The Dog Walker

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Part voyeur, part dreamer, Nina Shepard, a Manhattan dog walker, has been around the block, so to speak, a few times and yearns to find that something -- or someone -- she can be passionate about. She may not have a boyfriend or a real purpose in life, but she does have a job that offers her one great opportunity: the keys to her clients' apartments. And with these keys, Nina has the freedom to cross several foyers -- and a moral boundary -- and gain access to their ...

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The Dog Walker: A Novel

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Overview

Part voyeur, part dreamer, Nina Shepard, a Manhattan dog walker, has been around the block, so to speak, a few times and yearns to find that something -- or someone -- she can be passionate about. She may not have a boyfriend or a real purpose in life, but she does have a job that offers her one great opportunity: the keys to her clients' apartments. And with these keys, Nina has the freedom to cross several foyers -- and a moral boundary -- and gain access to their lives...where she just might find the things that are missing in her own.

Enter Daniel, a man she thinks she knows from snooping far past his doorway when she comes to pick up Sid, his Weimaraner. Except for owning a designer dog (rather than a stray from the pound), he seems perfect in every way. Now if only she could meet him.

For anyone else that might seem simple, but for Nina life is complicated. Claire, her best friend, is an actress who loses every audition due to nervous sweats. Bono, a sullen and sarcastic eight-year-old, is neglected by his U2 groupie mom, one of Nina's clients. Mrs. Chandler, her eccentric neighbor, would rather discuss Barry Bonds than why the IRS is hounding her. And Isaiah, Nina's ex-con dog-walking colleague, champions the rights of pit bulls. And, of course, there are the dogs themselves: Wallis and Edward, the spoiled dachsunds; Che, the stone-deaf beagle; Safire, the bulldog who stares at walls; and Nina's own beloved mutt Sam.

But it is Daniel who holds the key to Nina's heart. One moonlit night on a pier overlooking the Hudson River they are pulled into the treacherous waters of love. What she doesn't know is that Daniel is an imposter, pretending to be what he is not. And by the time she learns who he really is, after mishaps and mistaken identities, deception and lost dogs, it's too late. She's fallen for someone she never would have expected.

The Dog Walker is the hilarious and heartwarming story about one woman's quest for fulfillment. It is about city life -- any city, all cities -- and the struggle to make real connections. It is about allowing oneself to love fully while being fully oneself. And finally, it is about life itself: unpredictable, joyful, and not to be missed.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Schnur's titular protagonist is well aware, being dragged at the end of a leash is hard work. Readers will find this labored first novel equally tough going, despite its cute premise and full complement of romantic comedy tropes. Nina Shepard's life isn't proceesing quite as planned. After leaving a thankless publishing job, she takes up what she intends to be a temporary dog-walking gig catering to rich and busy New York dog owners, feeling clueless about the direction of her life and even who she is: "When, at the age of thirty-five, you find out you've been wearing the wrong-sized bra for how many years, you realize one thing: you don't know much about anything." Given the keys to her trusting clients' homes, she develops a serious snooping habit. Of particular interest is 32-year-old Daniel Maguire, a hot lawyer, or so she thinks. When she finally meets him, he's not at all what she expected (in fact, he's Daniel's twin brother, Billy), but she falls head over heels anyway. Billy likes her, too, but will they be able to forgive each other's secrets? Former Delacorte editor-in-chief Schnur strives for breeziness but belabors the obvious ("then she chewed a nourishing breakfast"), and the twins plot device is creaky and superfluous. The dog-walking conceit will appeal to dog owners and city dwellers, but the novel lacks bite. Agent, Richard Pine. 6-city author tour. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This debut by the former editor in chief of Delacorte Press/Dell Publishing will delight and entertain both dog lovers and romance readers. Nina has left a secure job in the corporate world for the satisfying and surprisingly well-paid occupation of a New York City dog walker. Through her eyes, readers get to know the absentee dog owners as well as their pampered or not-so-pampered pooches. One client in particular holds a fascination for Nina: Daniel is a rich and handsome lawyer, and Nina cannot help snooping around his empty apartment when she comes to pick up his dog. When they finally do run into each other, they are smitten. Of course, that's only the beginning, because a case of mistaken identity, a sweet little boy neglected by his mother, an old woman with some suspicious ties to the IRS, and a cast of canine characters even more appealing than their owners seamlessly blend in this page-turner, which moves toward a satisfying conclusion. A good purchase for public libraries.-Margaret Hanes, Sterling Heights P.L., MI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Delivers workplace dish, social skewering, name-brand knowingness, and sexy sex...with attitudinal smarts, deft writing, and perfect comic timing."
Daily News

"A warmhearted, big-city fairy tale about the things that matter most: dogs, friends, music, and falling in love."
—Jennifer Weiner, author of In Her Shoes and Little Earthquakes

"It's 309 pages of pure glee, made all the more fabulous by the presence of extremely excellent dogs."
The Dallas Morning News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743482073
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 7/27/2004
  • Edition description: First Atria Books Hardcover Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.78 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Leslie Schnur

Leslie Schnur was previously the editor-in-chief of Delacorte
Press/Dell Publishing. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and a
graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, she currently
lives in New York City with her husband, two children, and two dogs.

Good To Know

I was previously the editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Dell and Delacorte. I acquired and edited Al Franken, worked with Elmore Leonard and Harlan Coben, and brought Anna Quindlen and Alice McDermott to Dell. My first job in publishing was at Simon & Schuster, my publisher today. I had answered an ad in The New York Times for a copywriter and I got the job.

After 20 years working in book publishing, you'd think I'd have learned a thing or two about what it means to be a writer.

Well I didn't. It's very different to be on this side of the editorial table. Being an editor—choosing what books to publish, helping writers do their very best possible work, making sure the book is published well—is not an easy job. You have to first trust your own instincts and then stand by them, then you have sales people to cajole, marketing people to nudge, and writers to convince.

But nothing could have prepared me for how hard it is to be a writer. Sure, it is wonderful. One of the most wonderful things I've ever done. But if I were ever to become an editor again, like when the polar ice cap melts, I would never talk to authors the way I used to. I remember saying to an author once, "I love your book, but you need to go back. Your first 100 pages need work." I would die if someone said that to me. I cannot believe many of my authors are still my friends!

Writing is, for me, a wacky combination of torturously hard work and magic. Facing that blank page is like climbing Mount Everest, except for the life-threatening part. But when a thought comes, when I'm reminded of something someone said ten years ago, or when a character says something wild and real, it's like magic. I get excited the way I get excited on the roller coaster at the Santa Cruz boardwalk. The hairs on my arms stand straight and my heart leaps to my throat and I want to laugh and throw up at the same time.

In 1992 I was married to a wonderful man who I'd met at Warner Books. We adopted a dog from the ASPCA, a beautiful chocolate-brown mutt, with one of those anthropomorphic faces, who we named Charlie and treated like a child. We had twins in 1996—a boy and a girl—and Charlie was relegated to family dog. Over the years he slowed down a lot—he no longer humped everyone who walked in the door—and I am sad to tell you that Charlie died in December 2004, after 16 wonderful years of life.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 3, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lorain, Ohio
    1. Education:
      B.A. University of California, Berkeley, 1977
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Nina Shepard was in love with a man she'd never met. Perfect, she thought, as she relaxed in the bath she was taking on this sweltering afternoon. The notion made her laugh out loud with that throaty gust of hers. Normally, she couldn't care less about the irony-is-dead-or-not-dead argument, but now at least she knew which side she was on.

It was funny how she could know more about a man she'd never met than all the men she had met put together. She knew that he read books. Okay, so it was that trendy kind of real-life

adventure-tragedy-on-Everest-in-Antarctica-in-Krakatoa-with-sharks-with-fire stuff. Sure, it was Dick Lit (a term Nina had coined in response to Chick Lit), but they were books, for god's sake, and not just the sports or business pages that many men considered "reading." She knew he listened to Mozart as well as Lenny Kravitz, neither her favorite, Mozart being totally overrated, and Lenny being just plain derivative and white-bread, but she appreciated the scope. That he periodically went to hear live jazz and even see a Broadway play now and then. She knew he had what seemed to be a nice relationship with his mom and dad. That he had a lovely dog, if she could excuse the fact — and she could, but on this issue, it took some consideration — that he hadn't gotten him at a shelter, but had bought him for who knows how much through a breeder. That he'd gone to Penn, that he worked for a high-powered corporate law firm, which gave her pause, the lawyer thing, but they paid him pretty goddamn good for a guy just turning thirty-two. That he liked to ski, to watch baseball on TV, to play poker every Wednesday night in a coed game. That he ran in Central Park five days a week and that his next vacation would be spent river-rafting down the Bio Bio in South America. That all that exercise gave him an outdoorsy look that was so appealing and sexy and masculine. That he had a singular nose. That he was a Democrat, and contributed generously to a variety of good, liberal causes from the ACLU to Coalition for the Homeless. That he was a non-practicing Catholic, though Christmas was important to him. Christ, he would begin his shopping in September, if he was to repeat what he did last year. He was that organized and thoughtful. He was her wish list, with only a couple minor infractions, personified.

Now, if only she could meet him.

It had been one of those hot and muggy New York City summer days that cooks the garbage, making a stink so profound that Nina promised herself yet again that next summer, no matter how poor or rich she was, how much work she had, or didn't have, who she was involved with — she should be so lucky — or not, no matter what, she'd be sitting on some beach in California, breathing the cool fresh ocean air, drinking a Corona out of the bottle. With lime. And it was only June, for god sakes. August was going to be like the Mojave, without the dry heat. She was feeling sorry for herself and very disgusted with feeling sorry for herself.

As usual with Nina, it was no win, no win.

So she felt as deserving as she could of this luxuriant bath, fragrant with bubbles, that she was now so decadently taking on a Tuesday afternoon at four. She'd finished her morning and afternoon walks, taken the last dog home and finally had some time for herself. As her head rested against the tub, she let her mind drift along with her hair, which, like a mermaid's, flowed through the water, this way and that, softly. Had she only fins instead of legs she could swim to that distant California shore, free, easy, and dogless, where she'd meet a dangerous pirate who would somehow turn her into a real woman and fuck her brains out and read her poetry and gently stroke her face with his beautiful hands and they'd live happily ever after in a shack, which they'd chosen because they could live anywhere since they were filthy rich from his booty, which had been stolen from a mean dictator whose demise meant freedom for all the people in the land, so it was okay.

After thirty-five years, she liked her legs. A year of dog walking and they were still short, but in good shape, strong and lean and brown. She took the loofah that was sitting in a wooden slatted Japanese box and brushed them, feeling life there in those limbs. She brushed her hips, her arms, her neck, and shoulders, easing her strained muscles and scrubbing her skin just as she was told to do by that bitch at Bloomingdale's who had asked her, all incredulous, "You don't exfoliate?" The things she didn't know.

Just yesterday she had gone into the Town Shop on Broadway, which her best friend, Claire, had sworn by, to buy a new bra for these breasts of hers that now, as the water lifted and separated them, looked pert and lovely as they poked out of the bubbles. Nina had a body she was told men loved, but having large breasts required a serious bra. Claire wore a size 34B and that sexy push-up smoothie kind. Bra shopping was easy for her. And she'd always get a thong to match, because that's how women like Claire dress. Or don't dress, depending on your point of view. Nina wouldn't wear a thong on principle. The principle being that one wears underpants to cover one's butt, not to simulate a wedgie.

"But you don't see the panty line," Claire had argued.

"I want to see the panty line," Nina countered. "I want to know I have panties on. And I want everyone else to know I have panties on. The thought comforts me. And god knows it comforts my mother. If you don't want a panty line, why wear panties at all? Thongs make you feel like something — or someone — is up your butt."

"They're sexy."

"They're stupid." She didn't mention that she'd kill herself before getting one of those Brazilian bikini waxes that seemed to have become a prerequisite to thong-wearing. When did women her age decide that being totally hairless, except for one narrow vertical strip, was a cultural requirement? Was it that facing forty made them want to look like four?

At the Town Shop Nina had been met by a trim and orange-haired fifty-something-year-old African-American woman, her one-inch nails painted red, and topped with gold and black butterfly decals. A jangly bracelet of keys hung on her wrist.

"Hi. I'd like a new bra," Nina explained.

"Come with me." Letting the bracelet fall into the palm of her hand, the woman sifted through the keys to find the right one and unlocked a dressing room door. There were tags on the floor, a couple of bras lying on the old wooden chair, and a mirror that could've used a nice shpritz of Windex. "Take off your top."

Nina waited for the woman to close the door behind her, but she just stood there. So Nina did as she was told. There is no modesty in the Town Shop.

"Honey, you got the wrong size bra. What is that, a 36B? My lord, look at that gap. It doesn't fit you!" She pulled on the sides and tugged at the back.

"I've worn a 36B all my life," said Nina.

"And you been wrong, too, baby. Take that off. I'll get you something."

Nina took off her bra and waited topless until the saleslady returned with a dozen bras, hanging by their straps from her arm, the one with the jangly wrist.

"Try this one." She pulled off a black number, all lacy and seamed, just the way Nina hated them. It got caught for a second in the keys to The Brassiere Kingdom.

"Not my style," Nina said. "Something simpler, smoother."

"Okay, baby. Try this one."

And she handed Nina a plain beige one, seamless and soft. As she tried it on, the woman took the keys off her wrist, put them in her pocket, and dug her hands with those nails down the sides of Nina's breasts and lifted each one into its cup.

"Bend over."

Nina bent.

"Shake."

Nina shook.

"Now stand up and let's take a look."

Nina stood.

"Now that bra fits you, child."

And it did.

"What size is this?" Nina asked.

"A 34C. That's your size. Would you like a thong to match?"

And it was. And she didn't. Nina tried on the other bras and picked three and left the store marveling at how little she knew, especially about herself. When, at the age of thirty-five, you find out you've been wearing the wrong-sized bra for how many years, you realize one thing: you don't know much about anything.

All she knew was this moment, now, in this bathroom, in this tub, washing herself with this loofah. With vigor, she sloughed her heels, the sides of her feet, the calluses on her toes. Her feet that gave her so many problems, these feet with arches as high as the Empire State Building, as wide as the Atlantic, these used and abused dog-walking feet that over the course of the past year had caused her as much embarrassment as pain.

Last month at the podiatrist, she'd gotten the ultimate lesson in how little she knew about anything. There he was, so handsome, so masculine, yet so gentle in his touch. He had pulled up his little doctor stool on wheels, and taken her bare foot in his beautiful hands. He had looked at her foot with his bright blue eyes, then up at her face. Then at her foot again. The Prince had found his Cinderella, Nina thought. Maybe he'll ask for her hand in marriage right then and there. She took a deep breath and smiled.

Then he gazed into her eyes and said, "These are the closest things to club feet I have ever seen." And flashed a brilliant smile right back at her.

Nina knew he was kidding, sort of. But she felt totally humiliated just for thinking what she had been thinking. And still, weeks later, after shelling out $400 for leather orthotics to support her arches and soothe her Morton's neuroma, the thought of what she'd been thinking made her face flush with embarrassment. How could she have believed that these feet would inspire romantic love? She looked at them and noticed that she could use a pedicure. Even these piggies deserved positive attention. She laughed again, remembering the time, a few years before, when Michael, her cinematographer-libertarian-vegetarian-qigong-expert ex-husband, had recommended a chiropractor for her aching feet. Maybe she just needed an adjustment, he'd said — an understatement. She had delayed and delayed going, knowing the kind of alternative medicine he was into. So when this so-called doctor had recommended a high colonic, she simply replied "No thank you" and "No fucking way," to Michael. It was her feet that needed help, not her digestive tract. It turned out to be her heart as well.

But she didn't want to think about this stuff. What was it about a bath, anyway? Her broken heart, her bad feet, her legs, her breasts, her ex, her next, love, sex, and colonics: all this going through her mind while she stared at the hand-painted faux oxidized copper ceiling while drowning the bubbles under palmfuls of water. She was supposed to be relaxing, her mind clearing itself of life's daily detritus. But here she was, getting nuts. Baths! You soak in your own filth, the water goes from hot to lukewarm, the bubbles become a thin soapy film on the water's surface, and your mind goes to places you can't control.

And yet...She put the loofah back in its cradle, and scooped up a handful of what bubbles remained. They still glistened in the afternoon light that wafted in through the small glazed window, the only one in the apartment that didn't look out onto Central Park. That was something she couldn't fail to appreciate, nor everything else about this bathroom, with its rich cherry wood, its walls and floor of stone, its copper fixtures, its yin-yang feel of modern and ancient, of hard, cold and sensuous. The sepia Chinese photographs that lined the wall over the toilet, the bidet. A bidet. The height of luxury, until you think about what it's for. Even Sid, the languorous weimaraner lying on the cool floor next to the tub, seemed a study in feng shui-ness.

She ran the water and stroked her 34C breasts, her stomach, between her legs, and let the water flow there, remembering that this was how she learned, in college, to come. Ah, those were the days. Having the time and inclination to teach oneself — via vibrator, cucumber, brush handle, and running water, sometimes with help from a joint or a glass of wine — the art of the orgasm. A nineteen-year-old boy wasn't going to take the time. So if you weren't for yourself who would be for you? And if not then, when? Since Nina was someone who went at things earnestly, this was a task she took to with devotion. And learn she did. She could feel it now, the old lessons taking effect, the flow of blood through her limbs, the ache in her thighs, her breath shortening, her neck elongating as her chin reached for the ceiling.

She thought of Daniel, the keeper of her heart. His light hair cut short, his rugged face with its incongruous boyish smile, his shoulders, his back, his chest with just the right amount of hair, his graceful hands and legs, his perfect ass.

She thought of being with him on the beach, laying in the sun, feeling its warmth on her skin, his touch all sweaty and salted and sublimely gritty with sand. She thought of him in the car, his hand around her neck, pulling her toward him with unmistakable urgency. She thought of him in her bed, kissing her belly, licking inside her thighs, then on top of her and finding his way inside.

Daniel, Daniel, this man she knew more intimately than any other in her way-too-long life, this man who'd made her come over and over again, as thinking of him made her come at this moment.

All this from going through his stuff. His mail, his drawers, his closets, his books, CD's, e-mail, photos. His pockets. And even, on those very rare occasions, she was loathe to admit, his garbage. Obviously, she knew that it was wrong. To violate the dog walkers' code of ethics: get in, get the dog, get out. But once she took that first step down that forbidden hall, once she took that first look inside that unauthorized kitchen cabinet, once she opened that first off-limits drawer, she was hooked. When had she first let herself snoop? She remembered babysitting when she was a kid, and looking through stuff for who knows what. And when she found something she shouldn't — hidden jewelry, a diaphragm, a dildo, a dirty magazine — how she felt both satisfied and ashamed. And still she couldn't stop herself.

What was to stop her? An overeater looks at an obese person and thinks that could be me. A person who drinks one too many too many times empathizes with an alcoholic: there but for the grace of god. You recognize yourself in another who has crossed the line because you realize how easy it would be for you to go there. But in the matter of the snoop, Nina had easily gone over her backyard fence and out of her neighborhood into regions unknown. Because, out of context, without relativity, without something with which to compare, boundaries are much more ambiguous. It all comes down to how well one's moral compass is working, doesn't it? Are the earth's magnetic forces strong enough to keep you heading north when you want to be going east? And how bad would it be to go east? If only once? Or twice? Would you get lost just by going off the beaten track, into a bedroom or a bathroom, for only a moment or two?

And then there's the question of bad behavior. She saw it every day in so many ways in almost every apartment she entered. Dogs ignored, dogs treated better than a child, dogs treated worse than, well, a dog. This did provide Nina with a kind of relativity. How bad was she when the owners of the dogs were so onerous? Does deviance in others provide adequate justification for being deviant yourself? It occurred to Nina as she soaked in her bath that maybe she was becoming worse than the crazy fucks whose dogs she walked.

Then she heard the front door. Oh my god, she thought. As she quickly sat up, the force of her body caused the water to slosh violently toward the front of the tub and back, almost onto the floor. She tried to still it by patting its surface, ridiculously. The dog's tail started thumping against the floor. He'd heard it too.

"Sid, ssshhh," Nina whispered. She pulled the plug and stood up, tearing a towel off the rack, putting her ear against the wall, as if she could hear better this way, through the wall, across the master bedroom, and down the hall to the foyer. The dog began to pace. Tub to wall, wall to tub, his nails tap tap tapping on the stone floors, his head cocked as he passed the door as if to hear what was happening, his whining as if a cry for help. "Ssshhh. Please, Sid, stop. Stay. Sit, for god's sake." She grabbed her clothes and began to dress.

Keys thrown on the entry table. Footsteps down the hallway.

Oh shit, thought Nina. What time is it? She found her watch on the sink and realized it was almost five. Oh god. She'd stayed too long. Her heart was beating so loudly, she was sure the intruder would hear it.

A drawer opened and closed. Coins on the chest of drawers. The computer turned on.

He was in the bedroom.

Sid was wild now, his paws up on the door, scratching. Nina jumped on top of him, pinning him firmly, one hand across his back and under his chest, so he couldn't move, as if in position to begin a wrestling match, the other holding tight across his muzzle to keep his mouth closed. A whine still crept out now and then, and all she could do was hope to god that it couldn't be heard through the solid cherry door, which seemed unlikely since she could hear everything out there.

A body sitting on the bed, shoes clunking on the floor. The rustling of clothing. Steps. The click click click of the computer keypad.

A yelp from Sid.

Daniel must have had heard it, because he'd stopped typing. Nina held her breath, trying to read the quiet.

"Sid?" Daniel asked.

A beat. Then.

"Hey. Where's my boy?" Daniel yelled. "Sid! Siddhartha!"

And then the damn dog was up, whining and scratching at the floor, trying to break free of Nina's clutches.

"Sid, please," Nina pleaded.

"Sid? You in there, boy?" Daniel was at the bathroom door.

Oh god, thought Nina. This is how I'm going to meet him?

"Please," she whispered. And as she opened the door a crack to let Sid out, it was pushed open from the other side.

"Wha — who are you?"

"Hi." Was it just that she'd never seen him in the flesh or did he look particularly good standing there in those boxers?

"Do I know you?"

"I was just leaving," she said.

"You Nina?"

"It was just so hot outside, I drank so much water, I really had to pee. Use the bathroom, I mean. I hope it's okay."

She saw him look at her and hoped to god her hair wasn't dripping and that she'd remembered to pull up her shorts, pull down her T-shirt, and dry her face.

She stuck out her hand. "Nice to meet you." She picked up her backpack.

Daniel squinted at her, disbelieving. His eyes were much darker than she'd thought they would be. They were eyes that made her knees melt, eyes underlined with dark shadows as if they were tired and worn, as if they'd seen much more than their owner would ever reveal.

"Sure, it's all right, I guess. But there's one at the front of the apartment, off the foyer. The one for guests. Okay?" His hair was lighter than in his pictures. His shoulders broader. It was as if his pictures had dulled and miniaturized him. Here, alive, he was vital and huge and light and dark and accentuated. He had a scar on his chin. He had a dimple on his left cheek when he smiled.

"Sure. Okay. Sorry. I just..." And she edged past him, smelling him, faintly, deliciously. She eyed the bed, the comforter disheveled and wrinkled where he had sat. Oh, were I that comforter, she thought.

But Daniel raised his hand. "Your hair." He reached out, taking a few wet strands between his fingers, which she couldn't help notice were long and knuckly.

Nina laughed. "Yeah. The humidity." His eyes were on her and she let out a sigh. "It really does a number on me."

He looked at her fully, suspiciously. She looked back, trying not to swoon, shook her head, and looked at her watch.

"Gee. Um, I gotta go," she said. And with one lingering look at his face, at that scar, at those eyes, at his mouth, at that place where his neck met his shoulders, she also said very slowly, "I love...your dog."

Before he could respond, she turned and was through the bedroom and halfway down the hall. It was only then that Daniel noticed the towel on the floor.

He called after her. "Hey, Nina!"

But the door slammed and she was out. She didn't have to wait for the elevator and once it hit the lobby, she sprinted past the Persian rugs, the antique benches and chairs, under the chandeliers, and right up to the octogenarian doorman.

"Pete, what happened?"

"I didn't have time," he answered.

"Oh god, Pete."

par

"Mrs. Gold had packages, the mailman was here, those Butler twins climbing on the — I'm sorry, Nina. You know I'd do anything in the world for you."

Nina smiled. "For me? Or for these?" She dug into her backpack and handed Pete a box of Goobers, as she had each and every day she had walked Siddhartha in the past month and spent a little extra time upstairs. "See you tomorrow?"

"But not so long next time." said Pete.

"I know."

Once she got outside, she could breathe again. The sky was pale orange and lavender as the sun prepared for its descent, sending shadows deep across this most extraordinary day. That was a close one, Nina thought as she made her way home, but oh god, it was worth it.

Copyright © 2004 by Leslie Schnur

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1) After the first chapter, what have you learned about Nina? What does she care about? What are her weaknesses? After you'd read a few pages did you feel like you knew her, or that she was someone you'd get along with? Did the end of the chapter surprise you? After you found out she was trespassing, did your opinion of her change?

1) Both Nina and Billy like to snoop. The author describes the urge by saying, "It was like eating one of those See's candies. You know it's bad for you, but the force to do it, to reach, to eat, is so much stronger than the force to stop and think and consider the fat and cholesterol content, or, in this case, weighing the moral issues" (133). Nina and Billy devote a lot of thought to weighing the moral issues after the fact (and sometimes even mid-snoop). What conclusions do they come to? Do their ideas differ significantly? How do their experiences with each other change their snooping habits?

2) Do Billy and Nina learn anything valuable about each other while snooping that they might not have learned by talking to each other? Think about Nina's discovery of Billy's trombone, and Billy's discovery of Nina's sculpture and her obsession with old musicals. Do you think either of them would have revealed these secrets on their own? How does snooping circumvent their natural tendencies to protect themselves? Does it help them develop intimacy?

3) Nina thinks she's in love with Billy because she was in love with what she knew of "his" apartment. Billy is aware of Nina's preconceived notions, and he's afraid that Nina really is in love with his brother. How much does Nina really know about the inhabitant of Daniel's apartment? Is there a difference between her infatuation with Daniel and her love for Billy? Is it reasonable for Billy to be afraid that Nina is really in love with his brother?
4) Claire, Billy and Bono all respond to Nina's sculptures. "And," as Nina says, "every one of them was a critic" (232). Compare Claire's response to Nina's sculptures with Billy's. What does she think Nina ought to do with them (see page 218), and how does her opinion reflect her wishes for Nina in general? How does Daniel respond to the sculpture (see page 211)? How does his relationship with it reflect his desired relationship with Nina?

5) Nina's relationship with her mom seems strained and unsatisfying. What does Nina want from her that's she's not getting? When Nina is in the hospital, do you think anything changes for them during their phone conversation? Later, when Nina tells her mom that she's in love, and her mom tells her not to screw it up, Nina asks herself, "When would she stop asking for it and learn the limits of this relationship? Not all mothers could bear the disappointments of their daughters" (261). By recognizing this, will Nina improve her relationship with her mother? How else might she build on their relationship?
6) Why do both Nina's mom and Claire make it a point to push Nina towards finding another profession? Nina finds this annoying and avoids admitting to either of them that she agrees. Do you think their prodding is useful, or does it encourage Nina to resist change? Is their advice a form of caring, or is it just meddlesome? What is it that finally allows Nina to develop her career?

7) On page 159, Nina says to Claire, "I'm not and have never been a manufacturer of my own destiny." But by the end of the book, Nina is not only mistress of her own fate, she's helping others as well. What changes in her make it possible for her to be so proactive? How does her newfound confidence contribute to her happiness and the happiness of others?

8) Along the same lines, Nina's relationship with Billy almost becomes "the first love affair with no people" (188) because neither wants to be the one to pursue the other and risk being vulnerable. Both have their reasons for being reticent. Are Nina's reasons more valid than Billy's, or vice versa? After Nina's brief entanglement with Daniel, she pursues Billy and tries to heal their rift. What enabled her to be able to do that? Do you think Billy would have gone looking for her if she hadn't beaten him to it? Had he changed as well?

9) Did Billy handle his work with Mrs. Chandler ethically? Professionally? Why was he so upset when she refused to tell him how she made her money (see page 171), and why didn't he turn her in? To some, Billy's deal with Mrs. Chandler might seem like a reasonable compromise; to others, it might seem like a shake down. How did Billy's arrangement with Mrs. Chandler allow him to reconcile his professional responsibilities with his ethics?

10) What did you make of Daniel's behavior regarding Nina and his brother? Billy described his relationship with his brother by saying, "Since the dawn of mankind, brothers were competitive, jealous, and resentful. Billy and Daniel, walking proudly in the shoes of Cain and Abel" (263). Nina, on the other hand, doesn't regard Daniel's behavior so philosophically: she demands retribution in the form of Daniel's dog, Sid. Were their responses commensurate with his behavior?

11) After her successful matchmaking, Nina decides to start her own business linking up dogs and owners. As Claire says, "[People] choose each other for all the wrong reasons. Why would they do any better when it comes to a dog?" (301) How does that observation describe the complications in the relationship between Nina and Billy? Think about Nina's conversation with Mrs. Chandler about sofas. How does it help her to understand why she wants to be with Billy?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

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4 Star

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2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2006

    Wonderful storyline, but book stunk

    Ok, I really wanted to love this book. I got it on clearance, an the subject sounded really cook. I even saw the movie on ABC and it was cute - so I thought the book would be better. But alas, I read the first few chapters and got so tired of her strange monologue and the main characters bitching I couldn't take it. DONT BOTHER WITH THIS BOOK!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2005

    Garbage

    I thought this book was complete and total garbage. It was not at all what I was expecting. The plot was insipid at best, and the dialogue was completely unrealistic. I can't believe I wasted my time reading this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2005

    Wonderful book

    I loved this book. I felt the characters (including the dogs) were very real and well developed. I have new respect for dogwalkers everywhere. And Ms. Schnur's sense of humor kept me laughing during the whole book. I thought at first it would just be a funny shallow book and an easy read, but it had amazing depth.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2012

    Great

    Great book

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    Not my first recommendation.

    I bought this book mainly because it was on sale and sounded like a good light read. I was disappointed in the shallow and somewhat annoying main character, Nina. Nina is a 35 year old dog walker who acts like an immature child. I found the dogs to be more enjoyable than the actual human characters. The plot kept me reading but at times I found myself rolling my eyes when it came to Nina. I will give the author a break being that this is her first novel. However, if you are looking for a nice light read, this would not be the first book I would recommend.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2011

    Wish I read the reviews!

    I was thinking that this book was going to start getting better at any moment and then realized i was already 100 pages into it! I stopped to read the customer reviews to see if others said it was going to pick up. But it seems everyone else was disappointed too. Dont think i will be finishing it.

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  • Posted June 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    DO NOT BOTHER!

    This book was absolutely awful! It was a book club pick one month and I wasn't interested but bought it. I barely got through 25 pages before I had to tell my fellow book clubbers I simply could not finish this book. It is really poorly written and overly sexualized for no apparent reason. At the meeting the following month I found: We ALL hated it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2007

    Don't read this book!!!

    This book starts out ok, but it never improves! I kept thinking it would get better, but at the end couldn't believe I wasted any time reading it! Nothing original or creative about this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2005

    Fantastic

    Fantastic Book. Characters were people you could imagine seeig in everyday life. The questions of ethics and morality and the inner 'should I, shouldn't I' questions are creatively and humourously addressed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2005

    Liberal Diatribe

    When I bought this book I had no idea I was getting a book full of liberal opinions rolled into a not so great story. This book is about two people who lie constantly, can't decide what to do with their lives, hurt everyone around them and in the last few chapters figure it all out. Ugh. The character development may be about these people growing and learning but I just couldn't get past their horrid morals and their constant judgement of others around them. I have no empathy for any of the characters in this book - such a disappointment.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2005

    Cute and entertaining

    usually, i find books from this genre quite shallow, because i'm used to reading classics. But I really liked this book, in fact i read it in a day!! This book does not have the shallow feel. I was reading BET ME by Crusie, and I read the whole thing, but something about it wasn't satisfying. This book is really something though!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2005

    Trash

    The premise of this book sounded so promising---light, humorous reading about a dog walker in New York City, where I grew up; however, I am embarrassed to admit that I even read the first three chapters (I kept hoping it would get better). I don't have friends like Nina, who only seem to think 'dirty' thoughts and use profane language. To me this book is profane, sensual, and pornographic. If it was rated like movies are, it would be rated at least an 'R.' I'm mortified because I sent it to my stepmother for her birthday without reading it first. It's not something I would recommend to anyone!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2004

    Great book for a fun read!

    I first read this book on vacation and I loved it! It was such a fun book and just what I needed to unwind fron a stressful week.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2004

    An O.K. Summer Read

    I was hoping to find this book more mature than it actually was. The writing wasn't the greatest; kind of juvenile, in fact, and I was expecting much more from it. The actual story itself was ok, but the storyline has been overdone already.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2004

    VERY FUNNY!

    The main character is well written with a realistic depth, and her friends are a kick! They're just like people all of us know. And the dogs have personalities that will draw you in and make you care. It's romantic and funny and I am recommending this book to all my friends as a perfect summer read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2004

    Great vacation read

    The Dog Walker was a great companion on my last vacation...The characters are right out of my neighborhood in New York, and Schnur's humor shines throughout. I would definitely recommend it as a fun escape from the day-to-day grind.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Engaging Manhattan romantic romp

    In New York City, thirty-five years old dog walker Nina Shepard loves a client she has not met in person except through his canine Sid the Weimaraner and snooping in his apartment when she picks up Sid. Based on her in depth probe, Nina believes that thirty-two years old Daniel Maguire is perfect for her although she has some doubts about his owning purebred Sid. Desperate to meet the love of her life, Nina ponders how to achieve her objective for she is sure that once Daniel meets her, they will forge a forever. When fate throws Nina with the object of unrequited love, moonlight over the Hudson takes hold although Daniel is not quite what she fantasized. As Daniel falls in love with Nina, everything seems perfect except that she begins to wonder if she should tell him the truth about her probe into his life and he ponders how to inform his beloved that he is not Daniel, but his twin Billy. Though the use of twins feels ancient, fans, especially dog fanciers will enjoy this Manhattan romantic romp. Nina is an interesting protagonist who feels strongly life has passed her by while she walks a motley crew of canines with varying temperaments and personalities. The human secondary characters are a bark short of the dogs, but add angst as Nina cannot help but getting involved. THE DOG WALKER feels like an adult matchmaking for herself. This work feels like Clueless transferred to Manhattan though some of the amusing bite is lost by doubling the age of the star. Still this romantic canine caper is humorous and fun especially for those walking their mutts. Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews

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