Honorable Mention at the 2013 Paris Book Festival
“In Rawlins’ nonfiction debut, she tells the story of how a difficult dog changed her outlook on life.
For 15 years, Rawlins owned a Maltese dog called Frizbee, or Fritz. During that span, she married, gave up a promising opera career, divorced, regained her career and found love again. Through it all, Fritz accompanied her and tempered her behavior through his own unique and often abrasive methods—he growled, barked and even bit her when she failed to concentrate on the present moment, laughed inauthentically or even fidgeted. She found that her personality as a “dizzy diva (expert in the ‘me, myself, and I’ techniques of getting what I wanted)” didn’t work with Fritz—or, by extension, with the rest of the world. When she realized this, her life began to improve, which led her to believe that Fritz was a sort of spiritual messenger. “What seemed to be the dog’s spiteful intentions were nothing more than disciplinary tactics,” she writes. “They were an attempt to force me to embrace the Zen concept of ‘living in the now,’…staying awake to everything happening in the present moment.” Although some sections of this book read like a typical dog story, featuring Rawlins’ amusing anecdotes of Fritz’s behavior and her reflections on loving a creature with such a short life span, Rawlins’ musings on personal development and metaphysical speculation are given equal importance. Rawlins details her own flaws with grace, and she writes about her spirituality without descending into preaching or obscurity.
A thoroughly readable account of a woman, a dog and a spiritual journey.”
–Kirkus Book Review
When opera singer E. Rawlins wanders into a Manhattan pet store, she is instantly charmed by a tiny Maltese terrier puppy, but she soon discovers the little bundle of joy she dubs Frizbee is in fact, a “mini monster.”
This charming memoir details the nearly 15 years that “Fritz” ruled Rawlins’ life with demands that the author and her “big baritone” beau cave into daily. Exactly what she has gotten herself into becomes clear when Fritz is just a pup and she visits the family veterinarian. “Then, almost as if preaching a Sunday-morning sermon, he (the vet) lowered his voice. ‘The mentality of the male Maltese is delusional. … At barely eight pounds full grown, these dogs act like they weigh two hundred and fifty! They all have entitlement issues. They … represent statistically the breed most often dumped for behavioral problems in the …’ He stuttered. ‘In the entire world…’ ”
Despite Fritz’s dictatorial behavior, he becomes a much-beloved member of the Rawlins’ household, driving the couple to continually contrive “anti-terror tactics” for coping with him. They learn to never enter his sleeping area unannounced, and when petting him, to keep their mind on the task at hand, or risk his fury. Rawlins comes to view Fritz as her personal Zen master, whose purpose is to make her a better person.
While at times, the metaphysical aspect of the story may leave some shaking their heads – such as the New Jersey-accented voice the author hears and listens to at various times in her life – this is a heartfelt and engaging read. There are a few cringe-worthy moments when Rawlins admits to some stupid pet owner mistakes – encouraging Fritz to growl tops the list. Nonetheless, this is certain to be appreciated by dog lovers, especially those who have experienced a holy terror of their own.
Also available in hardcover.
Learning to Live with Fritz: Book Review
Learning to Live with Fritz: Disgruntled Angel in a Hairy Disguiseby E Rawlins has been a good summer read for me.
Though I thought this book would simply be light reading, I found myself contemplating the larger issue: dog as spiritual teacher.
I do believe that dogs have much to teach us, plus as our special friends, they have prime opportunities to deliver lessons about life and love. So I was open to Rawlins tales of her dog, Fritz.
According to the book’s back cover:
An opera singer meets her greatest teacher in a Manhattan pet shop. In Learning to Live with Fritz author E. Rawlins tells the story of how one crazy little dog changed her life.
A soon-to-be divorced soprano is mysteriously compelled to purchase a pup only days before saying goodbye to her unhappy role of California corporate wife. Rushing back to Europe to save what is left of her flagging career, the decision to take along a twelve week old Maltese puppy is more than implausible … it is insane.
Humorous and self-critical Rawlins tells the story of her chaotic adventures with Frizbee, an eight pound nut case who was in reality an ill-tempered angel in a hairy disguise. Fifteen years of non-stop travel take the dizzy diva and her high maintenance mascot to Paris, London, Brussels, Tokyo, Vienna, Salzburg, Milan, and back to the Big Apple. Along the way they pick up a handsome young baritone on his personal journey to international operatic celebrity. As the drama unfolds the idea of love at first sight reveals itself to be anything but a romantic illusion.
Fritz continually upstages and controls his mistress through his rigidly enforced rules and regulations, his antics, his irascible charm… and his bizarre other worldly connections. This is a memoir of a narcissistic would-be diva and a dog who is dead serious about teaching her how to give up her me-myself and I illusions, to live authentically… and above all to learn the meaning of unconditional love.
|Fritz / Frizbee ©E.Rawlins|
Part 1 of the book is a series of stories – some hilarious, some eyebrow raising (think Marley and Me) – that give you a very clear picture of this little dog and how he is in charge of his world. And I do mean in charge.
Fritz/ Frizbee leads his mistress on a merry chase of the good life. With his bad behavior, huge personality, headstrong temperament, Fritz seems an unlikely match for a woman who describes herself as a Diva.
Yet, the two make quite a team in life. The author notes:
Frizbee’s sojourn here on Earth was the beginning of a personal transformation that I hope will continue for the rest of my life. It has become a journey toward self-knowledge, fulfillment, and success through service to others.
Part 2 Learning to Live Without Him, was even more enjoyable for me. I fully understood the author’s heartbreak when it was time for Fritz end his 15 years of life here on earth. More importantly, I enjoyed Rawlins’ exploration of what she had truly learned from her beloved dog both before and after his death. Did Fritz truly communicate with his mistress from beyond the grave? I leave that for you to decide.
If you’re not a fan of opera (I’m not), don’t let this dissuade you from a fun, thoughtful dog book.
E. Rawlins is a retired international opera singer. She is a metaphysical teacher, seminar leader, drama coach, poet, first time author and dog lover. She resides in Switzerland. Learning to Live with Fritz is available at IUniverse, on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major book retailers.
“Just as Fritz, the feisty yet irresistible Maltese puppy, drew author, E. Rawlins into a pet store one day so that she would take him into her life, Fritz called to me to read his story. I couldn’t put it down. Through this fast-paced, bumpy ride we follow the life of an opera singer while Fritz amuses us and teaches us important life lessons. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Whether a dog lover, an opera lover, both, neither, or just a lover, I recommend this book.”
–Caryn Hartglass, 5/5 Stars
“We often think that life lessons – especially those of a spiritual nature – need to be learned through solemn contemplation of one sort or another. But Learning To Live With Fritz, certainly proves otherwise. Wrestling the author’s Opera-Diva ego to the ground is a small but demanding Maltese terrier. With unabashed arrogance, the little tyrant calls the shots. This is a tale delivered with a lighthearted style and is appropriate for a wide audience. A satisfying, easy read, I recommend it highly for enjoyment, personal growth as well as a gift for young and old. I loved it!”
–Donna Rawlins, Inc, 5/5 Stars
“If you are an opera singer or opera lover, you will enjoy this book. You will gain some insight into what the world of international opera is like. If you love animals, you will enjoy this book. You will be able to watch as the human becomes the student and the animal the teacher. If you appreciate courage, you will also enjoy reading this memoir. You will watch as the author recounts her own trials and tribulations while entertaining, educating and inspiring along the way. It does take courage to write about the intimate relationship one has with one’s pets and to admit one’s failings in learning to care for them. Having known the author, and having known Fritz, I can only say that this is not so much a book about living with Fritz as it is a book about living, taught by Fritz. There is much we do not understand that animals can teach us. This book is a wonderful reminder of just how much we can learn.”
–Lyn Reyna, 5/5 Stars
“Finally an author that had the courage to write about the spiritual communication between a human and her pet. It was such a relief to read about another person that also feels that animals are telepathic and that they really do speak to us! It is a multi-faceted story including an intriguing romance intertwined with an unusual life journey, all accompanied by a “sweet” little companion. It will make you look at your pets a little differently, and will make you listen to them a little more carefully. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves animals, or is thinking about adopting a dog for sure!”
–animallover66, 5/5 Stars
“This is an Eat Pray Love for Dog and opera lovers. This might be the first book ever about the spiritual life of a dog who was never a dog but a master teacher in disguise. I wish the cover image could be shown on this site. What a darling little dog! You see in his eyes that there is something other worldly about him. Fritz possesses a hypnotic charm and a nasty disposition, he demands respect and absolute authenticity from all his subjects. A ‘be here now’ Zen teacher to all, the little dog seems to have all his humans dancing to his music throughout this fast paced operatic adventure from London to Berlin and back to the Big Apple. I loved the stories and cried with the author E.Rawlins when it was time for her disgruntled angel to turn in his wings. Part 2 – Learning to Live Without Him – was the best part of the book for me since all the madcap stuff in the beginning emphasized how much one could miss such a huge personailty when he was no longer there in his physical form. This is a book for dog lovers and lovers in general. I recommend this book and the lessons it teaches, also for the fresh, honest wiritng style and joyous tone of most of the book and oh … the laughs! Fritz must have really been one crazy little dog!”
–Anonymous, 5/5 Stars