Life on the Leash

Life on the Leash

by Victoria Schade

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501191688
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 45,035
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Victoria Schade is an author, speaker, and dog trainer known for her upbeat approach to living and working with dogs. She has been featured in The Washington Post, Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Reader’s Digest, The Bark, and many dog-specific publications. Victoria has worked on Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl special for the past twelve years. She has served as a pet expert for Petside, Pet360, petMD and PawCulture, writing training and behavior content and appearing in educational videos. Life on the Leash is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Life on the Leash


  • Cora waved sheepishly at the car she’d just cut off and mouthed “Sorry!” to the driver. She had three minutes to make it two blocks, find parking, and dash to her client’s house. In DC, on the wrong side of rush hour, two blocks could take hours. On this day the traffic gods were on her side.

    She’d told Madison Perry she’d arrive at her home at eleven thirty, and her phone read eleven twenty-nine as she snagged a serendipitous parking spot in front of the brownstone. Military precise, she thought as she speed-walked to the front door. She hoped her new client would notice. Though she was chronically late for every other part of her life, Cora always managed to make it to her clients’ homes on time, even if it meant breaking a few traffic laws along the way. The illegal U-turn she’d made in the middle of the street to snag the prime parking spot? Just part of the job.

    The Perry brownstone was in a beautiful section of Georgetown. Close to Montrose Park, a few streets up from the shopping on M Street, and storybook charming on the outside. The low wrought iron fence opened to a courtyard filled with precision-trimmed boxwoods, so perfect that they looked like the gardener had used a laser to sculpt them. Blossom-heavy window boxes anchored the four large front windows. Looks like a House Beautiful centerfold, Cora thought.

    As she rang the doorbell she wondered who she was about to meet. Cora always tried to imagine her clients prior to seeing them face-to-face as a way to prepare for the all-important first session. Context cues, from the way the client’s voice sounded, to the syntax of their e-mails, to the type of dogs they owned, all helped Cora paint a picture that was, more often than not, dead-on. Predicting canine behavior was her specialty, but predicting human behavior was a close second.

    Madison’s e-mail had detailed the challenges she was having with her new boxer puppy (“The nipping! The peeing! You need to fix this dog!”). Cora was always hesitant when a potential client asked her to “fix” their dog, because a dog is more than a piece of malfunctioning household equipment. Obedience training wasn’t a business of quick fixes, despite what Doggy Dictator Boris Ershovich preached on his TV show.

    Madison’s e-mail signature had included her title at a prestigious DC law firm, so Cora assumed that she was an established attorney with a similarly well-connected husband, perfect children, and a new puppy to round out this year’s Christmas photo. But the name Madison gave her pause. She’d never met a woman over the age of thirty with the name. Cora heard footsteps approaching and envisioned the polished woman she was about to meet.

    The door opened. “Look at you—right on time.”

    Cora stood dumbfounded for a moment. The square-jawed Hillary-coiffed power broker she was expecting was actually a gorgeous late-twenty-something blonde in black yoga pants and a slouchy cashmere cardigan. The woman looked only a year or two older than twenty-eight-year-old Cora. Perhaps this was Madison Perry’s daughter?

    The woman extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Madison. Thank you for fitting me in so quickly. I swear, Oliver is the devil. He’s really driving me crazy.” Cora saw Madison’s eyes flit up and down her body, taking in her frayed sneakers, work bag, and coat.

    Cora swallowed her disbelief. This was Madison? This model-like creature was lady of the Georgetown manor and chief legal officer at Crandall, Quinn & Hawkins?

    “Hi, hi.” Cora was caught off guard by her miscalculation. “Nice to meet you.”

    “Please come in.” Madison took two steps backward and then clasped her hands under her chin. “I hate to do this, but could you take off your shoes?”

    “Of course. Murphy’s Law.” Cora laughed. “Today’s the day I’m wearing old socks.” She loved her neon unicorn socks and wasn’t ready to toss them, despite the holes blooming on both toes. She kicked off her shoes, worried that her feet smelled.

    “You know how it goes—white carpets,” Madison said, gesturing like a spokesmodel toward the immaculate cream and white damask-print rug.

    Cora nodded. White carpets indeed. She tucked a stray tendril back into her thick caramel-colored braid, a nervous habit that did no good because the strand always popped right back out. There were times, like when she met a successful, put-together career woman, that Cora doubted her decision to give up a fast-track corporate job to become a dog trainer. But, no matter that the salary wasn’t cushy and the stock options were nonexistent, Cora was making good on her promise to Cooper.

    She glanced in the mirror as they walked down the hallway and admitted to herself that she looked more like a homeless person than someone whose name and impressive job title used to appear on a weighty business card. She still kept one in the folds of her wallet as a reminder of the corporate drone she used to be. Holey socks and all, Top Dog was a dream manifested into reality.

    Cora’s button-down logo shirt was wrinkled and stained with dog slobber. A belt loop on the back of her three-year-old jeans had torn off because she was constantly using it to hike them up. Her old black jacket was flecked with a rainbow of dog fur. Disorder verging on frump had become a way of life.

    But the truth was Cora could get away with the squirrel’s nest of dark blond waves and makeup-free face. She looked like she belonged in a vintage soap ad promising velvety suds and a schoolgirl complexion.

    “Did you have any trouble finding us?” Madison asked, sounding as if she was talking to a child.

    “Uh, no. I’ve had quite a few clients in your neighborhood. Georgetown is sort of my backyard,” Cora replied.

    “Oh! You live in Georgetown?” Madison sounded surprised.

    “No, I live in DuPont, but I have tons of clients in Georgetown. I get a lot of referrals around here, particularly—”

    “Anyone I might know?” Madison interrupted.

    Cora felt like she was in an interview for the Junior League. “Um, Ted Sullivan? He’s over on P Street. Marjorie and James Klein? Uh, let me think . . . the Dunn family?”

    Madison shook her head at each name but appeared comforted by the fact that Cora could rattle off a list of folks in her tony neighborhood.

    Cora stole glimpses of the rest of the beautiful house as they moved toward the kitchen, averting her eyes from her reflection when they passed another oversize shabby-chic mirror.

    “Well, here’s the little monster,” Madison said with a flourish.

    Oliver the twelve-week-old fawn boxer puppy was curled up in a tiny ball, fast asleep in the corner of his faux rattan crate.

    “Oh. My. Goodness,” Cora exclaimed. “He’s perfect. I’m in love!”

    Oliver stirred, stretched, and then realized that he had an audience. He went from slumbering puppy to entertainer in an instant, leaping in circles and barking excitedly.

    “Should I take him out of his crate?” Madison asked.

    “Please! I have to kiss that little face right now.” Cora saw Madison wrinkle her nose.

    “It’s gross, I know, but j’embrasse mon chien sur la bouche!” Cora said, unable to control the stream of French. She often broke into her second language when she was feeling uncomfortable.

    “Vous parlez français?” Madison asked, raising an eyebrow.

    “Oh, j’essaye de parler français,” Cora replied with false modesty. Her minor in French guaranteed that she did more than try to speak the language, but it wouldn’t do to brag in front of Madison. “Let’s head outside for a potty break right away since he’s just waking up from a nap.”

    “Really? He needs to go out after he wakes up? That’s probably why he pees all the time after I take him out of the crate. I just thought he was mad at me for leaving him in there.”

    Cora switched to autopilot and began her standard dissertation about the misunderstood world of canine elimination as they walked Oliver through the kitchen toward the backyard. She surveyed her surroundings while well-rehearsed words tumbled from her mouth. The kitchen was large and formal, painted a warm Tuscan orange, with soft Vermeer light pouring in from the many windows. The giant circular table seated eight, and Cora envisioned the chummy dinner parties Madison probably hosted there.

    Madison and who else? Cora could see rows of silver-framed photographs on the shelf above the fireplace behind the table, but she couldn’t get close enough to them to make out the faces. Was Madison a second wife to some cigar-smoking DC backslapper?

    The yard, once they exited through the French doors, was as impressive as the rest of the house, surprisingly large for Georgetown, and ringed on all sides with a tall privet hedge. Cora wondered how the burned-out urine spots to come would go over with Madison.

    “Charlie’s on the way,” Madison volunteered. “He called and apologized for being late—he really wants to help with Oliver’s training. I mean, he better help. Oliver was his idea. I’ve never even had a dog before . . . Charlie doesn’t know it, but I’m really more of a cat person.”

    “Maybe Oliver will help you be both,” Cora replied, starting to understand the scope of what she would be dealing with. She fretted that she’d eventually have to snake charm the woman into liking her in order for them to successfully complete the program. But for now, she focused on the dog, knowing that a puppy could blur the hard edges of even the most disagreeable clients.

    So his name is Charlie. Cora checked Madison’s left hand. Bare. Pretending to be a puppy person to lock down old Charlie?

    Oliver stopped jumping on Cora long enough to find just the right spot to pee, and Cora chanted “Hurry up, hurry up,” to him. She turned to Madison. “I like ‘hurry up,’ but do you already have a potty phrase?”

    “A what?”

    Cora started to explain how a simple phrase can become a Pavlovian trigger to get a dog to eliminate but was interrupted by the French doors opening to reveal the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. Cora suddenly understood why Madison would lie about being a dog person.

    He was Cora’s kryptonite: tall, broad shouldered, with short sandy hair that swooped in a way that looked styled but not fussy. He radiated the kind of kick-in-the-gut good looks that made both women and men stare. He wasn’t “pretty” but arresting. Manly, like he’d be at home chopping wood in a flannel shirt, even though he was wearing an expensive-looking suit.

    There’s got to be something wrong with him, Cora thought, steeling herself to remain professional. Aside from the fact that he’s dating someone who doesn’t like dogs.

    He strode over toward Cora with his hand outstretched. “Hi, you must be Cora. I’m Charlie Gill. Sorry I’m late. Can you believe that I hit traffic at lunchtime?” His ruddy cheeks and quick smile unnerved Cora.

    Cora met his grip with a firm handshake and did her best to hide her immediate and unprofessional attraction to her new client.

    “Nice to meet you, and I totally understand the traffic. It runs my life—I could tell you stories!” Cora said, smiling her biggest “I’ll blind you with my teeth so you don’t notice that I’m not wearing makeup” smile. She hoped that he hadn’t heard the tremor in her voice or noticed the bright red splotches she could feel blooming on her cheeks.

    Oliver rushed over and jumped up on Charlie. “There’s my little guy!” He laughed and leaned over to pet his puppy. Charlie’s voice went up. “Are you the best puppy in the world? Yes you are! Why, yes you are, little Ollie-by-golly!”

    “I know this is going to sound totally bitchy, but can we get started?” Madison asked. “I have a one o’clock meeting.”

    “Of course! Sorry about that,” Cora replied, embarrassed that she wasn’t more on top of the lesson and avoiding looking directly at Charlie. She usually controlled the progression of the hour with a conductor’s fluidity, but she had a feeling that the Perry-Gill household wasn’t going to be business as usual.

    “Let’s start off with some Q and A.”

    They headed back inside and settled in the kitchen, Charlie and Madison sitting at the table and Cora taking up her usual position on the floor next to the dog.

    “I just have a few questions that’ll help me get to know Oliver better and help me understand what you want from training.”

    Cora launched into her standard questionnaire—Where did you get your dog? Who’s your vet? What type of food is your dog eating?—and studied Charlie and Madison as they took turns answering. People revealed more than they realized during that simple twelve-question interview. Cora usually divided her time during Q&A interacting with the dog and gauging the people, so that when they stood up to begin the session she could predict how each party would react. The interview process was a holdover from her project management days, a part of her corporate arsenal that she used to set her apart from her dog training peers.

    Madison was the easier to read. She’d almost come out and admitted that she didn’t really like Oliver, and during the interview Cora began to realize just how deep that dislike actually was.

    “There’s so much wrong with this dog, right, hon? He’s like, pawtistic I think.” Madison put her hand on Charlie’s thigh and laughed at her own joke. “But we’ve got our very own Doggie Dictator now. There’s a ton of stuff to fix, but that’s why we’re paying you the big bucks!”

    The corners of Cora’s mouth turned down before she could help it. Equating the success of her program with the cost was a close second to the “fix my dog” request on her list of red flags. (Which was tied with people likening her to Boris Ershovich.) Sure, private training was expensive, but so was having a plumber show up when you’ve got an overflowing toilet.

    Charlie sighed, as if heading into a frequent battle. “Mads, there’s not a ‘ton’ of stuff wrong with Oliver. He’s a typical puppy. It’s all normal.” He reached down to pet Oliver, who was chewing on his shoelace.

    “What are the main challenges? I want to make sure we get to all of it.” Cora focused on Madison, as unpleasant as she was, because her cheeks got hot every time she looked at Charlie.

    “Where do I start?” Madison held out her hand and ticked off the problems on her manicured fingers. “The peeing, the drooling, the poop in my closet, the hair, the muddy paws, the smell, the nipping, the jumping, the destruction of my shoes, and the nonstop spazziness. I’m over it.”

    Charlie sighed again, crossed his arms, and leaned ever so slightly away from Madison.

    “Wow, that’s quite a list!” Cora said. “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that I can help you with most of it.” She paused. “The bad news is that muddy paws, drool, and hair are all a part of the deal when it comes to dogs. Maybe you should’ve stuck with cats?” It slipped out before Cora could stop herself, and it sounded unkind. She kicked herself for insulting the person who was about to write her a check.

    “Sometimes I wish I had,” Madison said, narrowing her eyes at Cora.

    “I think we’re going to be fine, Mads,” Charlie said, defusing the mounting tension and finally reaching out to his girlfriend, giving her hand a squeeze. “I’m sure Cora knows how to help us, and she’ll show you that Ollie-by-golly is a genius after all. Right?” He looked at Cora with a hopeful expression.

    “I promise. You’ll be embrasser votre chien before you know it!” Cora’s French tripped her up yet again, making her think about kissing. She turned pink, and wondered how she was going to navigate the next five weeks without ever looking directly at Charlie.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Life on the Leash 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
    cloggiedownunder 3 months ago
    4.5★s Life on the Leash is the first novel by American dog trainer and author, Victoria Schade. Cora Bellamy’s dog training business is going well. She loves her job because she loves dogs and people and wants their interactions to be positive. Her emphasis is on love and compassion and reward, unlike the famous Dog Dictator, Boris Ershovich, whose tele-evangelist-like shows promote forced submission and punishment. Cora vents her anger over his methods on her anonymous blog, ChienParfait. Cora’s methods give dog owners proven ways to correct their pets’ behaviour without cruelty: excessive barking, toilet training, jumping up at visitors, separation anxiety, all manner of impolite and perhaps dangerous behaviour can usually be remedied if owners are prepared to follow her instructions and practice consistently. Cora’s own dog, Fritz is a rescue dog, and she regularly fosters other rescue dogs until a forever home can be found. And now, Cora has the chance to promote her kinder, science-based method: she’s going overcome her anxiety to audition for a new dog training TV show. Her friends and clients are all very supportive, and Cora hopes she can make a good impression. But she is somewhat distracted by one of her clients: a gorgeous (hot!) dog lover who is making eyes at her despite his ongoing relationship with a high-powered attorney. Cora is eighteen months ex-fiancé and her sexual frustration could be clouding her usual good intentions to maintain a professional distance... While parts of the plot are predictable, there are one or two surprises. The tone is fairly light-hearted, most of the characters not deeply complex, and both dialogue and several incidents offer plenty of humour. There is a love triangle, which is probably necessary as the very intelligent protagonist seems to have difficulty picking the decent guy without first experiencing the sleaze-bag. She could be allowing lust to overcome sense and appears set, at one stage, to make some disappointing decisions. Schade’s love for, and expertise with, dogs is apparent in every scene, and her protagonist is a passionate advocate of her philosophy in dog training, eschewing force over kindness. This feel-good novel with its happy ending will appeal especially to dog-lovers. Dog shelters and rescue schemes will also appreciate the positive publicity afforded them by this heart-warming debut novel.
    gaele More than 1 year ago
    Cora is a successful dog trainer, fully in the camp of gentle methods and no tugging. Her bestie is a pit-mix named Fritz, who generously shares his affections with her roommate Maggie and a number of foster dogs that have come through their tiny Washington D.C. apartment. Having spent her time in corporate America, Cora created her dream job and started her own company and has a roster of successful and happy dog-owner partnerships. There’s only a couple of tiny burrs in her world of doing for the dogs: a boxer puppy named Ollie, a toy poodle named Chanel, their owners, and watching her ex strut and floss on television as part of a reality landscaping television show. Ollie is just a puppy – and like all puppies, he’s got his own way of looking at the world, made easier with some consistent, kindly performed training: but his ‘parents’ are on two sides of the coin. One wishes that he be perfect, NOW, and the other is more willing to endure and enjoy his puppydom, all in a way to flirt with and get closer to Cora. Charlie also has a high-powered job as an attorney of a rescue organization – and is gorgeous to boot, leaving Cora more than a bit flummoxed and starstruck. But, a visit with one of her favorite people and her Bouvier, she meets Eli, a ‘geek-chic’ computer whiz with a way with dogs, an easy demeanor, and neighbor of the barking and often neglected poodle Chanel. But Eli is a ‘comfortable’ guy – when Cora is (and history proves it) attracted to the twuntwaffle himbos, selfish, egotistical and wholly unbothered by morals, loyalty or even their own over-developed competitive natures. Charlie is an utter cad, but she can’t help but think with her libido – and when he fails her spectacularly – it really fails. But, in the middle of that relationship failing, we see Cora’s quiet but always apparent affinity for dogs, bringing her into helping with Chanel, a white toy poodle with an owner who is incapable of taking care of herself, let alone a dog. More than a bit depressed, with an apartment full of clutter in a ‘hoarder’s starter kit’ way, Eli’s first running into Cora and Chanel, and Chanel’s obvious liking of him, to his stepping into the breach to foster the desperately needy dog is wonderful and a perfect example of the ‘right’ man for Cora – if only she would see it. It’s not all about dogs – or even training: it’s Cora’s ability to befriend canine and humans alike, all with her quiet and considered approach. Her no-nonsense roommate always ready to boost her up when she’s low, fashionista who pulls together outfits and is that sort of best friend who is ready with ice cream, hugs or a bottle of champagne. As a duo- these two play off one another as friends should, and the bolder Maggie is more than willing to push Cora into things she should do: mostly auditioning for a new dog training show. From nerves through the audition, and her back and forth between Charlie and Eli, Cora has a ton of revelations come to her, and more than a few disappointments. A nice mix of friendship and chick-lit feel to the solid train-wreck that is the romance to nowhere with Charlie, and the unexpected emergence of Eli in the running for her heart – the story was sweet, cute and clever: particularly the ‘pro shelter doggie’ message with her rescued pit, and his ‘doggie welcome wagon’ approach to meeting and welcoming new doggie friends. If you like dogs- you’ll love this. If you are a cat person- well, you may find a new tolerance
    BookandSword More than 1 year ago
    3.5/5 stars The main reason as to why I picked this book up: "Cora Bellamy is a woman who thrives on organization. She’s successfully run her own dog training business for years, perfectly content with her beloved rescue pitbull as the main man in her life." Sure, the cover caught my eye too, but once I saw the words rescued pitbull I was sold. As an owner of a pitlab mix dog I am sick and tired of people judging the poor breed for what we, as humans, did to them (and sadly still continue to do). Will a cub tiger try to eat you or will it cuddle you? Baby animals do not learn their instincts until they are are taught them - by their mother or by a human. As shocking as it sounds a pitbull dog doesn't want to fight another dog for your entertainment . But it will do it if its trained to do so. So before you call a pitbull (or a doberman, or a boxer or whatever breed you have prejudice with) a monster, think about the true monsters behind the dog who enjoy watching innocent animals fight to death so they can make money on it. I got a bit off topic over there, but some things you just can't keep inside. I enjoyed every single bit of this book that had to do with dogs - dogs of all shapes and sizes. Cora is a dog whisperer and the bond she was able to share with each dog made me pet my dog twice as much as I normally do (and I already pet her a lot!) The only reason this book wasn't a complete winner for me was because I didn't really care for the tv-show plot. There was just too much tv-show talk in it - I read books because I don't care about tv-shows, so obviously I don't really want to read about them. But it did propel the plot forward and all of the things that happened were nicely wrapped up in the end. Cora was a great main character - she was shy, but strong. She had her baggage but she always came through when important things were on the line. And her devotion to her profession was truly remarkable. We need people like Cora in real life! The love interest, or should I say the lust interest of Cora's infuriated me, but in the end I was able to see where Cora was coming from and forgave her. The side characters were well developed and added nice dimension to the story. I really enjoyed Maggie, although her falling out with Darnell and then falling back in was a bit too easy to be believable. Despite the happy ending the book wasn't the lightest of reads for me. As a loving dog owner it was incredibly hard to read about abuse and injustice many dogs had to go through. And from the hands of their owners! It broke my heart and I definitely teared up more than once while reading. I think that this will make a great summer read for both dog lovers and those who don't know much about dogs and how they operate. If I had to classify this I'd say chick-lit + dogs. The book is actually rich on good dog advice (thanks to the author's dog training background) so I think I also learned something from it. Big thanks to NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket books for an advanced e-copy of this book. All opinions are my own, honest and come from the heart. Life on the leash will be published in September of 2018.
    Barb-TRC More than 1 year ago
    Life on the Leash by Victoria Schade is a standalone romantic comedy that centers on dogs, and the dog trainer. Cora Bellamy, our heroine, owns her own dog training business for years. I did not know what to expect, but I am happy to say this was a fun, humorous storyline, with lovable dogs and a sweet romance. We meet Cora immediately as she is with her own dog, Fritz (a pit bull), and is rushing to be on time for one of her training sessions. We get to meet many of Cora’s clients, many of whom have money, but have no idea how to treat or take care of their dogs. Some of the things Cora trains them on are basic, and others are great tips dog owners can use. Some of the things that happen are funny, but there are a number of things that are terrible; which makes Cora occasionally try to secretly help the dogs. Cora is a wonderful heroine, who loves her job, as well as loves all dogs. Cora has not found a man in her life, but in a short time she will meet two totally different men that will change this. She finds herself very attracted to one of her clients, Charlie, who has a girlfriend, who is also in on training their dog; but when the girlfriend is out of town, Charlie begins to make advances on Cora. She also meets Eli, who becomes a friend that always finds time to help Cora with the dogs. In the midst of this fun story surrounded by dogs, laughter & romance, Cora is offered a chance to do a tv show on Dog Training. When she does an audition, she ends up as one of the top 3 candidates. Will Cora be the chosen one? I loved Cora, who was such a sweet lovable character, who despite any mishaps or concerns, she never backed down or gave up. Cora was a great hero to all dogs. I did enjoy some of the secondary characters created by Schade. If you love dogs, humor, a bit of romance, then Life on the Leash is a book you should be reading.