I can’t say I have read a lot of books about dogs, especially ones which have made me cry. But after reading SAVING SUSIE-BELLE – RESCUED FROM A PUPPY FARM: ONE DOG’S UPLIFTING TRUE STORY I suspect I may start to make a habit of it. Let me explain how I came to read it.

All my life I have lived in a home with Jack Russells. Our Jack Russell, Gio, died in July 2011 at the age of twelve. We were both bereft and couldn’t quite imagine how we could ever get another dog. It seemed as though we would be betraying Gio’s memory. If you don’t own a dog, or are not a doggy person you will think I’ve lost leave of my senses, but his loss hit us just as hard as the death of a human member of our family would have. In the weeks that followed the house seemed so empty. Then one day John and I both decided that we would indeed get another dog. I tentatively suggested we get two dogs so they could be company for each other. Much to my surprise John said he had been having the same thoughts. The only question was would we get one Jack Russell or two. In the end we got a Jack Russell called Dude and a Miniature Schnauzer called Bubba. He came from a breeder in Romford. We tried to get puppies from Battersea, where Gio had come from, but they didn’t have any of either breed. John also went to what turned out to be a puppy farm in Hastings to look at a Jack Russell, but was so horrified by what he saw he came back empty handed, despite wanting to scoop up every poor puppy wo lived there and bring the whole lot home.

Dude and Bubba have both been a joy and are devoted to each other, which is a relief. They are the sweetest, most loving dogs anyone could wish for. Gio could be a bit nippy. He didn’t like children or people on bikes. He even bit me once, which I found profoundly upsetting! These two wouldn’t know the meaning of the word ‘bite’ let alone know what to do.

Several months ago I was flicking through the Daily Mail and came across a double page spread about how a woman called Janetta Harvey had rescued a Miniature Schnauzer from a puppy farm. She described the horrors experienced by dogs who are kept purely to breed and the horrendous conditions they live in. It turned out she had written a book about her own experience, so I decided to buy it.

The subtitle of the book uses the word ‘uplifting’ and it really is. It’s also very upsetting if you are someone like me and cannot comprehend how anyone can treat dogs badly. The story is all about Susie-Belle, a Miniature Schnauzer who was used an abused by a puppy farm, but now lives with Janetta and her chef-husband Michel. It tells how she was rescued from the puppy farm, and slowly but surely overcame her nervousness and fear of human beings. She turns out to be a real character but it took a very long time for the Harvey family to bring her out of her shell. The poor dog had been traumatised and had no understanding of the basics of dog-human interaction. But slowly but surely, over a long period of time a bond of trust started to build between Susie-Belle and Janetta, and her other Miniature Schnauzer, who became her step-sister. There are some incredibly touching moments, and this is a book you shouldn’t read without a tissue by your side. I read it over several train journeys and I often wondered what my fellow passengers made of the fact that they were sitting opposite a 51 year old man with tears running down his face. I may be a silly old Hector, but this book is THAT good.

It is also a book which makes dog owners examine their own motives for owning dogs and how they treat them. Several times I got some really good ideas for how to improve the lives of our two dogs, although there were also one or two occasions when I took issue with Janetta’s approach to dogs, especially over their diets. I think dogs like routine, and they also like routine in their diets. That’s not to say they can’t have treats, but I don’t think rich diets do dogs any good. I certainly don’t think dogs needs the kind of variety in their diets, or the amount of fresh food which Janetta’s dogs no doubt enjoy very much!

Anyway, if you own a dog, or ever have done, you will absolutely love this book. It’s a gripping read and when it finishes you wish it hadn’t. I can’t give a higher recommendation that that.

SAVING SUSIE-BELLE – RESCUED FROM A PUPPY FARM: ONE DOG’S UPLIFTING TRUE STORY is published by John Blake Publishing in hardback at £12.99