Ella in Europe: An American Dog Travels through Europe

Overview

Part travelogue, part valentine to a beloved pet, Ella in Europe chronicles writer Michael Konik's magical six-week journey through Europe with his dog, Ella. An homage to the friend who has "licked away my tears when I'm sad, hopped on her hind legs when I'm happy, and snuggled me when I'm lonely," here is the story of a bond unlike any other--and an extraordinary dog who stole her way into one man's heart. Los Angeles writer Michael Konik had always shared his life with dogs. But Ella, a gentle Lab mix, was ...
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Overview

Part travelogue, part valentine to a beloved pet, Ella in Europe chronicles writer Michael Konik's magical six-week journey through Europe with his dog, Ella. An homage to the friend who has "licked away my tears when I'm sad, hopped on her hind legs when I'm happy, and snuggled me when I'm lonely," here is the story of a bond unlike any other--and an extraordinary dog who stole her way into one man's heart. Los Angeles writer Michael Konik had always shared his life with dogs. But Ella, a gentle Lab mix, was something special. From the moment Konik laid eyes on her, he knew: This dog was meant to be his. An enchantress who charmed all who met her, Ella Guinevere Konik had a truly unique gift--and soon Konik found a way for Ella to share that gift, signing her up for a program that brings dogs into hospitals, nursing homes, and children's shelters. When Ella turned ten, Konik wanted to thank the "best friend" whose unconditional love had transformed his life--and gave comfort and joy to others in need. So a trip to Europe was planned--and for Konik and Ella, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure began, one that would strengthen the already-powerful bond between them. As they explore Europe's most beautiful--and surprisingly dog-friendly--cities, Konik is amazed at the experiences he and Ella can share...Arriving in Vienna on July 4th with Ella wrapped in her American Flag scarf...dining at four-star restaurants in Paris...Ella swimming in the Danube...Taking a gondola ride in Venice...Sunbathing in St. Tropez...Searching for a canine toilet in Monte Carlo. And as Konik heads home, accompanied by the canine friend who "helped teach me what love means," one thing is certain: both dogand owner had been changed forever. At once a testament to the power of unconditional love and a celebration of devotion, Ella in Europe is a book for anyone who has ever felt a special connection to a dog they've loved.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Pet lovers often lament having to leave their pets behind when they travel, especially in the United States, where pets are not universally welcomed. Europe is much more accepting, and in this book the author rewards his much-loved pup with a six-week trip. Ella, a beautiful and friendly lab mix, draws attention wherever she goes, and she goes almost everywhere. Despite the author's constant fear of being turned away, he and Ella are accepted-and Ella adored-at most of the stops on their itinerary. The bond between them deepens as they explore some of Europe's most beautiful cities; from dining in expensive Paris restaurants and riding gondolas in Venice to frolicking on the Belgian beaches, Ella is allowed to sniff and explore her way across Europe, a rare opportunity for an American dog. Konik, the author of articles and books on topics ranging from golf to gambling, clearly expresses his devotion to and enthusiasm for this special dog and her European adventures in a heartwarming story that will appeal to animal lovers and armchair travelers alike. Recommended for public libraries.-Sheila Kasperek, North Hall Lib., Mansfield Univ., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A highly convivial tour with dog, from Los Angeles freelancer Konik. Ella, a big, white, good-tempered, Labrador-greyhound mix, serves as her proud owner's unpaid claque. "No matter your failings," he writes, "you [are] still a hero to your dog." In return, Ella gets unabashed affection from Konik (Telling Lies and Getting Paid, etc., not reviewed). She also gets a trip to Europe-a small recompense, now that she is 70 (in dog years), for all the pleasure she has brought into her master's life. Unlike the US, which severely circumscribes the freedom of dogs, Europe weaves them into life's daily tapestry. The Louvre, the casino in Monte Carlo and a pizza joint in Cannes turn Ella away, but they're about the only ones that do. It simply takes Konik's breath away that he can be everywhere with his great good friend. Ella in a gondola? No problem. Ella in a bar watching the World Cup? Of course. Ella also visits a Hermes shop, dines at Le Grand Vefour restaurant (three stars, Guide Michelin) and is offered a glass of wine to soothe her jangled nerves during a lightning storm. These pages offer plenty of easy fun, but they tug at something deeper as well: When Konik writes, "Ella reminds me that comfort with oneself is the key to comfort in your environment, no matter how grand (or squalid) it is," he touches on one of the great tools of travel. When we deny ourselves everyday access to animals such as dogs, he further reminds us, we lose our ability to comfortably associate with a population of creatures and forsake their affirming, heart-bracing qualities. That's quite a loss. Ella tends to bring out the best in people, and she certainly brings it out in her owner: Whenever he finds himselfdrifting into the mawkish, the author takes a look at his dog and starts behaving himself. (Photos throughout)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385338516
  • Publisher: Dell Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/25/2005
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Konik has contributed to more than 100 publications worldwide, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, and Travel + Leisure. He is also the author of Telling Lies and Getting Paid, The Man with the $100,000 Breasts, Nice Shot, Mr. Nicklaus, and In Search of Burningbush. He is currently a contributing editor to Delta Air Lines' Sky magazine.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Less than a week after arriving in Los Angeles, I was walking in Runyon Canyon, a nature preserve tucked into the Hollywood Hills, just a few blocks above the lurid electricity of Sunset Boulevard. I was in the canyon primarily for a vigorous weekend hike through unspoiled wilderness and, just as an afterthought, not because I was obsessed or anything, because I had heard that Runyon Canyon was always teeming with dogs. (And their owners, of course.) Which, in my admittedly peculiar view of the world, made it about the loveliest place on the entire planet to take a walk.
I was near the end of the loop, coming downhill on a onetime fire road, past the ruins of an old tennis court supposedly owned in the 1920s by the great Irish tenor John McCormack. It had been a fine hike. I’d seen red-tailed hawks circling the canyon, and wild mustard plants, and scampering lizards. And dogs--dozens of them. Golden retrievers and chocolate Labs and short-haired pointers, and all sorts of mongrels, and very many of them had let me pet them and nuzzle them and tell them how irresistibly beautiful they were.
I was in a joyous mood because my dad was scheduled to visit my new home in less than a week, and when he arrived we planned to visit the local shelter, where he would help me select my very first Dog of My Own. The house I was renting had a big backyard filled with fruit trees, rosebushes, and, in what I took to be a very promising sign, an old-fashioned wooden doghouse, just like Snoopy’s. And in just a few days more, I suspected it might have a new four-legged tenant.
As I trundled down the path, marveling at so much wilderness hidden within a bustling city, I sawin the distance another pair of dogs, a big one and a little one, accompanied by their owner and coming my way. As I approached the trio, I could see that the larger dog was an all-black German shepherd, with a dazzlingly shiny coat. The smaller one appeared to be an all-white Jack Russell terrier, with a longer-than-usual tail. Neither dog was on a leash, but when their owner stopped walking, the big black one immediately sat at his master’s heel. A few seconds later, the little white one sat down too, as though he were imitating his big brother.
I attempted my usual opening gambit. “Beautiful dogs you have,” I said to the owner, a handsome and athletic man in his thirties.
“Oh, thanks,” he said, smiling.
Without hesitation, I moved to close the deal. “May I pet them?”
“Sure,” the man said. “Go ahead.”
“Hello!” I said to the shepherd. And in classic anthropomorphic style I asked, “What’s your name?”
His owner spoke for him, as often happens in these cases. “His name is Darryl.”
I stroked Darryl behind his ears and told his master how many German shepherds had been part of my family as I was growing up. The man politely feigned interest.
I noticed then that no matter what Darryl did, the little white Jack Russell did, too. If Darryl stood, so did the terrier. If Darryl presented his butt for scratching, so did the little white one. If Darryl became entranced by something rustling in a nearby tree, so did his diminutive buddy.
“They’re very cute,” I said, which is what I found myself always saying when I spent quality petting time with dogs. But I really meant it. “This little white guy. He’s adorable!”
“You like her?” the man said.
“I mean she. She’s adorable. She’s so white. And what a face! Look at those eyes!” I caught myself degenerating into goo-goo-ga-ga baby talk. “You’re so cute! You’re so sweet. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”
“You like her?” the man asked again.
“Oh, she’s spectacular,” I said, accepting a sloppy kiss from her across my nose.
“Well,” he said nonchalantly, “do you want her?”
“What do you mean?” I said, puzzled.
“I’ve been looking for a home for her,” he told me.
“You’re giving her up?” I asked, incredulous. “She seems so--I mean, she’s--oh, she’s just--she’s great.”
“I just found her two days ago,” he said. “Behind the doughnut shop over on La Brea. I figured I would bring her here, to the canyon, before I took her to the pound. You know, I figured some dog lover might want to adopt a nice puppy.”
I looked at the abandoned dog, the all-white Jack Russell. And then I realized she wasn’t a full-grown terrier at all. She was a puppy! Her paws were slightly too big for her body, and when I looked carefully, I could see that she still needed to grow into her ribs. “How old is she?” I wondered aloud.
“The vet says she’s probably three months or less,” her savior reported. “And she’s basically healthy. Has all her shots and everything.”
“And very well behaved,” I noted. “You’re so good! What a good doggie!”
“Oh, yeah! I mean, everything Darryl does she imitates. Very smart.”
I asked him what kind of dog she was, if not a Jack.
“The vet told me she’s a mix between white Lab and greyhound. But unless you meet the parents, I guess we’ll never know exactly.” As he spoke, the puppy looked up toward him, as though she understood she was being talked about. He knelt down and patted her on the head. “Good girl, Bogey.” She panted as he stroked her neck. “I’ve been calling her ‘Bogey.’ But only for a couple of days. I’m sure you could call her something else if you wanted.”
I knelt down on one knee, closer to her level. And just as my dad had taught me, I tested her reaction to my hand moving near her face, to see if she had been hit and taught to fear.
She didn’t flinch. She licked my palm.
“Well, she doesn’t appear to have been abused,” I said.
“No, no, she hasn’t been a stray or anything. This young girl who works at the doughnut shop has been taking care of her since she was born. But the girl’s, like, fourteen, and she can’t handle the responsibility. So, anyway, I just figured I would try here before she got put in the shelter, because, you know, there’s no telling what might happen to her there.”
I looked into the little white mutt’s eyes. Without being instructed, she sat down. I leaned in close to her muzzle, close enough to see her blond eyelashes and smell her soft odor, that comfortingly pleasant smell of puppies. She wiggled her butt and cocked her head.
I said to her softly, “Hello, beautiful puppy. Are you looking for a home?”
And just then she let out a gentle bark, an excited yelp, and began to lick my neck.
“I think it’s love,” her rescuer said, laughing.
I wiped a tear from my eye and said, “Yes, I think it is.”
Four hours later, after a breathless phone call to my daddy and an inspection of my house and yard by the rescued dog’s savior, the little white puppy had a new home.
And that’s how on July 1, 1994, Ella Guinevere Konik came into my life.
***
Ella Konik has had a good life. She’s hiked through Wyoming’s Absaroka Mountains in the company of llamas. She’s chased squirrels through Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia. She’s dug deep holes in the wet sand of Venice Beach, California.
And she’s loved and been loved by hundreds of people, many of whom say their life was changed when they made the acquaintance of this remarkable mutt.
Ella has kissed celebrities. She’s been photographed for several magazine stories. She’s been mistaken for a purebred show dog, a movie dog, and a rare and exotic and expensive possession--and all the while she’s simply gone on being my mutt. And my best friend.
Ella has been welcomed into the lobby of my bank and the patio of the local Brazilian restaurant and the aesthetically bleak aisles of the nearby video store. She’s voted with me (usually for the Libertarian candidate). And trained with me for the Los Angeles marathon. And revisited Runyon Canyon hundreds (thousands?) of times, never tiring of the infinite smells and sounds and inspiring places to pee.
She’s waited patiently outside the supermarket and the copy store and the take-out Thai joint, since those unenlightened places have never welcomed her in as they would any other refined and well-mannered lady.
Ella has licked away my tears when I’ve been sad, and hopped on her hind legs with me when I’ve been happy, and snuggled me when I’ve been lonely.
Once, in the midst of my being divorced, Ella and I were involuntarily kept apart for nearly six months. I was allowed to talk with her on the phone and get reassuring weekly reports that she was “all right” without her daddy. But I knew that Ella had to be suffering. I surely was. It was agony--really, a physical pain in my gut--to not have her brilliant white fur on my clothes, her expressive ears and tail talking to me, her paws clicking on the floor. When the lawyers and the ex finally decided that Ella and I could be reunited, we met again at Runyon Canyon, not far from where I first saw her as a puppy.
I climbed the hill from my house, knowing that each step was bringing me closer to the friend I had missed for nearly half a year, the one constant source of joy in my life. When I got to the end of the street, where the park officially begins, I could see Ella sniffing the wild grass up a small hill, maybe fifty yards away. Her back was to me, but she was just as I imagined she would be, only whiter and prettier and more filled with life.
I didn’t have to call her. She knew I was near.
And when Ella turned and saw me standing at the bottom of the hill, my hands outstretched toward her, she broke into a sprint, yelping and crying as she ran. I knelt down to receive my precious mutt, and she nearly knocked me over as she jumped into my arms, kissing and whimpering and entangling herself between my legs in a crazy figure-eight pattern. I cried very hard then, relieved that the darkest months of my life were finished and knowing that my future would be bright, filled with her sunny companionship. My marriage was over, but my friendship with Ella would continue forever. While the grief of losing my wife would linger for years, the salutary balm of Ella’s love would make unbearable pains bearable.
Like most dogs, Ella has given me far more than I could ever give her. Yes, she’s always been well fed and well loved, and in her owner’s weaker moments she’s been allowed to sleep on the goose-down living room couch. But there have been far too many times in my life when I’ve had to go places that weren’t civilized enough to welcome her, times I’ve been forced to leave her behind to “guard the house,” times she’s surely felt abandoned by her supposed best friend.
I know she’s probably thought something like: “How come I always want to be with him, yet he apparently doesn’t always want to be with me?”
The truth is I almost always do want to be with her, especially as she grows older and our finite time together gets shorter with each sunset. But the land I live in, the greatest country in the world (and I mean that sincerely, without any sarcasm at all), does not feel about my magnificent friend as I do. To me she is a lady: elegant, smart, and endlessly amusing. To American society she’s just a dog. A pretty dog, sure. But not the kind of “lady” you’d welcome into a department store or a restaurant or a library or on a golf course or at a bowling alley or a movie theater. Ill-mannered children and their obnoxious parents--come one, come all. But a dog? A dog? Even a perfectly behaved, astonishingly smart, ridiculously charming dog? Forbidden.
Now, this sorry state of affairs--attributable in no small part, I would reckon, to our friends The Lawyers--makes me angry, just as any injustice makes me angry. But it makes me sad, too. Because I fear Ella mistakes my willingness to humbly abide my society’s laws as a tacit rejection of her fabulous company. I wish I could explain to her that, despite how it appears, I’d like nothing more than to take her to play golf with me. Or to do grocery shopping. Or see a matinee screening of My Dog Skip. But even Ella’s enormous (for a dog) vocabulary doesn’t allow her to comprehend abstract concepts. She doesn’t understand that good intentions do not mitigate painful results. To Ella, Daddy leaving her behind as he goes on with his life does not mean Daddy is flummoxed by a society that does not share his enthusiasm for canine companionship. It means Daddy is abandoning his alleged best pal.
Since dogs probably don’t understand the concept of time--at least not in the way human beings do--when I leave our house, Ella assumes I’ve left her forever, that I’m never returning. This is why she goes berserk with joy when I return home--whether I’ve been gone three weeks or three hours. To her it’s all the same absolute: Either she’s with her friend or she’s not. One state of affairs is good. One is bad. And every time I’m forced to create badness in her otherwise blissful life, I feel rotten. (And she knows it. When I leave without her, Ella hangs her head and refuses to look at me as I remind her how much I love her.) For an animal who is used to having her favorite companion near her far more than the average dog--I work out of a home office in which Ella has her own bolster bed in the corner--my absences sting more painfully.
Sometimes I look at Ella napping near my desk, or playing gently with her brother Sammy the cat (who likes to nibble on Ella’s ears while Ella sniffs his nether regions), or having a sunbath in the garden while birds and squirrels play in the tree canopy above her. I look at her and know that she has had a happy life, a good life. She’s enjoyed being a dog, and most of all she’s enjoyed being my friend.
But probably not nearly as much as I’ve enjoyed being hers.
I see her slowing, evolving from a hyperactive pup to an energetic adult, to an increasingly tired old lady. She’s eleven now. Being a big dog--seventy-three pounds of lean muscle--she’s probably entering the last years of her life. Someday far too soon I know I’ll have to say good-bye to her.

Copyright © 2005 by Michael Konik
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2006

    WOW!

    This book is really good - I had always wondered how things would be different if I had my dog by my side. Now I know, it really gives a new meaning to your life. This is one of my favorite books, I would recommend it for grades 5 to adults.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2006

    Great book

    I loved this book,it warmed my heart,it will yours when you read it.Mr.Konik has brought out all things a dog can do to make life as a dog owner learn what love is all about.I had a dog named 'Sarah'and Michaels Ella is a charmer and they are bonded together in this life and the memories he will have taking her to Europe will live in his heart and yours forever--Please read his book or you will miss a great adventure!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2005

    The dog who conquered Europe!

    You'll love this great adventure of a beautiful dog and her dad travelling in Europe. Each section is prefaced by pictures of Ella in Rome, Paris, Berlin and other great places. I loved this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2005

    I Loved This Book!

    This book is a wonderful story of celebration for author, Michael Konik, and his beautiful white dog Ella as they travel in Europe. Ella is an enchanting and sweet dog who touches the lives of all those she meets. If you love a dog, or have ever loved a dog (or any pet for that matter) you will love this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2005

    If You Love Your Dog, You Can't Miss This Book

    Every friend of dogs needs to read this book: it understands dogs and our love for them like nothing I've ever seen. The humor and sensitivity Mr. Konik uses to talk about his travels with his fabulous dog, Ella, make the book both hysterical and touching. You'll never forget Michael, Ella, and their friend Sandrine. It's nice to picture yourself and your dog enjoying the freedom and acceptance in Europe that Ella received. We can only hope the litigious US will someday follow the lead of our European friends. Soon. Mr. Konik reminds us how utterly amazing our best friends are and how they should be appreciated as much as possible for the gifts they quietly give us each day. I read this book slowly to postpone its ending. I was so sorry to see the trip end. Such a refreshing read! No dog person can be without this book on the shelf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2005

    Don't miss this one!

    An endearing, witty, laugh out loud adventure! For anyone who has treasured the loving companionship of a great dog.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2005

    Traveling with your best friend, (albeit with 4 legs) what a JOY!

    Ella in Europe is one of the best reads I've had. A truly enjoyable trek through Europe with Ella and her dad sharing their experinces and bond. This travel guide/love story made me laugh and cry at the same time. Mr Konik's descriptive writing shared the essence of their travels and the special relationship between man and his best friend. Often worried about rejection from hotel, restaurant or carnival ride restrictions, Mr. Konik learned from Ella how to take life in stride and know that you can make friends anywhere. (Especially if you have a sweet smile and can wag your tail!) I have recommended Ella in Europe to many dog lovers and lovers of travel. Thank you Mr. Konik for sharing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2005

    What a Great Book.

    I loved it. I feel in love with Ella. Anyone who has a dog or lost a loved one should read it. Michael treats his dog like a daughter, that is the why we treat our dog. Ella is so well behaved and beautiful. It was one of the best dog books I have ever read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2005

    Ella in Europe: An American Dog Travels through Europe

    Like Michael Konik, I am a dog lover and have always had a canine companion in my life. This book is nothing short of superb. It is a loving and tender story of deep friendship and undying loyalty between Konik and Ella. Konik sounds brilliant and charming, while Ella appears funny and elegant. I was fascinated by the places they visited, I was moved by the tenderness. Ella in Europe is a sensational read written by a highly talented writer. I have purchased all of Konik's books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2005

    Ella in Europe: An American Dog Travels through Europe

    How I wish that I had been Michael Konik's writing teacher. This young man has a splendid way with words. I've read hundreds of books in my lifetime (93years), many superb, many medicore. Konik's writing has passion and voice. Ella in Europe is one of the finest books I've read. I've never had a dog, but after reading about the special kinship Ella has with her dad, I know I have missed out on a unique bond. My grandson gave me Ella in Europe, and after reading Konik's writing,I intend to read more of his work. I also have never written a review on the computer before but my grandson showed me the way. You must buy this book; settle in with a pot of tea, some butter cookies, and read your heart away. This is a rare treat. Your life will be richer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2005

    The Best!

    I LOVED this book. It is so sweet. The author's love for his dog comes through so clearly. If you have a pet then you know how powerful this bond can be between human and furry friend. Ella is a special dog and this is a special book. I don't think that the trip that Ella took would be for all dogs, because not all dogs are as well-trained as Ella. It is very fun however to read about this glamourous experience. I have read dozens of books about dogs. 'Ella in Europe' is my new favorite.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2005

    Who needs chocolate and the calories when you have Ella to make you feel better

    I met Ella and her human father at a book signing recently. Ella is absolutely the sweetest dog ever! She has a charm that brings smiles to all who meet her and enough charm left over to melt your heart. The book is full of humor, enlightment and adventures that otherwise may not have happened without Ella as a companion. It makes all pet owners glad that we have opened up our lives enough to let an animal love us unconditionally. Thanks Michael Konig and Ella for sharing your story and sharing your loving friendship.

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