This Book Is for the Dogs (And the Humans Who Love Them)

has been telling her dogs stories for decades. Flora Kennedy

When Flora Kennedy's daughter was just 5 years old, she reached for a book from a shelf and retired to the bedroom with the family dog Bubba in tow.

Moments later, Kennedy could hear her daughter reading aloud.

"I walked past her bedroom, and I thought, 'What is she doing?'" Kennedy recalls, as she was talking to MNN from her home in Scotland. "She was sitting there reading to him.

"I just started to cry. She was reading as if it was the most natural thing in the world to read to her dog. And he was paying complete attention."

The scene added a glowing exclamation point to an idea Kennedy had been mulling for years: literature for dogs.

After all, she sang to the dogs she shared a life with.

"They're just so good — and we're still learning this — at being in the now moment, and feeling that attention and the love and just basking in that," Kennedy explains.

Sometimes, she would even tell a little story. Just like people, each dog had his own unique literary taste.

There was her first malamute, Boo Boo.

Woman hugging malamute dog in field
with her first dog, and sometimes harshest critic, Boo Boo. Flora Kennedy

Just like for people, every dog has his own taste in literature, often reflecting his personality. So, for Boo, the story had to race along to a thunderous beat.

"He was incredibly dominant," Kennedy recalls. "I used to tell him stories. And they were really raucous and there was lots of sex and food and spice — and that's because he was that kind of guy."

And, of course, like a good editor, Boo would let her know when her story had issues with pacing.

"He would just fall asleep at certain points," she says.

Eventually, she decided to pen stories meant to be read aloud to our best furry friends.

In June, her new book, "Stories For My Dog," makes its official debut. And a chorus of critics will likely — literally — howl for more.

Cover of Stories For My Dog book
The stories in Kennedy's book are meant to be read not just to dogs -- but for them. Flora Kennedy

The book features a collection of simple short stories, with names like "City Dog" and "Angel Dog" and "Farm Dog," that weave simple narratives while deepen bond between human and dog — much like that poignant moment between Kennedy's daughter and a spellbound Bubba.

For children, reading aloud comes naturally. And dogs, whether they be living at a shelter or at home, appreciate the undivided attention.

"The main effect that I've noticed over time is that the dog loves the attention of the person," Kennedy says. "So they really pick up on and understand that my person is giving me their undivided attention."

But Kennedy believes the words, too, are important.

That's why her stories are rife with expressions that dogs already know and appreciate. Like good boy. And bone. And treat.

"It has this therapeutic effect on dogs, which then bounces back to the person which then bounces back to the dog and then back to the person," she says. "It's such a simple thing. But it's really very powerful."

So dogs appreciate a good yarn. But is there a particular genre that has them begging for more?

Perhaps a fur-raising story of suspense? A bone-chilling horror? Or a tail-thumping comedy?

The thing is, while dogs process words much the way we do, that's probably not what gets them to curl up in the reader's lap.

The words are secondary to the feelings behind them.

Try, for example, saying, "I love you" in a harsh tone.

It doesn't fit right, does it? Probably because there are certain words that we invest with such overwhelmingly positive feelings it's impossible to utter them in anything but a feel-good frequency.

And dogs tune in to that frequency better than most.

(They've even got kind of wagging antenna.)

A man with a dog on his shoulder reads a book
Dogs not only hear words like humans do, but they pick up on the tone and emotion we put into those words. Flora Kennedy

So it makes sense that the warm, fuzzy words that Kennedy uses in her stories — good boy, treat, and BONE — get a dog's attention in the best possible way: They're drenched in feel-goodery.

But there's something more in these stories — a comfort, she says, in ritual and repetition.

"In the same ways that you do with children — if you make up a song or something for your child. If there's ever a stressful time in the future for them. Or even if they get a fright, you can sing this familiar song or read them a story they like and it's just reassuring for them."

Man reading a book to a dog
At the very least, dogs get their favorite treat when we read to them — our undivided attention. Flora Kennedy

"If you read that story to them, they're immediately calmed because they remember those moments in the past, those little bliss times," she adds.

It's reading not just to dogs, but for dogs — an idea that not everyone readily grasps.

"At first when I said to people, 'They're stories for you and your dog read together — and some people, who are not dog people — will look at me for ages and go, 'What?'"

Girl reading a book in the window with her dog
For children, reading for a dog comes naturally. Gladskikh Tatiana/Shutterstock

Not children though.

"Children just go, 'Of course, I'll read to the dog,'" Kennedy says. "But grown-ups? We've learned to be inhibited, haven't we?

"For people, once you get over any embarrassment factor you may have, this is really nice. It's something I'm doing with my dog. She knows we're doing this together."

So maybe to get even closer to the dogs we love, we might consider setting aside those inhibitions — the fear of ridicule and of being different — and become a child again.

"Because, you know," Kennedy says. "Dogs really do prefer children."