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It's Just a Dog

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What if your dog died and then came back as a ghost...that could talk? Would you welcome him back with open arms or run away scared to death?

Charlie Keefe is not just your typical dog lover –– he's a world famous dog painter, a.k.a. "The Picasso of Pooch Portraits". Unfortunately, Charlie's muse, Pete, his beloved Jack Russell terrier, has just died. And he's totally devastated by the loss of his furry best friend.

So, after months of grieving over his dearly departed soulmate and wondering if he ever made it to the Rainbow Bridge, Charlie reluctantly agrees to foster a new puppy –– a cute Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Brownie from the local shelter. Soon after, Charlie is surprised to find himself falling head over heels with this new puppy girl –– his 'Rebound Dog', as he calls her –– as well as being romantically attracted to Janelle Jordan, the head hound at the dog rescue.

But then complications arise when the ghost of his old dog, Pete, mysteriously reappears one night and comes back to haunt him and the new puppy –– setting off a bizarre chain of events that throw Charlie's life, career, and entire belief system into chaos!

Told with humor and emotion, IT'S JUST A DOG is a fresh, funny, heart-warming new take in the dogoir genre. If you've enjoyed such recent dog book classics as The Art of Racing in the Rain, A Dog's Purpose, and Marley & Me, then you are bound to find a place in your heart for IT'S JUST A DOG.

IT'S JUST A DOG is not just for dogs. It's for anyone who has ever lost a pet –– and learned to love again.

190 pages, Paperback

First published May 17, 2013

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About the author

Russ Ryan

2 books65 followers
Russ Ryan has written screenplays with the producers of American Pie, Fireflies in the Garden -- and was a writer on the teen comedy, National Lampoon's Replikate, starring Eugene Levy. In addition, he created the vintage movie poster blog, Meansheets. It's Just A Dog is his first novel.

"A funny and touching story if you've ever loved a dog." - Bernadette Peters

"For dog lovers and lovers of dog stories, it's a winner!" - Dorri Olds, Petside.com

"A witty, but heartfelt story about an artist coming to terms with the passing of his beloved dog." - LifeWithDogs.TV

"An hilariously wacky sad dog story!" - Grady Harp (Amazon Top 100 Hall of Fame Reviewer)

“If you read just one dead dog book this year, make this the one!” – Old Yeller

IT’S JUST A DOG is not just for dogs. It’s for people, too!” – Scooby Doo

“If books could kill...” – Cujo

“Do yourself a favor and take a bite out of this dog novel. Literally. I wish it had more pages. I ate it up in less than an hour!” – McGruff the Crime Dog

“Is this dog heaven? Nah, it’s just fiction. But I’ll take it.” – Lassie

“This sweet, catchy novel was like music to my ears!” – The RCA Dog

“Nice book, but I liked the movie better. And by that, I mean MY movie!” – My Dog Skip

“Romancing the bone!” – Benji

“Awww shucks, I loved it. And I can’t even read!” – Pete the Pup from Our Gang (a.k.a. The Little Rascals)

“It’s a gas!” – Walter the Farting Dog

“If I was granted three wishes, I’d wish that everybody take the time to read this enchanting new book…After Shakespeare and all the great Elizabethan poets, of course.” – Wishbone

“Whoever wrote this dog book is either bluffing, or they ain’t playing with a full deck. We’re ‘All In’!” – Dogs Playing Poker

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 187 reviews
9 reviews
July 2, 2013
Overall, I really ended up enjoying this book. It's Just A Dog was a good read, plain and simple. Parts of it made me cry as I read them aloud to my dogs (please tell me I'm not the only one who reads out loud to their dogs...). I actually had to stop reading, or read silently for a while, as certain parts of the book made my throat close and tears start leaking from my eyes.

Then, at the same time, there was always some kind of relief. Sometimes, it was a bit of dark humor at just the right place in the story. Other times, it was a funny story about Pete, or the destructive or irritating things that he did during (and after) his life. I think I would call this book a comedy, if I had to choose, though maybe more along the lines of a dark comedy. It deals with the very serious feelings of grief and depression associated with losing your dog, but does so in a fun to read way- without ever making light of the all consuming horribleness of losing your best friend.
Profile Image for James.
117 reviews
November 1, 2013
"It's just a Dog" is a little hard to place in a category; it's like a book within a book. The first 4 chapters are an accurate and sensitive description of how it feels when a beloved dog dies. (That's actually redundant. All dogs should be beloved; if they're not, it's probably your fault, not the dog's!) The rest of the book is off-the-wall humor (I think), but it's an entertaining read. Sometimes the language is unnecessarily obscene and his agnostic views of God sad, but I believe that Russ Ryan is a genuine dog lover. As a genuine dog lover myself, it would be hard for me not to like almost any book about dogs written by another dog lover. It's not the best book I ever read about dogs, but neither is it the worst. I'd love to see Russ put his play writing skills to work on this story. It would make a great play if some clever person could come up with an effective way of presenting ghost Pete on the stage. Actually, the book already reads like a script for a stage play.
Profile Image for Grady.
Author 50 books400 followers
May 21, 2013
An hilariously wacky sad dog story with more pathos than bathos

Russ Ryan doesn't come to this novel without background or credentials: he has written screenplays with the Hollywood producers of AMERICAN PIE, FINAL DESTINATION, and FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN and his own REPLI-KATE and he has probably absorbed more Hollywood history then most through his sidebar hobby blog meansheets.com that focuses on the art of movie posters going far back in time. From all of this exposure to dealing with dialogue, hearing movie ideas played out in the resource room, and staring at ideas that pop out from the great art of movie posters, he has come up with a very original and very wonderful first novel that should boost his career in the business (someone will doubtless option this book for a movie!) and provide hours of entertainment - and solace - to dog lovers, especially those who have gone through the loss of their `man's best friend. Ryan is a dog widower times two, sadly.

In a very casual conversational manner we meet a young artist who has a history as a child of losing a pet dog Starsky who was euthanized without much explanation. Jump to present time in Malibu, California and after our down and out artist (who goes by the name of Charlie Keefe) is dumped by his live-in girlfriend, he decides to go to the animal shelter and get a dog. And there is Pete - a mutt, but a Jack Russell Terrier who in a very brief time works his way into Charlie's heart and life. Charlie begins to paint dogs (sort of a `Thomas Kinkade knock-off imagery' of his main model Pete) and with Charlie's artist rep Donny's help the business becomes lucrative - The Picasso of Pooch Portraits - and Charlie and Pete become famous globetrotters. But of course Pete ages and while Charlie is on an exhibition trip to Paris, Pete dies and Donny cremates him. Charlie is completely devastated, unable to function and in the deepest level of grieving for Pete. Charlie meets bouncy Janelle who is committed to finding foster homes for orphaned or unwanted dogs and after the two strike up a `friendship' Charlie finally adopts Brownie, a Cavalier King Charles female, whose every cell speaks love and affection. Charlie and Brownie and Janelle bond and though Charlie retains the core of his heart for his deceased Pete, he loves Brownie, too.

Business starts to thrive again, and all is moving forward until Pete returns as a talking ghost dog - during a bed tumble featuring Charlie and Janelle. And from that point life becomes "complicated': Pete is a mouthy sass of a ghost, only Charlie can see him, and every one thinks Charlie has lost it. The rest of the story is a path that leads through a new relationship between Charlie and Pete, a disruption with Janelle and her transient paramour Milo, a new kind of painting that features Pete as a heavenly creature (a genre that fails to attracts Charlie Keefe's following) and a couple of car crashes and a temporary loss of Brownie - and to tell more would take away from the very fine ending of this story.

Where Russ Ryan takes us in this extremely impressive debut novel is not only into the realm of comedic writing, but also into that arena of gaining and losing a dog, the effect that dogs have on our lives, and the profound tragedy of becoming a dog widower. He can touch our hearts and compassion as competently as he can weave a fantasy story of the return of talking ghost dogs and never for a moment does he lose us. This is very fine writing from a very talented and generous artist: he is donating a portion of the proceeds to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. Buy this book for your own healing, for your entertainment, and for all the Petes out there!

Grady Harp
Profile Image for Kim.
681 reviews
June 13, 2013
First off, thanks to Russ Ryan for sending me his book. A must read for all dog lovers. A wonderfully charming story of a guy dealing with his dog's passing. Who says guys don't get all choked up when their best friend passes? Loved it! :)
Profile Image for Paula.
434 reviews
July 1, 2013
I received this book from the Goodreads Firstreads giveaway program. The author was very quick at getting this book out in the mail. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to read and review your book.

It's Just a Dog is Russ Ryan's first novel. Russ has firsthand experience with love and loss of multiple dogs. He really seems to understand all things related to dogs and owners including plastic poop bags (which are in every pocket of my clothes).

The book is about a man (Charlie)who adopts a shelter dog (Pete) and for the next several years develops a love and bond that most people do not understand unless they themselves have a dog. Pete the Jack Russell Terrier has an important role in Charlie's professional and personal life. Pete gets suddenly ill and has to be put to sleep. Charlie grieves the loss of his best friend. Months later he adopts another rescue dog (Brownie) and he starts to learn to love again. Until Pete returns as a talking dog ghost.. and things get a little crazy.

This book was a very enjoyable read. I will be recommending It's Just a Dog to my fellow dog lovers and friends.

The author is very generously donating a portion of his book sales to an animal organization.
Profile Image for Felissa.
2 reviews444 followers
July 28, 2013
It’s Just a Dog is an okay story. The problem is that the book tries very hard to be too many things. It is a touching story of a man and his dog that is also a ghost story and a romantic comedy all in one book. The romantic elements could have easily been left out of the story. It’s Just a Dog is a book that as a lot of potential to be on the best sellers list but was so jam packed with converging story lines that it could have been mulitple books.
Profile Image for Jana.
55 reviews
August 29, 2013
A rather "quirky" story about a man and his dog. I enjoyed it. Haven't you always wonder what YOUR dog would sound like if he could talk? I have!!! Pete was quite a character! Good job, Russ Ryan!
October 18, 2014
Not just a dog

For anyone who has loved and lost a dog. they are waiting for us at the gate. Very nice tale.
Profile Image for Sharon Martin.
374 reviews46 followers
December 13, 2015
This book will be adored not only by dog lovers but any animal lover who knows just how much owning a pet can change our lives. For me what sets this book apart from other dog stories is the author's witty light humour that expertly balances out the emotional side of the story, taking away the sadness as you find yourself laughing out loud.

Pete isn't your normal dog, he's a celebrity with his own personal painter/owner in tow, he even has his own Facebook and Twitter accounts and when he's no longer on this planet they have a doggy memorial party for him so his old pals could show their respect, which really did make me giggle. There is just one problem Pete can't move on until he knows that Charlie, his owner, has come to terms with the loss, so Pete has to return, bringing some great fun into the story. Without giving too much away the story introduces Brownie, a loveable King Charles Cavalier, fostered by Charlie from a dog farm owned by a rather clever and beautiful owner.

The writing of the author's true love, happiness and sadness in the story is fully appreciated and you can totally connect with the sheer joy, frustrations and sadness of owning a pet. Describing the loss of Pete, the emotions felt by not only Charlie but Pete himself and all the little things that you start to notice when a pet dies is absolutely spot on. I loved how Charlie tries to battle against how a man should feel yet knowing that he just can't hide from his true emotions.

There are parts of the book that really gave me a huge lump in my throat as it brought back memories of when we lost our first dog, Bess a Border Collie. She sadly fell asleep in the company of hubbie and the vet in her favourite room of our home, what we didn't expect apart from the obvious loss and sadness was just how much my hubbie would be affected by letting her go. We immediately left the house and went for a lonely walk without her and stumbled on a house for sale, which we actually bought and still live in now, the thought of staying in the same home was just too much for him to bear.

A lovely, light, easy read that flows really well that I thoroughly enjoyed. It will have you feeling sad one minute and laughing the next as you follow Charlie's roller-coaster ride of emotions and events after loosing Pete 'the cutest, crankiest Jack Russell Terrier' and his new found love Brownie. A must for a film, I can already hear Pete's gruff voice in it.
Profile Image for Kim .
11 reviews2 followers
February 3, 2014
More than Just Another Dog Story I love dog books, but I admit some are better than others. Russ Ryan’s It’s Just a Dog is one of those. The thing is I wasn’t expecting it to be. Before I turned on my Kindle and began the first page, I had pretty low expectations. You see I knew nothing about the book or its author other than the fact that it was a novel about not only a talking dog, but a talking ghost dog! I seldom turn down a dog book, that’s why I’m reviewing them here on the blog, but my taste typically gravitates toward memoir not gimmicky or cutesy talking dog stories.
Ryan’s book is neither of these. It is at once heartfelt and hilarious! And, cleverly engaging. I fell in love with the voice of his protagonist dog painter Charlie Keefe from the get-go and would have continued to the end just to listen to him tell his story, but there is more to this book than a charming style and amiable narrator. The plot may be a wee bit light and episodic, but this book has heart and like all the best comedy, a bit of soul as well. Any dog lover will identify with the emotions of Charlie, who loses and grieves for his dog Petey (who must be put down while he is away on vacation) until said dog reappears as a ghost.  Charlie welcomes him back with open arms as any dog owner would. Ryan, who admits in the acknowledgments to having had a Petey of his own, manages to deal with grief and the loss of a beloved pet without getting schmaltzy, in a way that is both fresh and fun. The actual plot is secondary and maybe a little light for some readers, but as an artist myself I had to admit I identified and enjoyed Charlie’s career challenges. I also thought his romantic entanglement to ring true, but what delighted me the most were the emotions familiar to all dog owners that managed to make me both smile and empathize with Charlie’s plight. Ryan may have entitled his book “It’s Just a Dog,” but this novel is anything but your typical dog story. It’s a fast and fun read with hidden depths.
7 reviews
July 7, 2013
I love this book. I actually cried a few times while reading this novel, which I did in one sitting. I should preface my review by saying that it’s probably a good idea to at least like dogs in order to enjoy this book.

Unfortunately, I could totally relate to the dilemma, the conflict, the overwhelming guilt that Charlie felt when it came to his dog’s death. I also could understand when he said, “…it left a huge gaping hole not only in my heart, but in the house as well.”

"It’s Just a Dog" really captures the emotion and the process of grieving for your pet. Because it’s never “just a dog.” It’s your child, your confidant, your companion, your always-there, never-judgmental true best friend. Sure, there were moments when I chuckled, and when the story took a turn, it made me smile and warmed my heart.

This book never felt gimmicky or silly or preposterous when Charlie’s dog came back into his life as a ghost. It never felt insincere or unrealistic -- it was cute…and charming…and, well, it made you wish you could experience the same thing, with the dog you’ve lost. No matter how long your dog is with you, or how old they get, it doesn’t lessen the pain or the grief. It’s hard. And Ryan captures the essence of that despair and utter sadness.

And then Charlie opens his heart and his home to a new dog…and what happens (for both of them) is so sweet and uplifting. It took a lot for him to reach that point because, as he put it, “The only dog I wanted was the one dog that I could never, ever have again.” That’s a tough feeling to move past.

"It's Just a Dog" is a delightful novel, and it has wonderful elements to it, from humor to anger to despair and hope and everything in between. "It’s Just a Dog" isn’t just a novel. It will make you laugh and possibly cry but, most important, if you have a dog, you’ll “get” it.
Profile Image for Aileen.
263 reviews20 followers
August 31, 2013
Es sólo un perro es un libro que gané en un giveaway gracias a Russ Ryan.

Este libro trata sobre Charlie, un pintor de perros, él cual tiene que lidiar con la muerte de su perro inspirador, Pete. Pero no es solo con su muerte con lo debe tratar, sino que también con el fantasma de su querido perro que regresa desde el más allá.

Para comenzar debo decir que la nota de este review no está para nada relacionada con el hecho de haberme ganado el libro en un giveaway, ya que creo que los autores esperan honestidad de parte de sus lectores.

Debo decir que conecte con este libro desde las primeras páginas, no sé si se debe a que he pérdido a un perro, a que amo a estos animales o que simplemente me gustó. En los primeros capítulos (y durante todo el libro) tuve la sensación de que éste estaba escrito para mí. Todo lo referente a él, desde los actos, los personajes y el humor. Este es el tipo de libro que cuando terminas de leerlo quieres decirle a todo el mundo lo fantástico que es y te gustaría que todos tuvieran la oportunidad de leerlo.

Pete es un personaje maravilloso, que le da el toque justo de sensibilidad y humor hilarante a esta novela. Creo que Pete es mi personaje favorito en conjunto con Brownie, sobre todo sus interaciones.
Charlie es con el que más me identifico y creo que se debe a como sobrellevo su pena y como puede abrirse de nuevo para Brownie.

El libro está perfectamente narrado, al igual que los diálogos. Aparte de ser un libro que te entrega muchas enseñazas y emociones, es un libro muy bien escrito y de no ser por mis exámenes en la universidad lo habría leído en un día.

Si tienen la oportunidad de leer este libro no la pierdan, no se arrepentiran. Lo prometo.

Por último, pero no menos importante, quiero agradecer a Russ Ryan por haberme regalado este gran libro y por su preocupación en el envío.
Profile Image for Lori.
1,376 reviews
June 27, 2013
a *3.5* got this on my e-reader. when I saw it on goodreads. i love books with dogs in the storyline. Charlie is a devoted dog lover. He really adored his jack Russel terrier named "Pete" he knows that at 16 years old Pete is in declining health. Charlie is an artist who paints dogs especially his own dog Pete. when in Paris for an art show his beloved dog Pete dies. Charlie is devastated. feeling guilty because he was not there when Pete died. for months Charlie misses his beloved dog and cannot imagine getting another dog. when he dog loving friend Janelle whose volunteers for finding foster homes for dogs, tries to talk Charlie into getting another dog. at first Charlie strongly resists. but soon falls for a cute dog named Brownie and reluctantly agrees to offer a foster home for her.
a couple days after bringing Brownie home, the ghost of Pete the dog comes back. Charlie is the only one who can see him, and to Charlie's surprise, Pete can talk. and boy is he outspoken. friends wonder what is going on with Charlie, since to them he is acting "strange" since they cannot see Pete the ghost dog. Pete seems to only get Charlie in trouble. not to mention Pete does not act like the dog Charlie knew. quarrels happen between Charlie and Pete hurt feelings etc. Will Pete leave and stop "haunting" his owner? why is Charlie acting out by painting off the beaten path portraits of Pete. will his career as an artist suffer? what will become of Charlie, Pete the ghost dog,and what about Brownie? do not want to give away spoilers. but just hope for that happy ending?
I found this to be a clever book. asking the question what if your dog could come back and be able to talk? what would he/she have to say? Is their a doggy heaven? cute and funny book. by Russ Ryan.
Profile Image for Becca.
219 reviews125 followers
June 29, 2013
So I did not know what to expect when i first picked up this book. I love anything that has to do with dogs and the bond between human and animal is so beautiful. My first experience with a truly touching dog story was when I saw the movie, My Dog Skip, when I was only 8 or 9 years old. When I was given the chance to review a book about a ghost dog, I was all in because who would not want that for themselves when they lost a loved and adored pet?

I was not quite sure how the book would go because it is 180 pages of nothing but how a dog is a ghost, but I was shocked and thrilled that I loved this book so much that I finished it in one day. Other books I set down and read when I have the time if I am not sure about them, but this one had me crying to myself from the beginning. Since I read the majority of it at work during the day, it would have been a little unprofessional to be bawling like a baby at my desk.

I thought at first that the author was going to be light hearted about the dog coming back but he was nothing of the sort. He was real and in touch with what the real actuality would be like if a pet could come back to you. The fact that the dog's perspetive was given a lot of weight kept me super interested. I have loved talking animals and their thoughs, take for example Dr. Doolittle. This was something unlike anything else I had ever read. The relationship between Charlie Keefe and Pete is one to treasure and will grip the reader from the start.

It was a quick read, like I said I read it in one day and I was at work for the majority. So if you are looking for a little story to keep you entranced for a little while...this one is it! Animal lovers will crave more books like this one. Well done Russ Ryan :)
Profile Image for Mary  BookHounds .
1,300 reviews1,784 followers
September 19, 2013

Charlie Keefe has made a good living keeping his Jack Russell terrier in the best of kibble. So when Pete crosses the Rainbow Bridge and Charlie isn't there, he sinks into depression and find he can no longer paint without his muse. Even though Pete wasn't quite the most friendly and personable dog, the two shared a connection but Charlie didn't realize how deep that connection was until Pete was gone. As Charlie walks by the dog park, he meets Janelle, head of the local rescue group, who promptly signs him up as a foster parent to an adorable spaniel named Brownie. Brownie is the complete opposite of Pete, charming and adorable instead of a grumbley curmudgeon.

Instead of making me cry like any book where a dog dies, I was actually laughing when Pete reappears as a ghost and the pair start arguing like an old married couple. Pete tells Charlie that Brownie is just a rebound dog and that he will always be first in his heart, there is major disagreement with Pete storming off and Charlie regretting his words once again. Charlie realizing that he has been given a chance to properly say good bye starts to paint again. The pictures of Pete alternating between heaven and hell aren't exactly a hit with his audience.

This story is for anyone who has loved and lost a dog. It will give you those warm fuzzies that you feel when poked by a cold nose and hit with a wagging tail. Fans of Enzo, Chet, and Jimmy (you know who you are) are going to love adding Pete to your family. This is also the first time that there is a happy ending to losing a beloved pet. It is a quick read and perfect dialogue, one I can't recommend highly enough for dog lovers.
Profile Image for Ashley.
50 reviews4 followers
June 2, 2013
It's Just A Dog grabbed me immediately. I was only 6 pages into it and I was crying like a little baby! I even felt so much about this book that I found myself writing this long tear infused email to Russ Ryan (the amazing and brilliant author) before I could continue. I felt his pain over his obvious loss (even if I realized after reading the book and having a more clear mind that this book is fiction but HAD to be based upon his own loss due to the real, heart felt emotion he was able to portray through his words).

This book is all about an artist who gets a dog and that dog ends up being his muse, launching his career to heights he never imagined. Pete, the dog, was everything to Charlie. People without children tend to feel as though their pets are their children. I know I do without a doubt! (Not saying that people with children do not feel the same way but you know what I mean!) Pete was getting up there in years and had been unable to travel with Charlie so Charlie had to leave him at home with his manager taking care of him when he went to a gallery opening in Paris. While he is gone Pete gets so sick that there was nothing more to do but to put him to sleep and Charlie lost his best friend. The story that follows includes ghost dogs, new puppies, and new human loves and it's all because one man loved one dog. This is a must read book for any dog lover and as of the day I am writing this review it was only listed at $2.99 for the E-Book on Amazon!!! Seriously that is a steal and you should be ashamed of yourself for paying that little for this amazing book but not ashamed enough to not get it right now!
Profile Image for Melissa.
12 reviews2 followers
July 12, 2013
Here is what I thought about this cute book. This book came at the right time we have just recently lost our fur baby, Winnie. I only wish that Winnie could come back like Pete did. But unlike Charlie, we had two other dogs besides Winnie when she died. But her loss is still felt today.

This is such a sweet book and great for animal lovers. I wish this would actually come true. It reminded me a lot of the movie, Frankenweenie, where the little boy bought his dog back to live. I could not help but think as Brownie, the rebound dog, was being described she reminded me a lot of our current dog, Allie.

Unlike Pete who took pleasure in ruling the house and leaving “presents” for Charlie, our dogs have never once left little “surprises” for us even when they were in the puppy stage. Just recently we let our bigger do, Tutu in house and she was calm enjoyed walking around the house. She loves going up to the full length mirror in Mikaela’s room and looking at herself in the mirror. Unlike Allie who does not like looking at herself in the mirror.

Portion of the sales of this book will be donated to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue followin San Francisco, Ca. I love this book and I think you will as well. I just want to leave you with this quote that can be found in the acknowledgments section of the book.

“Being a dog widower has taught me that it doesn’t matter if you have a dog ten years or ten months- the pain and hurt is still the same. Fortunately, the good part is that the love never dies.”

I love that quote and I will think of it every time I think about our dear Winnie.
Profile Image for Rhonda.
38 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2014
The first 40% of the book is in my top five of dog books and then the ghost shows up and it plummets down my list. I got nothing against ghost stories funny or scary and do not even have a trouble with a ghost dog. In fact, one of the reasons I bought the book was fact I was intrigued by the idea that a dog came back to "haunt" his grieving dog widower. The problem that I had was the author got the voice of Pete wrong by not only making it anthropomorphic but having it be out of character from what we had learned about the dog in the first half and just plain jarring from the tone of the book. Pete did not come back as a ghost but as a wise cracking jerk with a cigarette ravished voice from a Martin Scorsese movie - his description not mine. Every time the ghost appears in the book it just stops the story cold and ruins all the goodwill he had built with the reader in the first half. The book ends with an action scene out of a cozy mystery that never quite redeems itself from the damage from the wise-cracking dog. If only Russ Ryan had read a few Chet & Bernie books before writing the ghost scenes he could have learned a lot from Spencer Quinn about how to write from the point of view of a dog with a sense of humor. Just think what this book could have been if Chet was the dog who came back as a ghost - I think he might have a lot more interesting things to say than to tell fart jokes and go to the bathroom in Bernie's shoes as a joke. This is the author's first book so hopefully he will take to heart the fact that so many reviewers LOVED parts of the book and not others and be able to use that for his next book as a guide.
Profile Image for Susan.
16 reviews14 followers
May 25, 2013
It's Just A Dog is a hilarious tale with lots of heart and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

When my beloved dog, Lucy, passed away last year, I felt as though my heart had been ripped out. Some people just didn't get it. "It's just a dog," they said. Well, Russ Ryan gets it. Oh, dog. He really gets it.

It's Just A Dog is a story about loss, love and new beginnings, told in a humorous, informal style. I immediately felt as though I was reading about a friend. I'm very cautious about dog books. I'm always afraid something terrible will happen to the dog. Indeed, this story really begins with the death of Charlie's (our hero) dog, Pete.

However, lest you think this book is a serious downer, hilarity and witty banter ensues! As Charlie deals - or rather doesn't deal well - with his grief, he travels the bittersweet road of loving another dog, has numerous encounters with the ghost of his dead dog, and becomes (more than just friends) with one of the local crazy dog ladies. All along the way, the author skillfully harmonizes humor with pathos.

The day this book arrived, I began reading and simply devoured it. If you're looking for a great dog story full of fun doggie hijinks and written by an authentic dog lover, then pick up a copy of It's Just A Dog by Russ Ryan. You'll be glad you did!

An added bonus for dog lovers: The author is donating 50% of the sales of this book during the 3-month summer launch of the book (through Sept 2, 2013) to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue.
Profile Image for Laura.
17 reviews
June 20, 2013
It’s Just a Dog
Russ Ryan

Did you like Marley and Me, what about The Art of Racing in the Rain? If you’re a dog lover then this book is for you, just have a box of Kleenex close by for those heartfelt and touching moments. Some people don’t get it they say he’s just a dog but author Russ Ryan does understand.
I loved Russ Ryan’s quote “Being a dog widower has taught me that it doesn’t matter if you have had a dog ten years or ten months – the pain and hurt is still the same. Fortunately, the good part is that the love never dies!”

Charlie Keefe is not just a dog lover; he’s a world famous dog painter, aka “The Picasso of Pooch Portraits”. Unfortunately Charlie’s beloved Jack Russell terrier, Pete has just died. Who wouldn’t be devastated by the loss? So after several months of grieving Charlie reluctantly agrees to foster a new puppy from his local shelter. She’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Brownie.

The complications arise when the ghost of his old dog, Pete returns to haunt him along with the new puppy. This chain of weird events throws Charlie’s life, career and entire belief system into chaos.

As Charlie moves through the seven stages of dog loss, Pete returns to simultaneously torture Charlie and put his life back on track. Great read, funny sarcastic and insightful.

As an added note: 50% of the sales during the book’s 3 month summer launch, through Sept 2nd, 2013 will be donated to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco, CA. A rescue that believes every dog deserves a happy ending.


Profile Image for Warren-Newport Public Library.
796 reviews29 followers
June 21, 2013
Did you like Marley and Me, what about The Art of Racing in the Rain? If you’re a dog lover then this book is for you, just have a box of Kleenex close by for those heartfelt and touching moments. Some people don’t get it they say he’s just a dog but author Russ Ryan does understand.
I loved Russ Ryan’s quote “Being a dog widower has taught me that it doesn’t matter if you have had a dog ten years or ten months – the pain and hurt is still the same. Fortunately, the good part is that the love never dies!”

Charlie Keefe is not just a dog lover; he’s a world famous dog painter, aka “The Picasso of Pooch Portraits”. Unfortunately Charlie’s beloved Jack Russell terrier, Pete has just died. Who wouldn’t be devastated by the loss? So after several months of grieving Charlie reluctantly agrees to foster a new puppy from his local shelter. She’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Brownie.

The complications arise when the ghost of his old dog, Pete returns to haunt him along with the new puppy. This chain of weird events throws Charlie’s life, career and entire belief system into chaos.

As Charlie moves through the seven stages of dog loss, Pete returns to simultaneously torture Charlie and put his life back on track. Great read, funny sarcastic and insightful.

As an added note: 50% of the sales during the book’s 3 month summer launch, through Sept 2nd, 2013 will be donated to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco, CA. A rescue that believes every dog deserves a happy ending.

Profile Image for Christy.
Author 24 books64 followers
July 4, 2013
Charlie Keefe’s career as an artist is going nowhere until he starts painting his Jack Russell terrier, Pete. Then Charlie becomes known as “The Picasso of Pooch Portraits” and his work is in demand as are he and Pete. When Pete unexpectedly dies while Charlie is overseas, Charlie is devastated and has a hard time coping with his guilt at not being there when Pete died. A rescue worker suggests that fostering a dog may help him move past his grief and Charlie finally agrees to a Cavalier King Charles named Brownie. Brownie’s laid-back personality is totally opposite to Pete’s demanding one and Charlie soon discovers he wants to adopt this sweet girl. Into his life comes the ghost of Pete, who does not make life for Charlie easy. No one else can see Pete, whose sarcastic comments and attempts to sabotage Charlie’s and Brownie’s relationship frustrate Charlie, intrude upon his budding romance with the rescue worker and cause others to think Charlie just might be losing it.

Russ Ryan does a wonderful job portraying the emotional impact losing a dog can have on its human as well as the love and companionship these special animals bring to our lives. The back-and-forth exchanges between Charlie and the ghost dog Pete are humorous and will bring lots of chuckles. The read is fast and sweet and fun and not one easily forgotten. Worth noting: Ryan is donating a portion of the proceeds from sales of the book to the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue.

7 reviews5 followers
July 10, 2013
I seldom turn down a dog book. Admittedly, some are better than others and Russ Ryan's, "It's Just A Dog", is one of those to me.

Many of us have lost a beloved animal companion and those of us who have, understand the dark process of grief we go through after their deaths. It's been nearly 8 years since my beloved Sugar crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I still look for her when I pull into the driveway and sometimes imagine I hear the pads of her feet moving across the room.

"It's Just A Dog" is a heartwarming read for anyone who has ever loved a dog. The author, Russ Ryan, takes you through Charlie Keefe's grief over the loss of his beloved companion, Pete, a Jack Russell terrier who stole his heart and made his career as a world famous dog painter.

Most dog lovers will identify, in some ways, with Charlie. I cried like a baby and smiled, in turn, as I went through Charlie's grief with him.

Imagine, if you will, that your best friend has just died. You wallow in your grief for a while and months after your loss, your beloved pet returns...as a ghost. A ghost that talks, no less! Hilarity ensues and in the end....well, I'll leave that for you to discover on your own.

It's "It's Just A Dog" is a fast read and a truly heartwarming story that I highly recommend for everyone, animal lovers and non-animal lovers, alike. Grab a box of tissues and enjoy this wonderful summer read!
Profile Image for Peggy Tibbetts.
Author 7 books8 followers
May 22, 2013
When Charlie Keefe’s Jack Russell terrier Pete died at the ripe old age of 16 – and a half—Charlie lost more than his “precious pal.” He lost his “meal ticket.” You see, Charlie is the world famous “painter of dogs” – the “Picasso of the Pooch Portraits.” And his most popular subject was, alas, the dear departed Pete. Devastated, Charlie grieves for months, unable to paint or function, like a normal human being, much to the exasperation of his friends and especially his business partner. With the help of Janelle the dog rescuer lady and a cute little spaniel named Brownie, Charlie gradually starts putting his life back together. But he’s haunted by the ghost of Pete. One day at the most inopportune moment, Pete’s ghost appears and starts shooting off his mouth. From then on Charlie takes a swan dive into the abyss with Pete the wise-cracking, ghost dog by his side.

“It’s Just a Dog” is a hilarious sendup of the dogoir genre. Reminiscent of the tongue-in-cheek satire in the film “Best in Show,” Ryan captures the nuance of the quirky characters that inhabit the world of dog lovers with blithe affection but never sarcasm. Clearly Ryan is just another delirious dog lover with a highly-developed sense of humor. “It’s Just a Dog” is a fun-filled romp through this dog park of life.
Profile Image for Cathy Connolly.
Author 1 book19 followers
May 23, 2013
What a wonderful book, I loved it.

"It's Just A Dog" is a heartwarming read for anyone who has ever loved a dog. The author Russ Ryan takes you through Charlie Keefe's grief over the loss of his beloved dog, Pete, a Jack Russell terrier who took over his heart and made his career as a world famous dog painter.

After going through months of grief over the loss of Pete and finding and falling in love with a special girl "Brownie" a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who he agrees to foster, his beloved Pete returns! As a ghost that can talk!

There's humor and upheaval in Charlie's life when Pete returns along with the conversations we would all love to have with our precious departed fur babies. There are some very special moments between Charlie and his special buddy Pete. They brought tears to my eyes.

It's a wonderful book that one would want to read again, I know I will! Truth is when one has loved a dog, we all know that it is never "Just A Dog".
Profile Image for GIZMO.
126 reviews
July 9, 2013
Are you dog-addicted? Do your friends call you co-dependent and tell you that your best four-legged friend is "just a dog"? And does that statement just set you off? If you're nodding your head "yes" then you're going to love "It's Just A Dog", a new book by Russ Ryan.

I'm someone who can't imagine my life without dogs. My life has been enriched by every dog that has shared it, and a part of each of them remains in my soul forever. For Charlie Keefe it goes further - a lot further. His beloved Pete, best friend, companion and muse, returns to him "in the fur" causing no end of mischief and leading Charlie's friends to doubt his sanity...and remind him repeatedly that "it's just a dog".

I raced through the story of Charlie, Pete and Brownie in one sitting...The tone is light and perfect for a Summer beach read, but the soul of the book shines through. The story will linger and you'll find yourself wondering "what if"...
49 reviews4 followers
July 13, 2013
Oh... I cried, giggled, cackled, and outright reveled in this touching story. It is so nice to know I am not alone in the world. I am a dog widower along with many other dog lovers. My puppy love was Opal, and like Pete, she was an intricate part of my world. For 13 years she graced our lives and as I lay with her under the Christmas Tree the night she left us, I knew there would be no other.

Author Russ Ryan skillfully puts into words all the feelings of joy and sadness when faced with getting on with life after the loss of your beloved canine companion. Much like Charlie Keefe, I was sure I could not love another, but in comes the 'rebound dog' and life starts to come together again. If a ghost Opal would come back, like Pete did to Charlie, I wonder what she would say to me. Hmmmmm! I really wonder what she would say to Baby Girl, the 'rebound dog'! I do recommend this book for any dog lover... you will totally FeeL this story and understand "It's Just A Dog"!
Profile Image for Amber Mabry.
15 reviews3 followers
July 14, 2013
As I was reading It's Just a Dog, I was already thinking about what I was going to say in my review and only one thing seemed to really stand out in my mind. It wasn't so much as what words to say but more of a visual image. Have you ever seen the Comedy & Tragedy Masks? This, to me, sums up It's Just a Dog to the letter. For the first few chapters of the book my face looked exactly like the Tragedy mask. I bawled my eyes out. Reading the story of the main character, Charlie, and his sad story of losing his beloved dog, Pete, reminded me of when my family lost our beloved Rottweiler, Bear. My heart wept for Charlie. Russ Ryan described what a dog lover really feels in such a tragedy. But as the story goes on my face turned into more of the Comedy mask. As Pete comes back from the dead as a talking dog, the real story unfolds. This is a delightful book that will make you cry like a baby and laugh out loud. I give it 5 stars for being a GREAT book!!
Profile Image for Lynne.
176 reviews11 followers
July 17, 2013
I don't know if I gave this 5 stars because it's sweet, fun, light (even, somehow, despite Pete's death), witty, about dogs, or because a portion of the sales goes to a senior dog rescue. Regardless, I couldn't put it down. My own two dogs, my first, are 11 and 6. I imagine this would be a more difficult read had I experienced the heartbreak of their deaths. Still, the story kept me laughing and relating in so many ways. Pete the ghost's personality was hysterical. I could just picture him with bling and all sorts of gold chains around his neck talking to his owner, Charlie, in the chest-pumped-up, sarcastic way he did.

Throughout the book I kept thinking that this should be a movie, and at the end noticed in the "About the Author" that Russ Ryan has written several screenplays. Would love to see this turned into a movie.

Thanks for the chance to read this, Russ!

My rating is my honest opinion and in no way influenced by receipt of this ebook from the author.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Allen.
76 reviews3 followers
June 11, 2013
Mr. Ryan has offered up a delightful, engaging, fun and poignant dog/ghost/pet lover story that does not disappoint. I loved that the main character is "the Dog Artiste" more so than the dog, showing how inextricably bound we are to our pets, even after their inevitable deaths.
By giving the ghost-dog a voice and an unanticipated personality, Mr. Ryan has addressed a pet owner's universal longing with a 2 for 1 shot. I think it's natural as humans to assign a human voice and personality to our dogs. What a surprise it would be if I'd believed all along my dog might sound like Jennifer Aniston with the behavior of Grace Kelly only to discover she talks and acts like Roseanne Barr.
The humor, pace and honesty made this novel a fun experience for me and one I would gladly recommend to anyone looking to feel good.
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