Book lovers, welcome to our fourth installment of Gilligan’s Barks and Books book reviews!
Ever since Gilligan arrived in his new forever home, one of his favorite pastimes has been to curl up next to Papa while he enjoys a good read. It didn't take too long before Gilly started nudging at Papa to include him somehow in whatever activity this was. One thing led to another, and Papa found that Gilligan actually enjoys sitting quietly while the book is being read aloud. And thus, the tradition of "Gilly's story-time" was born.
Earlier reviews have focused on Ben Bova’s Grand Tour series, which consists of over 20 science fiction novels about the expansion of human civilization to the rest of the solar system, and beyond. We’re excited to bring you more reviews of books from this series in the future.
Today we kick off the first of our reviews of a book series that is very near and dear to the heart of our hero, Gilligan. We are talking of course about the Dachshund-themed 🙂 short stories of author Stella Dillenbeck’s “Dachshund Rescue Series.”
About the Books
There are 24 books in total, not all of which have been published. Since the stories are short (roughly 5,000 words each), we will be sharing reviews of 6 of them at a time, starting today with the first 6 books.
With some variation, each book is inspired by a different type of Dachshund and follows the life of one (and in some cases multiple) Dachshund(s), and deals with different stories and events in the animals’ lives ranging from happy to heartbreaking.
Each of the below reviews contains a link to where you can purchase the book online. The books are only 99 cents each, with the exception of book #4, which is FREE. Every penny of your purchase is donated to the New Mexico Dachshund Rescue.
About the Author
Living in Oregon for more than 53 years, Stella Dillenbeck and her husband moved to New Mexico in 2006 where they became involved with New Mexico Dachshund Rescue. Hearing so many Dachshund stories that needed to be told, Stella began writing soon after retiring.
Without further ado, below is our review of each of the six books, giving you the title of the book; what type of Dachshund the book is inspired by; a brief plot introduction; our overall thoughts; and finally our rating (all reviews are rated out of a pawsible 5 paws).
Inspired by the Little Angel Dachshund
Frizbee is a Dachshund who is referred to by various characters throughout the book as “Little Angel,” because he has a pattern on his fur resembling little angel wings. We follow Frizbee from his birth in a puppy litter through a series of traumatic experiences that include reckless abandonment and multiple house-hoppings before landing in his “forever home” where we join him until his peaceful decline.
Overall, this story tugs at the heartstrings. You really feel for the poor puppy Dachshund, especially when he is abandoned. The book is poignant in its portrayal of a young couple who adopt the dog but are unable to make the situation work. There is less consideration given to describing the impact of the traumatic experiences on the dog’s psyche long-term, and instead we are given a smoother story of salvation for our wayward pickle-shaped protagonist.
In terms of the writing style, Dillenbeck shared with us that her readers tend to provide feedback that the later books become stronger, beginning with about the fifth book. You can see the below reviews for our opinion on the development of the series through to book six, but as for this first installment we would agree that the writing style is underdeveloped and indeed does get stronger over the course of the series. In this book most of the writing centers around the physical actions that take place. This makes sense as conveying more of the feeling of the dog’s point of view, but gives us less of a window into the human characters.
Our Rating for The Adventures of Frizbee:
A near tear-jerker with good plot elements and details, but still developing stylistically.
Inspired by the White Piebald Dachshund
The story of Pearl is one of intense suffering initially, followed by wonderfully warm scenes of times of adventures and cuddles that will sound all-too-familiar to anyone who has owned a Dachshund. There is no shortage of tragedy in the story, but once again we get to experience the joy of seeing the main canine character find her “forever home,” and then decline peacefully.
Through the Pearly Gate describes some of the details of the characteristics of the breed much more successfully than the first book did. Whereas Frizbee’s story didn’t explore the topic of post-traumatic stress, this one gives us a constant theme of the echoing results of an abuse-based trauma on the young dog throughout her life that realistically described.
The conclusion may stretch a bit far in some of its talk of the companionship of a Dachshund “making up for” the loss of a spouse, though the manner in which it does this is endearing to the main plot.
Our Rating for Through the Pearly Gate:
While there are some striking advances in the writing style, the conclusion is somewhat less engaging than the first novel, and feels somewhat formulaic in its plot elements. For these reasons we feel it is one of the weaker of the stories, though still worth the read for its redeeming elements.
Inspired by the Gray and Black Dapple
The third book in the series captures several great features of the delightful side of a Dachshund, with its picture of the star, Dotty as a “drama queen” and descriptions of how she plays up her cuteness and learns tricks that both melt the hearts of her owners and help her to get her way. There were a lot of traits described that many Dachshund owners will directly relate to from experience, and a couple of laugh-out-loud moments.
That said, Dotty moves quickly through many home situations, and because of this there isn’t really much in the way of development of any given human character or set of human characters.
The one character that Dotty spends the most time with is a lady named Isabel. It takes the reader some time to appreciate this relationship as Isabel iss introduced as sort of a “background character” and never really feels moved to the foreground even after she becomes more of the primary caretaker for Dotty.
Our Rating for Adorable Dotty:
Of the first six stories, this one is probably the weakest. It is beginning to follow a bit of a predictable formula with the multiple moves for the dachshund, and also following the life of the dog all the way to her death. The formula itself is not bad, but this story felt a bit rushed along to where the reader didn’t develop as much of a sense for the other characters in the book along the way.
A Tribute to Dachshund Fosters
The fourth story in the series departs from the formula of following a single Dachshund as its main character, and instead follows a single couple of pet parents. We found this change of pace to be quite refreshing in that it allowed for a feeling of consistency that the earlier books lacked; whereas in the first few stories, each one contains several sets of human characters that we only become somewhat acquainted with, this story allows us to “wear the shoes” of a single family and follow them throughout the entire narrative. We feel for Jaylee and Henry as they experience heartbreak and move through the various chapters of pet parenthood. In this sense, the flow of the narrative and character development feels more natural than in the first three books.
This story is not without its sadness; we experience the untimely loss of two Dachshunds, as well as the disappearance of a cat, and ultimately the death of a final third Dachshund. Here, Dillenbeck explores tough conflict scenarios that are hard to read because they are based on events that we recognize from real life, like young children harming or taunting neighborhood pets, or pets going missing or otherwise coming into harm. As upsetting as those experiences are, in the book they are vivid and valuable in how they both caution the reader to be more vigilant in the care of a Dachshund (or any pet), and remind us to cherish the time we have together with our furry friends that much more.
Our Rating forThe Changing of the Guard:
While the author has chosen to offer this book for free because it is a “harder read” in its darker subject matter, and breaks the mold of following a Dachshund protagonist, we found the fourth book to be very strong. The story touches upon fears that are very real for any pet owner, or at least should be. All of this is told through the lens of a single couple whose character development we feel throughout the way, to where there is a deeper connection for the reader to the journey of the protagonists.
Inspired by Bonded Siblings – Bonded for Life
The story of Onyx and Jasper brings us into a more upbeat overall vibe than the first four books of the series. Here, the story centers around two bonded dachshunds, with a surprise early on in that they themselves are about to be parents!
We are given the pleasure of many activities that the human couple and the dogs do with one another, including their day-to-day snuggles and warm moments at home, as well as a host of adventures traveling in a new retirement RV.
The book is somewhat lacking in information early on that helps us connect strongly and get a sense for the main characters, Dachshunds included, though by the end we are endeared to them through a journey of quite a few anecdotes of experiences they share together, many of which are bound to make any dachshund owner smile.
Our Rating for Onyx and Jasper – the Rock Hounds:
There is a clear turning point in the series with the fifth book, which has a more jubilant style and brings us a lot of fun and whimsy, while keeping a freshness of plot elements that feels less bounded by the formula established by the earlier books. The pacing is slow at first, and then very fast, with a lot of the action happening in the latter half of the story.
Inspired by the Red Dapple Dachshund
Technically a sequel that follows the story of one of the puppies introduced in the previous book, The Doggy Corral is a fantastic story of a family of a wife, husband, and three boys who adopt a Dachshund puppy onto their farm, which is complete with existing livestock and an old German Shepherd.
This story stands apart from the rest largely because of its strong human characters whom we’re made to care about right from the beginning, in addition to its poignant portrayal of the death of a family dog. The setting of the farm has a richness in terms of the human activities the author describes, as well as the animal interactions that the Dachshund characters experience.
The actual “Doggy Corral” described at the end is a bit tacked on to be able to deliver the significance you would want from it being the namesake of the story, but this does very little to diminish how vibrant the book is.
Our Rating for The Doggy Corral:
Overall The Doggy Corral stands out as by far the strongest of the first six books. We begin with very relatable family characters, and the pacing of the story is such that we really get a glimpse into the human characters’ experiences of their own lives, centered around their adoption of and raising of the dogs in the book. The story is full of real delight, engaging drama, and poetic descriptions of the cycle of life that are unique and touching (compelling shades of Old Yeller and Babe).
In upcoming episodes of our Barks and Books book reviews, we’re going to be bringing you the next six books of the “Dachshund Rescue Series,” Farside by Ben Bova (of the Grand Tour series), and lastly Paddle Your Own Canoe by actor Nick Offerman of the popular television series Parks and Recreation.
See you then!
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Disclosure: Author Stella Dillenbeck has offered free manuscripts of her books to the author of this blog in exchange for honest reviews and direct feedback; the author of this blog receives no financial compensation for these reviews, or in any way that is associated with the sales of the Dachshund Rescue Series books. Links in this article that lead to books by other authors and other media will bring the user to that work’s page on Amazon.com. The links themselves are generated using the Amazon Affiliate program, which means that the author of this site will earn a small sales commission on any purchases of items accessed through these links. Book and other product reviews on WagsAhoy.com are always the honest opinion of the author.
Photos courtesy of New Mexico Dachshund Rescue and author Stella Dillenbeck.
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