She snuggles under the covers with her German shepherd mix, whips out pooch photos for friends and splurges on Frosty Paws (a canine version of ice cream cups). Boston Phoenix columnist Caroline Knapp knows she's over the top—"precisely the kind of dog owner the media likes to make fun of," she says. But when the writer first spotted her mutt in a shelter two years ago, she was melancholy and unmoored; her parents had died and she had made a harrowing journey from alcoholism to sobriety. As Knapp paused to examine Lucille, the pup squatted and peed, and her sweet vulnerability pierced her new owner's heart.
Knapp obsesses about house-training and discipline, worries that she's projecting her neuroses onto the animal and wonders if Lucille's companionship cost her a longtime boyfriend. Though Knapp can be tiresome and cerebral, she redeems herself with a recollection of her family's old elkhound, whose big heart finally gave out one summer on Martha's Vineyard; Knapp's mother kept Toby's ashes in her bedroom—and was buried alongside her dog, not her husband. The story of a woman and her best friend should be mushy. (Dial, $21.95)