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The Dog Walker    by Leslie Schnur order for
Dog Walker
by Leslie Schnur
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nina Shepherd has put her ambitions (but not her curiosity) on hold, while taking on her best friend Claire's job as a 'dog walker' (Claire 'the Perspiring Actress' is working a short-term gig in L.A.). Nina holds the keys to her clients' apartments and, in between walking their pooches, can't resist snooping into their lives. She's left her job in publishing without regrets, and is enjoying her present state of limbo, while creating unusual sculptures from oddments she picks up on the streets of New York.

She has a grab bag of clients. There's the comedy director who keeps his energetic yellow lab Luca locked in the back office. There's an 'insane U2 groupie', whose dog is named Che and whose son Bono is neglected. There's older Mrs. Chandler, who has a past, a mysterious income, and a canine named Safire. And there's lawyer Daniel, a man that Nina has never met, but on whom she's developed a monumental crush. Though he reads 'Dick Lit', not 'Chick Lit', and their tastes in music differ, she really, really wants to meet him. But, just as Nina is not quite who she pretends to be, the man who looks like Daniel, and lives in his apartment, is actually his twin brother, top IRS agent, trombone-playing Billy, who's doing some snooping of his own. We first encounter Nina, taking a bath in Daniel's apartment after walking his dog Siddhartha (Sid). Then Billy returns unexpectedly, and the stage is set for hilarity.

It's easy to relate to Nina, her quirks and foibles, her friendship with Claire (who returns from California for a role in the story), her compassion for Bono (who often accompanies her on walks), and her embarrasment about her comedy of errors encounters with Billy. At first, I thought this was a typical chick lit offering, but there's much more to the novel. Nina, an observer of many lives (even her own), eventually takes her courage in her hands, and (singing 'Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match ...') exploits her insider information to improve her clients' lives. The Dog Walker is a delightful, unexpected, feel good tale, definitely not just for dog lovers.

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