BookS on MondaY: Veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang from Pawcurious Talks about Pet Hospice, Pop Science, and her new book, ALL DOGS GO TO KEVIN

By Leslie Lindsay 

Growing up, I think Dr. Jessica and I could have been fast friends…if we pulled ourselves out of our shells long enough to actually talk. As a self-proclaimed shy nerdy girl, Jessica Vogelsang loved books and dogs and had very little interest in what was fashionable: Velcro tennis shoes and denim jean jackets bedazzled with puffy paint.vogelsang.AllDogsGotoKevin.hc (2)

ALL DOGS GO TO KEVIN is a beautiful legacy to her gifts: storytelling, caring demeanor toward animals, and her practical approach to veterinary science. I laughed, I cried, I nodded my head knowingly as I read through each story, from Dr. V’s early “nerd days” to vet school, first clients, early motherhood, and beyond.

Yes, there are sad parts of the story, and that’s simply because dogs don’t have life spans near as long as humans, but there’s always, always something they can teach about our lives. In the end, it’s the dogs that make us better humans.

Dr. Vogelsang is the founder of the website Pawcurious.com, and her writing has been featured on Yahoo! and CNN, as in Ladies Home Journal, People, Outside magazine, and USA Today.

Today I am thrilled to have Dr. V. on the blog couch. Along with her golden retriever, of course.

Leslie Lindsay: Thanks so much for being with us today, Jessica!  I finished the book last night with a basset puppy on my chest. I’m working now so she can sleep (ha!), so we’re a bit on borrowed time. Tell me how you came to the idea of writing ALL DOGS GO TO KEVIN, was it dogs and your experience as a vet, or was it Kevin who inspired you? A little of both?

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: I grew up on James Herriot, so writing a book was always something I had wanted to do. But in a circuitous way Kevin also played a role in it. He pushed me to start a blog in 2009, and although I wasn’t into that idea I did think writing a blog would be ok. He’s also the one who came up with the name pawcurious, which I thought was a terrible name. Glad I trusted him!

L.L.: I love at the end of ALL DOGS GO TO KEVIN you talk about how Kevin was very much “like a dog in human’s clothing—full of love, brimming with life, and gone all too soon.” What words might you share with someone who is grieving the loss of a pet? 

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: I think it’s important for them to know it’s ok. It’s so normal, and we are so abnormal as a society in the way we expect people to be ashamed of their grief. I would encourage them to talk about their pet and their grief, and if they aren’t surrounded by supportive people, to find some online.

L.L.: And now you are providing in-home hospice care for dog and cats. What a smart, touching way to use your gifts Can you tell me more about that, please? Patchwork Novel ZR 2014 007

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: I sort of fell into hospice when I was writing the book. When Kekoa needed to be euthanized, I called on a friend to come to the house. She asked me a little while later if I might be interested in working with her practice, and I thought I might be willing to give it a try although the idea weirded me out a little. Now that I’ve been doing it for several years I can’t imagine doing any other kind of work in the field!

“Veterinarian Vogelsang pays tribute to the dogs that have played important roles in her life and professional practice . . . She writes movingly . . . A feel-good, bittersweet memoir…”

—Kirkus Reviews

L.L.: My 8-year old has wanted to be a vet since she could say, “doggy doctor.” I know getting into vet school is not exactly easy. What advice might you give to those who want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine?

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: Go into it with a full understanding of the emotional toll it may take on you. Students these days are graduating with an unprecedented amount of debt and an insecure job market. I don’t say that to discourage people from the field, but I would make sure they understand the financial implications.  There are so many ways to work with animals- you don’t have to limit yourself to a DVM!

L.L.: Can you talk a little about your journey to becoming a published author? How might it compare to vet school?

They are very different and yet very much the same for me, in terms of me doing it the wrong way. When you write a book, the traditional path is write the book, find an agent, find a publisher. I did it in the exact reverse order.

I was very fortunate to have an extremely hands on agent in Steve Troha, who helped me formulate my idea for the book. My editor Emily Griffin at Grand Central was such a supportive champion for the book. I have no idea how I would have gotten it done without them! It truly was a team effort. Sort of like vet school in that regard too- you are responsible for your own outcome, but the support of your colleagues is what keeps you afloat.

L.L.: I’ve been enamored with the low-slung, comically defined basset hound for years. Can you tell us any funny basset hound stories?031

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: You know, I really didn’t see too many of them where I lived and worked! They are not a hugely popular dog in San Diego. On the rare occasion we did get one in we would take bets on what it was in for: ears or skin issues. Usually it was both.

L.L.: What is obsessing you now and why?

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: Catching up on my reading! I took such a long break while I was writing the book. I am reacquainting myself with the works of Stephen King and having a grand time doing so. I really feel like reading a ton is the best way to get better at writing so I can excuse this effort as work-related.

I’m also obsessed with pop science and the influence of pseudoscience celebrities on the web. It’s a fascinating study of confirmation bias and how people choose what to believe and why. As someone who tries to be a science educator of sorts, at least in terms of animal health, it’s really important to understand why people just refuse to believe things you take for granted (like the importance of vaccines, for example.)

L.L.: What might I have forgotten to ask about that I should have?

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: What’s the next book! And the answer is I don’t know. I have two ideas in mind I need to mull on. Stay tuned.

L.L.: Thanks so much for such a fabulously fun and touching read. I’m recommending all vets-to-be, vets, and dog lovers read ALL DOGS GO TO KEVIN!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: Thank you so much!

For more information, or to follow, please visit Pawcurious:

VogelsangALLDOGSGOTOKEVINJessica_creditPaulBarnettDr. Jessica Vogelsang is a veterinarian, mother, and big-time dog person. She worked in emergency and small animal medicine before settling into her current practice in San Diego providing in-home hospice care for dogs and cats. She is the founder of the website www.pawcurious.com. Visit Jessica at www.drjessicavogelsang.com. Her writing has been featured in or on Yahoo!, CNN,Ladies’ Home Journal, People Pets, Outside magazine, and USA Today.

[Cover image courtesy of Grand Central Publishing. Author photo credit: Paul Barnett]

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BooKs on MondaY: HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap & Prepare Your Kid for Success with Julie Lythcott-Haims

By Leslie Lindsay 

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and GET THIS BOOK! It’s Malcolm Gladwell meets Paul Tough meets Madeline Levine in a fresh, timely take on raising excellent adults from former Stanford freshmen admissions dean and parent Julie Lythcott-Haims.HTRaiseAdult

Never preachy, and oh-so-relatable Lythcott-Haims is spot-on with her approach to parenting, over-parenting, and preparing your children for the adult world. Julie gets it–she’s a mom raising her two (now) teenaged children in Silicon Valley where it’s customary for kids to have most of what they want, thanks to high-powered and successful parents with seemingly endless resources. With compassion and empathy, Lythcott-Haims takes parents through the minefield of raising kids to be independent, and how that is, in fact, the best way to honor and support your children’s individuality.

Brimming with research and laid out in a manner all parents can appreciate, HOW TO RAISE AND ADULT is a deeply informed narrative, which reads as if you’re chatting with a good friend over coffee. You’ll come across cringe-worthy anecdotes of parental over-involvement gathered from the author’s observation and interviews with parents, teens, educators, coaches, and more.

HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT is about letting your children fly while offering them stepping stones to critical thinking, problem-solving, and resilience.

Due to an uber-busy book tour this fall–in fact, she’s in my neck of the woods right now–Ms. Lythcott-Haims is unavailable to join us for an interview, but…fear not, for here’s a little cheat-sheet for your next book group, coffee break, or anytime you’re with like-minded parents and want to delve into some of the topics addressed in HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT:

1. For better or worse, eighteen is not the magical age at which a child becomes an adult; ADULTHOOD is more than just a number. So what does it mean to be an adult? On page 145, Lythcott-Haims offers a response to this question with the help of Professor William Damon, who states that “an adult social role is one that is intrinsically not about you.” Do you agree or disagree with this definition? How would you define adulthood?

2. As Lythcott-Haims discusses in her introduction, parenting styles, values, and methodologies in the United States have changed through the years and between generations. Does (or will) your parenting style differ from that of your own parents? In your lifetime, have you noticed a broader shift in the ways we, as a culture, think about and practice parenting?

3. In the twenty-first century, TECHNOLOGY influences nearly every facet of our lives, including the ways in which we parent. On page 14, Lythcott-Haims presents the following examples of how technology has affected parent-child relationships: “Take, for example, the mother of a Beverly Hills high schooler who insisted her son text her hourly on his way to and from a beach outing with friends. . . Or the Stanford parent who contacted the university to say he thought his daughter was missing because he hadn’t heard from her in over a day.” How does technology play a role in the way you parent (or plan to parent)? Is the ability to be in constant contact a blessing or a curse?

4. As parents, it pains us to see our kids get hurt, or fail, or face ANY VARIETY OF DISAPPOINTMENT But Lythcott-Haims argues that the experience of failure is key to building resilience in children and young adults. To what extent, and in what ways, is failure a necessary crucible for growth? At what point, if any, should parents intervene to prevent struggle?

5. Developmental psychologists generally agree that there are FOUR TYPES OF PARENTING: authoritative, permissive/indulgent, neglectful, and authoritarian. These types are diagrammed on a Cartesian chart on page 146. If your parenting style were a plot point on this chart, where do you think it would fall? Has its position changed over time?

6. There are numerous examples throughout How to Raise an Adult of parents who become exceedingly INVOLVED in their children’s schoolwork and responsibilities—sometimes through college and even beyond, into their children’s professional career. Is it ever appropriate or acceptable for parents to assist their children with schoolwork? College applications? The job search? 

7. On pages 81 to 83, Lythcott-Haims proposes a CHECK-LIST OF LIFE SKILLS that any self-sufficient eighteen-year old should be able to exhibit. Do you agree with the contents of this list? Are there skills or behaviors that you think should be added to or removed from the list?

8. On pages 166 to 174, Lythcott-Haims describes a 4-STEP STRATEGY FOR TEACHING LIFE-SKILLS: 1) first we do it for you, 2) then we do it with you, 3) then we watch you do it, and 4) then you do it completely independently. She acknowledges that the third and fourth steps are often the most difficult for parents to carry out, and require an enormous leap of faith. In your experience, why is it hard for parents to stand back? What are the fears and hopes involved, and how can a parent mitigate them?

9. One of the book’s major concerns is the PRESSURE that young people feel—to get straight As and perform well in extracurricular activities, and ultimately to gain admission to top-ranked universities and to obtain job offers from well-known companies—and the harms to mental health that result from this pressure. To what extent is it possible for individual parents to encourage effort and striving, and to reward achievement, without risking their children’s mental health and without fueling the “brand name brouhaha,” as Lythcott-Haims calls it on page 248? In what ways does our current collective value system resist individual efforts to turn the tide?

10. As discussed in Part 4 of the book, over-parenting not only negatively affects our children, but often places undue STRAIN ON PARENTS themselves. How does your parenting style affect your stress levels and your sense of self?

So…have you made it to the bookstore yet? Let me know your thoughts! 

For more information, please visit: 

  • The HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT website where you can share your story, read interviews from TIME, CBS this Morning, MSNBC, THE HUFFINGTON POST, the LA TIMES, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, find a book tour near you, and more
  • HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT on Facebook
  • Julie Lythcott-Haims on Twitter 

Julie Lythcott-Haims_Author photo for publicity and marketing_Credit to Kristina VetterBio: I am deeply interested in humans – all of us – living lives of meaning and purpose, which requires figuring out what we’re good at and what we love, and being the best version of that self we can be. So I’m interested in what gets in the way of that.  I wrote this book because too many adolescents and young adults seem to be on a path of someone else’s making, while being subjected to a lot of hovering and lot of help to ensure that particular path is walked, all in furtherance of a very limited and narrow definition of “success.”  I come at this issue from the dual vantage points of former university dean and parent of two teenagers, and with great empathy for humans.

I majored in American Studies at Stanford University (1989) and studied law at Harvard (1994). I practiced law in the Bay Area in the 1990s before returning to Stanford to serve in various roles including Dean of Freshmen, a position I created and held for a decade. In my final three years at Stanford I was Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising, and in 2010 I received the university’s Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for “creating the atmosphere that defines the undergraduate experience.” Since leaving Stanford in 2012 I’ve been pursuing an MFA at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

In addition to non-fiction I write creative non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and plays. My work has appeared on TEDx talks and in the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, The New York Times, Slate.com, Time.com, and Huffington Post. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband, our teenagers, and my mother.

[Special thanks to Leslie Brandon at Henry Holt & Co. for this review copy. Discussion questions retrieved from Ms. Lythcott-Haims website].