BOOK REVIEW: Possible Side Effects

Possible Side Effects

Most of this book’s chapters were laugh-out-loud hilarious. While I truly enjoyed the majority of the book, my enthusiasm was dampened a bit by the author’s stories about his experiences buying dogs.

“Kitty, Kitty,” chronicles the author’s short-lived ownership of a Wheaten terrier puppy named, well, KittyKitty. Burroughs impulsively buys the dog at a time when his life is in shambles and he is in no place to take on the responsibility of a pet. He would have had an excuse, I suppose, if he were totally ignorant of the sad reality behind pet store dogs, but no, he’s more than well-informed:

I did know that you’re never supposed to buy a puppy from a pet store. And the reason is that you support the puppy mill industry. A puppy mill is a disreputable breeder who churns out puppies the way Nabisco churns out Oreos. Often the dogs are inbred and have health problems. But all of this knowledge evaporated once I went inside the pet store and saw the adorable puppies.

He continues:

A rational person would have seen the filthy cages where the dogs were kept and known better than to slap down his credit card and take one home. But I saw the filthy cages and thought, I must save one.

I found myself cursing the puppy mill industry who play upon the dogs’ plight as a selling point and use their suffering to appeal to sympathetic shoppers. The author doesn’t get off the hook, either, though: “Saving” a pet store puppy by buying him is a pointless endeavor, as he’ll only be replaced by another suffering puppy, and so on as long as the cash register keeps ringing. And he knows that. That’s the maddening part.


KittyKitty turns out to be too overwhelming for Augusten (that’s another feature of irresponsible pet shops: they don’t assess a customer’s ability to care for an animal, only pay for him). With a heavy heart, the author takes him to an animal shelter. Happily for KittyKitty, he is adopted into a much more stable home belonging to a shelter employee. However, I found myself mourning for KittyKitty’s parents, still trapped at the puppy mill.

One would think after this disastrous experience, Burroughs would swear off buying dogs. But no! The chapter titled “The Sacred Cow” has he and his partner purchasing a tiny French bulldog puppy at another pet store. And while “Cow’s” life is much more secure than KittyKitty’s, once again, the miserable cycle of puppy mill breeding continues. Come on, Augusten. You have a big heart. If you really want to “save” a dog, you need to head down to your animal shelter.



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