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For dog lovers, this memoir will be enjoyable

Author Lauren Watt acquired a very big friend — about 160 pounds of English Mastiff —one summer when she was home from college. On a whim, she and her mother went to see some mastiff puppies advertised in the paper; when they decided they couldn’t leave without buying one, they kept up a pretense (at least in front of Lauren’s father) that this was a “foster dog” who would be going to a permanent home “eventually.”
The puppy, which Lauren named Gizelle after the main character in her favorite movie (“Enchanted”), grew at an alarming pace.

“How big is this dog gonna get? Is it me, or is she growing kinda fast?” asked her father one day.

With the puppy already a solid 50 pounds, Lauren struggled to pick up the puppy and demonstrate how petite she was, really. Deep down, she knew she wasn’t fooling her Dad. And, deep down, her dad knew he wouldn’t make her give up Gizelle.

After college, Lauren moved from her home state of Tennessee to New York City — and she planned to take the now fully-grown Gizelle with her. Lauren worried about whether there was a space for rent anywhere in the city she could afford that could accommodate herself, her roommate, and a giant dog, but they did luck into the perfect place — a ground floor apartment that even had a tiny enclosed yard.

The next step was acclimating Gizelle to her new surroundings. No more rolling, grass-covered country hills to run on. How would Gizelle adapt to the roar of traffic, the sidewalk crowds, and the small apartment? It turned out that Gizelle adapted just fine; it was their neighbors in New York that had trouble adapting to an enormous canine, who regularly caused even jaded “seen-it-all” city dwellers to stop in their tracks, stare, swear, and even timidly ask if they could touch Gizelle.

As is the case with giant dog breeds, Gizelle’s life expectancy wasn’t as long as some other dogs, so Lauren felt a bucket list was in order, which included things like eating ice cream, a boat ride, and even selecting a Halloween pumpkin together.

“It’s pretty sweet, the way Gizelle watches you,” commented her dad. “Like she’s your mom,” he added, a bittersweet recognition of the fact that Lauren’s own mother, who struggled with addictions, was often not there for Lauren in the role of mother.

Readers who have a special bond with their pets will really enjoy this memoir with photos about a large, friendly dog. Check out “Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life With a Very Large Dog,” by Lauren Fern Watt, at Carlsbad Public Library.

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