book? In "Ivan! A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love, and Leashes" by Tim McHugh, you'll get a taste of what a pooch might postulate. This is a cute book, written from a dog's POV. Fetch. Sit. Read.

I love a good dog story


Editor of Hudson Valley Parent. Wife, mother of two teenagers and, just like you, I am trying to figure out all this parenting stuff.

I had the opportunity to take a long train ride on Saturday which provided valuable reading time.  This day I took the book, Ivan! A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love, and Leashes, by Tim McHugh.  I love dog stories, am a sucker for dog stories, and know that at the end I will cry.  (Much like knowing there’s a tearful scene in every Disney movie!)

This book covers the life of this mixed breed – whatever - that had a rough beginning, i.e.,abandonment, having his face almost ripped off by another dog, and if that wasn’t enough, being stepped on.  That gave him a bit of insecurity as well as a funny-shaped head and an misaligned jaw.  Discovered by a passerby, and then brought to a shelter, we hear Ivan tell us what he’s thinking and feeling, and it all seems to work.  Author and Ivan’s pet owner, McHugh, wrote this work of “creative, non-fiction” to delve into what our furry canine friends might actually be thinking as they go about their lives in a family, with kids, a cat, and relatives who come and go.  It all seems very believable, and as dog owner, I felt that in many cases, what Ivan thought could easily be believed.  When we live with an animal, we can almost (or we can almost for sure) understand their intentions by their body language.

I have a Mini-Schnauzer named Tuscany.  She is a peach of a dog, and I can tell what she’s thinking the moment I get into the house.  She jumps around (obviously, she is happy), she wanders around at my feet (still happy), and then the minute I sit, she is on my lap (she is thrilled beyond words.).  I look her straight in her little brown eyes and say, “out?”  and she jumps down to the floor (delirious).  I get my coat, her leash, and a few treats for my pocket.  At the door, I just have to look at her, and she knows to sit.  Her little body is trembling with great joy.  I open the door, and her body trembles all the more.  I open the automatic garage door opener, and still she waits, listening for me to say, “go.” 

When I do, she is out the door in a flash, jumping and spinning in circles, and heads for our play area.  She never runs off to chase anything, even if a critter is nearby, since this playtime is just the most wonderful thing.  Even more wonderful than a squirrel.  It’s my most favorite part of the day because it’s total pantomime, and there’s not many opportunities I get to bring such pure joy to a living thing.  (Except when I ask my teen if she wants to go to the mall, and even that is sort of iffy.)

What I learned from reading Ivan, which I enjoyed very much, by the way, is this: it was a quick read, filled with comic misadventures that most dogs get into, but hearing it from their point of view is interesting, and most times — at least in Ivan’s case — they are done with the most innocent of intentions.  Ivan enjoys a long life, although at one point, he loses a leg to cancer, but continues on, and actually learns to run and play on three legs.  We are reminded about the adaptabilty of dogs, and how they don’t fault the whole human race for a few that mistreat their kind.  Of course, at the end, Ivan gives a glimpse into the time that dog’s soul moves on, and how they even accept that as another life adventure.

Book Review: IVAN!

November 4, 2011 by Paris and John  
Filed under Books, Our Reviews

Book: IVAN!: A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love, and Leashes

Author: Tim McHugh

Publisher: Turner Publishing, Nashville, TN

DogTipper Review: It’s amazing when you think about all the really high quality dog-centric literature which is being written today. I think it is safe to say that we are enjoying a kind of Renaissance period of canine literature, judging from the writing we have recently sampled at DogTipper. The genre is attracting gifted authors, many of whom have already excelled at other kinds of journalism and are now focusing their talents toward exploring the dog-centric universe.

Be it fiction or non-fiction, there is a wealth of great writing featuring our favorite furry companions, much of it written in the past few years. One recent example is Tim McHugh’s IVAN!: A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love, and Leashes, a work of “creative nonfiction” which recounts Ivan’s story from injured, unwanted puppy with a bleak future to a beloved member of the McHugh family. Tim McHugh is a professional musician, composer, teacher and author of The Poet Chronicles.

The book is told completely in Ivan’s voice: by turns witty, funny, and philosophical, as Ivan the one-eyed pound mutt discovers his place in the world. Many of his insights include references to Russian literature, Tolstoy in particular. Ivan explains that the Russian author “has been a huge influence on our entire household” and that his name probably reflected that influence. So, which Ivan was he named for? Ivan says that it was probably the Tolstoy character Ivan Illych “who achieved enlightenment at the end of his life…I’m not sure what enlightenment is but I hear the word a lot around our house…I think I’m just a dog.”

Although just a dog, and a unique looking one at that (“I’m a one-eyed, three-legged pound dog with a lumpy head and an underbite, as well as a side-ways snaggletooth” he says in the “Introdogtion”[sic]), Ivan has a stout, loving heart, a sharp wit, and, despite his protestations, a sincere thirst for knowledge.

The arc of his life with his family, punctuated with triumphs and sorrows, will be a familiar one to dog people, but Ivan’s musings imbue the narrative with a unique flavor. Readers will love getting to know this Tolstoy-quoting canine and may learn a few things about their own pets (and about themselves) in the process. One could even call it enlightenment.

Price: $21.95 list. Turner Publishing is donating part of the proceeds from the book to animal rescue organizations.

For More Information:

visit www.turnerpublishing.com

Disclaimer: We received a copy of this book for review. We were not paid for our review and all statements and opinions are our own.



Ivan!: A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love, and Leashes

Following in the footsteps of Barbara Bush's Millie's Book, McHugh offers thoughts on life from the perspective of his family dog, Ivan. Ivan muses about his name, wondering if his master had the Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible in mind. However, as he notes: "Since people tell me that, in spite of how funny looking I am, I'm a good dog, let's just say that I'm Ivan the Good." He also offers his thoughts on a variety of subjects (views presumably shared by McHugh) from obedience training to breed snobbery, and the omnipresent leash that reminds him of a snake wriggling behind his back. Genuinely funny incidents abound, such as when Ivan climbs a rickety ladder and gets stuck in an attic. This appealingly simple debut book conveys the love of family and the joys of a life lived in harmony with nature. (Oct.)


Battle-scarred yet easygoing, Ivan the pound dog inspires book about life's better values

Tim McHugh is well-known for his acoustic folk-rock band, The Lost Poets.   Now a married father of three, he was recently inspired to write about his family pet. McHugh reads from and talks about his book, "Ivan! A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love, and Leashes," at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at Village Books.

Question: Talk about your transition from musician to writer.

Answer: Tim McHugh & the Lost Poets was a big part of the Bellingham music scene during the '90s but I'm still writing music. In fact, both my writing and music came together recently when I wrote a bluesy song, "Pound Dog King." I combined it with some hilarious old videos and pictures of my dog Ivan, in whose voice my book is written, and posted it on YouTube. 

I always thought Ivan, who maintained his easygoing attitude despite having lumps on his head, a missing eye, crooked teeth and a dramatic underbite, would make a great inspirational character, so I wrote "Ivan! A Pound Dog's View of Life, Love and Leashes" from his point of view.   My literary agent-turned-friend fell in love with both Ivan and the story, and with persistence was able to secure a publishing deal.

Q: What's your day job?

A: I'm privileged to teach English at State Street High School in Sedro-Woolley. It is a publicly funded alternative school and I work with what many would consider at-risk youth.  The kids I teach remind me a lot of Ivan in that they're often judged unfairly by their appearances and backgrounds, but, like Ivan, they more than make up for that in character. My students were part of the inspiration to write the book - they're all underdogs, after all.

Q: Throughout the book you refer to many philosophical points of view, namely Tolstoy, Thoreau, Emerson and Descartes. How do those writers and thinkers influence who you are, and why did you integrate them into your "dog philosophy"?

A: Tolstoy, Thoreau and Emerson's belief in simplicity as the key to happiness has always inspired me. Ivan embodied that simplicity. Ivan's name was actually inspired by Tolstoy's own classic character, Ivan Illych, a "model" citizen who did everything he was supposed to as he climbed the social ladder only to find that in the end that he'd missed a lot of life.

Naming Ivan after Tolstoy's character was purposely ironic, since a dog could care less about social status or credentials. Though the world laughed at Ivan's looks and he survived some pretty rough times, he loved everybody and never stopped wagging his tail - especially at mealtime! I think that's a great role model.

Q: What does your family think of the book?

A: My family loves it! While writing the book we reminisced about stories I had forgotten. Ivan was there through all of life's seasons, from the birth of our kids at home to the passing of my father and other elders in the family.

Q: How did your father influence you as you were growing up?

A: My dad was a lot like Ivan - bighearted and easygoing, even though he did suffer physically. Ivan and my Dad inspired me to embrace and love life every day no matter how I'm feeling.

Q: You continue to have many roles in our community; teacher, musician, community activist, dad and father. Dog owner. How do you integrate all that you do?

A: I have an incredible wife and wonderful kids and we're all passionate and supportive about what we each do. The YouTube music video features my son Casey on the violin, and Morgan's singing with me, along with Kristina and Dana Lyons.

Q: Ivan was a pound dog: any thoughts on adopting them as pets?

A: I think pound dogs (meaning strays, mutts, or shelter dogs) make the ultimate pets, and Ivan manifests their greatest qualities. Ivan's a battle-scarred veteran of life, yet he happily wags his tail regardless of his condition, giving love without hesitation; a good example for us all. I hope his story will inspire others to adopt pets from shelters. In fact, Turner Publishing is donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book to animal rescue organizations, which would have made Ivan proud.



Book Review: Ivan! A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love and Leashes by Tim McHugh

A simply written, non-fiction(-ish) tale as told from a Bellingham (WA) dog’s point of view, “Ivan! A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love and Leashes” is a love story about “a one-eyed, snaggle-toothed” homeless mixed-breed (that “looks like Nick Nolte”) and his found family.

Not a difficult read by any stretch of the imagination, it was nonetheless a nice break from the string of thrillers, horror novels and how-to books that I usually read.

Really a lesson about acceptance and looking beyond appearance, Ivan! should also be required reading for any family on the fence about adopting a shelter dog. To read in the dog’s own words about the heartbreak of smiling faces at the cage, and lovely times spent with potential families, only to have them disappear is heart-wrenching to say the least.

If you can get past the implausibility of having a dog wax philosophical now and then, or quote classic Russian writers like Leo Tolstoy, then you will find this book to be humorous, heartwarming and adventurous. Of course, you already have excellent suspension of disbelief skills if you can accept that a dog “wrote” this book and not a rural alternative high school English teacher named Tim McHugh.

Throughout the course of the story, we learn not just about Ivan’s life and rough beginning (he was stepped on the head as a stray puppy and wound up in an animal shelter) but also about Tim; an earthy, crunchy type who built his own house and home schooled his kids.

He also failed to learn the life lesson that if you climb a mountain with your dog and you both almost die, it may be best not to do it again. Fear not, Ivan survived the mountain. He had other challenges to endure though; the loss of a leg being one of them.

The book’s jacket photo could have been more representative of Ivan’s unique look. There are more accurate photos on the inside as well as on his website.



Ivan! A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love and Leashes

In this unique twist on the “Dog Memoir”, author Tim McHugh brings us Ivan, the one-eyed, three-legged philosophizing mutt with a serious underbite and a penchant for classic literature.

The story is told by Ivan, as he makes the journey from damaged pound dog to beloved family companion in McHugh’s home. But Ivan is not your typical dog. He has big questions and big thoughts. Ivan is an admirer of Tolstoy, Descartes, and Thoreau, and often ruminates about their philosophies as he tries to answer life’s biggest questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? And, why am I always hungry?

 Ivan, it turns out, is an excellent observer. He treats the reader to life from a dog’s point of view and psychological perspective. That includes all the things going on at the dog park that humans miss; the tiniest of changes in a family member’s movements that herald illness; the absolute importance of looking after the pack; and the utter joy of spending time with friends you don’t get to see often.

The dog on the book cover is not exactly Ivan; he is an idealized and perfect Ivan. He is the Ivan that lives inside of the broken pound dog; confident, proud, intelligent and beautiful. The real fur and blood Ivan was sometimes referred to as an alligator, a grizzly bear, a malamute that had his head stepped on, and a gargoyle. But author McHugh enforces a thought that all dog lovers have: there is no such thing as an ugly dog. All dogs have a generosity of spirit, an optimism, and a grace that makes them beautiful. Even though Ivan knows he is funny-looking, he also knows that in his family’s eyes he is perfect.

Tim McHugh is a professional musician, a composer, and a teacher. He earned a BA in Creative Writing from Western Washington University. McHugh teaches English in an alternative high school in northern Washington. This is his second book. His debut novel The Poet Chronicles was published in 2004.

Ivan! A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love, and Leashes can be purchased on Amazon, or at Cleveland area Barnes & Noble stores.

 Hardcover: 218 pages



Ivan! A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love and Leashes


Ivan! A Pound Dog's View on Life, Love and Leashes is a wonderful read

This book is written in a first-person narrative from the point of view of Ivan, a "one-eyed, three-legged pound dog with a lumpy head and an underbite, as well as a sideways snaggletooth that frequently gets caught on garments and stuff." Ivan, was adopted as a pound dog to the McHugh family, and he tells his adventures of sniffing other dogs at the dog park,  meeting other strays, family dynamics (owner and narrator Tim McHugh gains a job teaching at alternative high school and this employment means lots more kibble for Ivan), views on world affairs and politics (I would propose fifty billion dollars spent on new off-leash parks), and investigates life b.i. (before Ivan). 

At the end of Ivan's story, he is slowing down, has a cancerous lesion removed and loses a leg (who needs four legs, wisely asks Ivan?). As Agnes Sligh Turnbull once famously said, Dogs lives are too short. Their only fault, really.

Check out Ivan's book when it is out in October 2011, and as Ivan so succinctly states--stop and smell the shrubs!





Ivan! A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love, and Leashes

This is a great book because “it provides a voice for adopted dogs.” We read all about Ivan’s life (both the good and the bad aspects), and we learn how mistakes made can be corrected. We see how adopting a dog makes changes not only for the dog, but for the people he lives with. Hopefully, after reading this book, more people will take a trip to the shelter to look around and come home with the soon-to-be love of their lives.