Ajax is one lucky dog.

The aging greyhound is the reigning prince in a long line (ten, to be exact) of canines that “people” Dog House: A Love Story, Carol Prisant’s just-released tale of love, loss, and a 42-year marriage. As the barometric pressure changed with the approach of a spring thunderstorm, soulful Ajax, rescued from the dog-racing track, quavered on his elegant ecru bed in the corner of Carol’s New York bachelorette apartment. Its Ionic columns, creamy hues and marble-smooth surfaces demonstrate a grand departure from the azure and claret period wallpapers and deeply-polished mahogany furniture found in the Gothic Victorian house she renovated and shared for so many years with her husband, Millard.

Carol’s memoir is a laugh-out-loud treat for those who know dogs and their antics. Many of their names alone tip the reader that a merry time awaits: Cosi Fan Tutte, Jimmy Cagney, and Juno, her favorite – a lurcher. Her story is also an engaging read for those with even a passing interest in interior design or what it takes to make a house a haven. She is, after all, a former antiques dealer and author of the Antiques Roadshow books (Workman) and Good Better Best (Penguin Putnam), and American editor for the British magazine World of Interiors.

“The funny thing is, I didn’t start writing until I was 51 years old,” Carol says in her soft voice, which her furred and four-legged mates must adore, and would give television’s “Dog Whisperer” a run for his money. “I had studied creative writing in college, but like a lot of women my age, husband and son were my focus. When you are raising children, you get no grades like you used to in school. When you get paid for what you do, you get an ‘A,’ and you feel valued.” She admits that “I was scared out of my mind when I did my first interview [for World of Interiors],” an assignment she solicited with a “blind” letter.

Since then, Carol has written hundreds of articles for top design magazines. But she never enjoyed any project as much as Dog House, inspired by the 1936 book All the Dogs of My Life, by author Elizabeth von Arnim, who also wrote Enchanted April. “I was never so thrilled every morning to get up and get to the computer. I couldn’t wait.  I was going to write only about all the good stuff; all about the dogs. I hate confessionals.”

That said, readers do learn that her mother-in-law told her son not to marry Carol because “she had bad teeth,” and that she had a thorny two-year business relationship with her beloved only son, Barden. For a passionate gardener, her life has not always been a bed of roses. About half way through writing this book, she says,  “I realized in not so many pages I was going to have to deal with Millard’s death. For weeks I had to drag myself out of bed but knew I had to get through. It was not a cathartic experience. It ended up being a terse section of the book which I tried to write dispassionately.” And with a truth and bravery that is compelling and remarkable on the page.

What did her dogs teach her about marriage? “That otherwise undemonstrative husbands can go all gaga over a dog – which is a good thing for both their health and the health of the marriage,” she says. As for canine kisses, “when husbands say, ‘Don’t,’ do.”

Certainly, Ajax will attest to the value of love and affection. Before being adopted by Carol, he didn’t even know how to wag his tail.

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  • MaryAnn Gaughan June 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Oh, how I can’t wait to read this book. I sent my daughter with my husband to the pet store one day just to have some father/daughter bonding time, and to my surprise they came home with a puppy that was rescued and too cute to send back. Now 7 years, and many, many antics later I can’t help but love this crazy, but endearing dog. Thanks for the review of something I completely relate ti.

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  • Christie Mattioda June 4, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Since my married daughter rescued a dog from a shelter, our once ‘dogless’ home, has been transformed to the world of pet loving family! This is a book that sparks interest for me.

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  • Jill June 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Though we have a dog, I am not really a dog person, but I’ve read this book, and loved the dog as well as the people stories. What I found most touching, heartrending and beautifully written, though, was the part Carol says was “terse” and the hardest to write about–the illness and loss of her husband. She writes with such clarity, honesty and restraint that her story becomes all the more powerful.

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  • Julie Sullivan June 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I resisted getting a dog for many years, even bragged about being the final hold-out in my large family of dog owners. Now I cannot imagine my life without Libby, my energetic, loving but crazy labradoodle. I wanted a dog with personality and I got one. As I have bocome a dog lover, however, I realize they all have personalities. They are the most unconditionally loving creatures on earth. I would love to read the book.

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  • Peggy Riley June 4, 2010 at 11:44 am

    My husband and I were never big dog lovers until our children convinced us to get one. It is amazing how we all fell in love with him. ( especially my husband, who won’t admit it) This sounds like an interesting read.

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  • Patti Farmar June 2, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I am not a dog lover but this sounds like it has more to offer to move me to read it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  • Liz Tutton June 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Some people can only relate to animals who have shown with their childlike love and affection that love really does conquer all. Somehow, certain people cannot express their affection to other people because of fear of rejection or worse, but they are easily engaged and affectionate to their pets. If we give love and affection to our pets, they return it tenfold, as the best investment of human emotion there is. How wonderful that you can relate to this and show us all why God put them in our lives in the first place! Scientific studies show even fish know their caretakers, and my tortoise would walk up steps to see me if he heard my voice!Thank you!

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