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My Dog Tulip

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  921 Ratings  ·  165 Reviews
J.R. Ackerley's German shepherd Tulip was skittish, possessive, and wild, but he loved her deeply. This clear-eyed and wondering, humorous and moving book, described by Christopher Isherwood as one of the "greatest masterpieces of animal literature," is her biography, a work of faultless and respectful observation that transcends the seeming modesty of its subject. In tell ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 30th 1999 by NYRB Classics (first published 1956)
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May 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
For the most part of his adult life Joe Randolph Ackerley longed for what he called an "ideal friend"—or, rather, the Ideal Friend. An openly gay British writer and editor, he counted a number of fellow persons of letters, homosexuals, and men who were both among his friends. But none of them, to his dismay, seemed to fit the adjective. Not even E. M. Forster, his most distinguished colleague, or Christopher Isherwood, then an up-and-coming author he championed, did. If someone did deserve the l ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
I listened to an audiobook version of this novel on a road trip. Everything starts out good and it's quite funny and if you love dogs it's wonderful. But soon everything really heads to toilet town. Over the course of the book Ackerley's description of Tulip becomes downright disturbing. You're lulled into a false sense of security that this is the story of a man who loves his dog and of the kind of kooky things that happen to them then - BAM!

Everything becomes about dog penises and vaginas and
Nov 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: a dog's life
Recommended to Mariel by: someone in my town sold it to a used shop
He was standing quietly on a table with a thermometer sticking out of his bottom, like a cigarette. And this humiliating spectacle was rendered all the more crushing by the fact that there was no one else there. Absolutely motionless, and with an air of deep absorption, the dog was standing upon the table in an empty room with a thermometer in his bottom, almost as though he had put it there himself.
“Oh, Tulip!” I groaned. “If only you were like that!”

Did you ever watch that UK tv series Spaced?
May 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Kate by: Lorin Stein, Paris Review
I have an eighteen-month-old sable border collie mix named Yiya, who is the apple of my eye and more dear to me than I ever could have imagined. I mean, how could you not love her?

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I hold ridiculous and completely irrational beliefs about her: that she knows what I'm saying beyond basic commands, that she is smarter and better looking than all of the other dogs at the dog park, and that everyone else can see this too. I worry and wonder if I should call the vet everytime her nose i
Jun 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is my kind of romance novel.
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
If you are a dog lover but you were disgusted by the details of Tulip's season and the smearing of Vaseline on her vulva, I think Ackerley's point is that you don't love dogs and probably shouldn't own one.

I don't like dogs, but I enjoyed this. He has found himself in a bizarre situation; a huge dog in his second floor flat in Putney.

For people who don't like dogs, I would advise crashing on through the chapter about shitting (this was written before owners thought of taking it home with them) a
Justin Evans
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
I'm guessing the 'major motion picture' doesn't stick too closely to the book, because the book is mostly about smearing vaseline on Tulip's vagina in the hope that she will successfully mate with another handsome German Shepherd. Spoiler alert: she gets off with a mutt instead.

For the first chapter, I thought this would be the kind of book dog-lovers would love, and everyone else would shrug at and move on. The first chapters were mostly about shitting in public, and Tulip's facial expressions
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I always like reading about dogs and dogs' behavior with other dogs and with humans, but "My Dog Tulip" is also an elegant piece of writing and an interesting period piece about England, its classes, and its values. The book has offended some reviewers because Tulip's sex life or lack thereof is a main theme. I would agree that Ackerley obsesses about whether his beloved Alsatian (a breed known as German shepherd by most of the world these days) is sexually content, but the reader should also re ...more
alana Semuels
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
The book jacket says this is a heartwarming story of a man and his dog, but I would describe it as a graphic tale of a dog and her hoo-ha. Unless you really, really, really like dogs or like the idea of learning how to pimp out your dog when she's in heat, I'd probably stay away from this book. Unless you are into dog vulvas, in which case you might enjoy it.
David Baldwin
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wonderful memoir. (I'm a little creeped out by all the reviewers who were creeped out by the book.)
Apr 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
I love dogs, probably as much as a human being is able to. This book was recommended by the NY Times so I picked it up thinking it would be a nice tribute to dog ownership. WTF is this garbage! I was pretty disappointed to find that most of the book is devoted to intricately describing his attempts to force the dog to breed. There are a few passages that I found especially repulsive, describing her genitalia and going on and on about her wondrous animal sexuality. BLECHHHH. I came away thinking ...more
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
The chapters describing Ackerley’s dog’s poop and his lack of disposing of said poop were the best part of the book. I guess that’s a mixed compliment given my general disregard for the book as a whole, however, I did genuinely find this part interesting mainly b/c of how it was a reflection of the time period and just how different things were in society then.
Now for the rest of the book: I really really disliked it. How on earth does anyone consider this to be a classic of dog lover literatur
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Meh. This was presented to me as the be-all, end-all of dog memoirs. What it is, in fact, is one man's obsession with his dog's elimination and procreative functions. Given that it was published in 1956, in England, there have to be allowances for the fact that the world view of dog ownership has changed, for the better, in the last fifty years. We pick up after them, and we neuter them,thus making them,and ourselves, more agreeable.
Josh Caporale
Jan 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
1.5 stars

I first came across My Dog Tulip when it was being adapted into an animated film back in 2011 and how renowned film critic Roger Ebert expressed his great admiration for the film. I went on to learn that this film was adapted into a book with the same title and the same story, that of J.R. Ackerley's bond that he had with his Alsatian (German Shepherd), Tulip. While this is a true account, Ackerley's dog was actually named Queenie, but since he himself was gay during a period that was n
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
I think any writer who is in love with his dog wants to put into words how beautiful the animal is, and do justice to every expression and behavior.

I was completely charmed by Ackerley's account of his dog Tulip. Some critics on Amazon were repulsed by his romanticized description of Tulip's genitalia, for example. It didn't strike me as pornographic, but rather poetic.

I have a female German shepherd who is spayed, so in my mind, she will always be a puppy. But Tulip becomes a "woman," so her li
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Het aller beste mooiste hondenboek dat er is.
Echte onvoorwaardelijke liefde van baas voor hond.
Hilarisch, ontroerend, stilistisch fraai.
Deze hond, Tulip, een teef, is eigenlijk zijn grote Liefde.
Dit boek kun je ook lezen als het verslag van een liefde.
Het enige hondenboek, dat ik ken, waar de hond niet dood gaat aan het eind.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor, memoir
A heartwarming memoir of writer, J.R. Ackerley's relationship with Tulip,an Alsatian bitch he rescued. Tulip's visits to the vets, urinary and bowel movements are lightheartedly detailed, as is his attempts to find Tulip a suitable 'marriage' partner. But it's a moving tribute also to the canine who became a part of his life and his heart.
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
There were a small handful of reasons why I was going to read My Dog Tulip eventually.

1) It was one of the first books published by NYRB and in my psychotic, obsessive way – I found the list of the first 250 books they published, broke them into groups of 20 and am going through each group selecting a few at random. This happened to be the very first I selected because…

2) It was recently adapted into an animated movie (trailer below), featuring the voice of Christopher Plummer and that Roger Ebe
Jul 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: memoir enthusiasts
Hmmm. What to say. Okay, this review is going to be full of spoilers. (1.) I think I made a mistake in reading the introduction first. I couldn't get it out of my head that Elizabeth Marshall Thomas said Ackerley's dog was a poorly behaved pain in the ass, so much of Ackerley's subsequent doting struck me as totally unreliable, and, (2.) worse, the type of doting that is barely short of abusive, as (3.) most modern animal philosophers, though I realize they come after Ackerley, have come to acco ...more
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely writing, endearing in his love for Tulip.

notes quotes:
5..Alsatian = German Shepherd?
From The name Alsatian was taken into consideration as recent as the Second World War when the Allied Forces chose to discard any word having a connection to the name Germany or German. They reached a noble way to name the German Shepherd Dog (which had a dominant presence in their Defence Forces as Guard Dogs) as Alsatian derived from the German town of Alsatia, a place presumed to be the orig
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved Ackerley's writing but this book is showing its age. In 1948 post-war England, the author adopts an Alsatian (aka German Shepherd). In this memoir, Tulip is shown to be much like her owner... a bit difficult and unsociable but also strong-willed and lovable. As Ackerley says, "Unable to love one another, the English turn naturally to dogs."

(Amusing but odd trivia, Ackerley's real dog was named Queenie, but because Ackerley was gay the decision was made to call her Tulip in the book. Som
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw the movie adaptation of this book and like it so much that when I came across the book in the store I immediately snatched it up because customarily, the book is ten times better than the book. In this case, however, I would say it was pretty even. The film as very faithful to the source. What I liked about the book was Mr. Ackerley's writing style; even though, it is quite challenging for me to read since his vocabulary choices were a bit beyond my pea-brain's comprehension, but there was ...more
May 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
The 1956 classic of animal literature avoids the treackly oversentimentality of so many inferior works. Instead, Ackerley (man-of-letters, WWI prisoner of war, and editor of the BBC's influential The Listener) gives us such passages as,

"She attends socially to a wide range of objects. The commonest group are the droppings, both liquid and solid, of other animals. Fresh horse dung has a special attraction for her and is always liberally sprayed. Then she sprinkles any food that has been thrown ab
M. Milner
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
An amusing, fun account of life with a skittish, freewheeling German Shepherd, JR Ackerley's My Dog Tulip is a nice read, but I can see why it'd also turn some readers off.

Indeed, what this book does best is what some people will hate: it's utter frankness. Ackerley never minces his words, describing Tulip in startling detail: her rambunctious attitude, her fur coat, her bowel movements and her heats. He never once tries to turn her into a human, but never treats her flippantly, either. It's a f
Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bought-new
This is a funny and wholly delightful book. Ackerley's observations of what it is to be in love with and devoted to a dog are spot on - I read parts of it with a knowing chuckle and others with my hand held close to my heart. The book explores the meaningful relationship one can have with an animal, communication, miscommunication and the responsibility one feels to give the animal a happy and fulfilled life. A particularly moving moment is when Ackerley describes Tulip's nightly ritual of appro ...more
Mar 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
A love song to a German Shepherd, this is Ackerley's biography of (as the title announces) his dog Tulip and all her trials and tribulations with walking the city streets and trying to mate with a suitable partner. Wittily, even archly written, the biography is still never anything less than fully sincere in the author's expressions of devotion to and appreciation of the dog. When you come to the end of the book, you realize that you spend most of the time reading about how a German Shepherd rel ...more
Louise Brown
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: curious caninophiles, whimsical lovers
Recommended to Louise by: Clive
A peculiar and at times almost fervent love story of a chap and his alsatian. Focussing on the stuff of life (births, deaths, bodily functions - all of the dog, mind) it makes for a curiously intense read - I really did laugh and cry.

In terms of style, I loved this book for containing the words murine and whelp but not for the antiquated views on the "working classes" Ackerley frequently disparaged; I perservered, forgiving him given time and place of writing (fifties London).

As a dog lover one
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Sigh. I was very excited to read this classic memoir, particularly since it was about a man's love of his beautiful German shepherd (Alsatian). I was looking forward to happy reminiscences, general reflections on the nature of a dog, and her close relationship with him--and instead, it was just the record of one Englishman's positive MANIA for getting his dog to mate. He is absolutely fixated with her sex organs and reproductive faculties and that is the entire whole of the book (except for one ...more
Jenny Checchia
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though the language is old school (Tulip and any female dogs are referred to as "bitches" and petting is often "fondling"), the practices antiquated (no spaying and possible drowning of female/sickly puppies), and misogynistic and classist (J.R. is a bachelor from the old British school), even after all of that I love this book. An old bachelor accidentally acquires a beautiful Alsatian (rescues her actually) and is determined to see her have a full and happy life. His contempt for most of ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you've ever truly loved a dog as your companion, a member of the family, then you'll understand the thoughts, questions, actions, and trials and errors of Mr. Ackerley. In the book he states that vets specializing in canines were relatively new, and simply understanding that makes this book so incredibly interesting and unique. To those who are prudish and small-minded, his words have, as evidenced by other reviews, come across as something sexual and evil or wrong. Pay no mind to the poor re ...more
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Joe Randolph "J. R." Ackerley was a British writer and editor. Starting with the BBC the year after its founding in 1927, he was promoted to literary editor of The Listener, its weekly magazine, where he served for more than two decades.

He published many emerging poets and writers who became influential in Great Britain. He was openly gay, a rarity in his time when homosexuality was forbidden by
More about J.R. Ackerley...

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