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“If you love your dog, this is the most important book you’ll ever read. It just inspired me to make provisions for my pets so they are protected in any and every circumstances.”

—Jane Velez-Mitchell, New York Times bestselling author and editor of


“This book belongs on every dog owner’s bookshelf. Don’t let the title fool you; it covers far more than divorce. In the talented hands of Patti Lawson, Esq., who is both a dog owner and an astute attorney, it covers every possible legal issue a dog owner might encounter. From dog bites to what to do if you see a dog who is abused or neglected, Lawson lays it out in easy-to-read, almost lyrical prose.”

Darlene Arden, certified animal behavior consultant, author of Rover, Get Off Her Leg


“Divorce is tough no matter what the circumstances, but add a dog to the mix and the responsibility and angst for couples or families is emotionally devastating and challenging. This is an absolute must-read for any pet owner who may be facing this life-altering event.”

Abby Finer, television producer and author


“Even the best-behaved dog can quickly find itself in a world of trouble. This book offers insight on how to best handle such situations from a legal perspective and, perhaps more importantly, practical advice on how to avoid them in the first place.”

Joe Simon, Esq.


“Filled with useful and practical advice to protect your dog. A should-read for any dog owner.”

Richard Bruce Rosenthal, Esq., general counsel for the Lexus Project

Resolve to skip that diet drink and pick up a leash

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USA Today, 1/3/2006

E-mail Craig Wilson at

I ate just about everything over the holidays.

There I was, standing in front of my mom’s refrigerator, pouring yet another glass of eggnog with one hand while the other was roaming a tin of treats that came from Sharon, a neighbor who knows her way around a cookie sheet.

At one point, I dug into a bag of holiday goodies that I thought tasted odd. That didn’t stop me from having a second one, though, until I realized I was munching from Maggie’s Christmas gift — fancy dog treats in a variety of shapes, including a fire hydrant. They weren’t that bad. Honest.

I’m not alone, of course. My colleague Jayne admits she has been shoveling in cookies and candy as fast as she can hunt them down. She made her confession while fumbling around in a box of chocolates that appeared on the counter near her desk. She then moved on to a bag of Italian cookies. She highly recommended the ones “with the little jelly centers.”

But then again, what’s the harm, really, in eating anything you want during this brief period we call the holidays? I’ve always believed in the “enjoy it while it’s here” philosophy.

And now we’re home free.

It’s the first week in January, eggnog is nowhere to be found, and Sharon’s cookies are long gone. The box of chocolates next to Jayne’s desk has disappeared, too. (Thanks mostly to Jayne.)

Years ago, I wrote that the only New Year’s resolution anyone needed to make was to get a dog. A dog will get you out of bed in the morning, get you on a walk you otherwise wouldn’t take, and the pounds will drop off. (That and eating his treats.)

Patti Lawson, a trial attorney in Charleston, W.Va., understands this. Her book, The Dog Diet: A Memoir, will be out in April, and it outlines how a dog can help you drop pounds. It worked for her when a puppy named Sadie entered her life.

One of her tips: “When it comes to snacking, if your dog likes it, it’s probably not good for you.”

I already have Maggie and know all too well that having a dog will keep you active whether you want to be or not.

So I come with another diet tip this January.

At the beginning of last year, when I decided to take a break from drinking alcohol, I thought the pounds would just fall off. By February, I’d be everyone’s Valentine. But by March, nothing had happened. In fact, I’d gained weight. How cruel the world can be. No wine but no new waistline, either.

Then I analyzed my new eating/drinking habits, just as diet gurus advise. I had replaced my daily wine with Diet Coke. Gallons of it. And what I realized was it made me hungry all the time. So I dropped it, too. Lost 14 pounds by Memorial Day.

This finding is not the result of a long-term study on my part, though I recall researchers may have come up with a similar conclusion. But then again, no one seems to be paying attention to science these days.

All I know is I stopped drinking Diet Coke, and I lost weight.

Give it a try. And you don’t have to get out of bed early for it to work, either.

Fitness goes to the dogs- The Post and Courier

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Canines help humans drop some excess weight by offering motivation to take a walk

By David Quick, Monday, September 29, 2008

Forget the disappointing diets, costly health clubs and pricey personal trainers. Patti Lawson had gone that route and discovered a simpler solution.

She got a dog.

By walking with her dog, Sadie, twice a day, Lawson lost 30 pounds (and kept it off), started eating healthier and got off the roller coaster of fitness that millions of Americans ride on a daily basis.

The government lawyer who lives in the other Charleston, the one in West Virginia, chronicled her experience in a book published in 2006 titled “The Dog Diet: What My Dog Taught Me About Shedding Pounds, Licking Stress and Getting a New Leash on Life.”

It won her the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Award for humor book of the year in 2007, an appearance at the banquet prior to the Westminster Dog Show in New York that year and made her an advocate for a novel niche — getting people to exercise with their dogs — in media and in appearances throughout the country.

Lawson says people regularly talk to her or e-mail her about the book, often confessing that they don’t think to walk their dogs. But her message is getting out there. For example, Women’s World Magazine is profiling a woman who lost 60 pounds by walking her dog.

“It’s such an easy thing to do,” says Lawson, who walks Sadie a mile in the morning and up to four miles in the evenings, even in the gloomy cold and dark of West Virginia winters.

Regularly walking a dog, Lawson says, can be as much a spiritual journey as a physical one.

“I notice things in my neighborhood that I never saw before,” she says. “This spring, we had a rabbit in my neighborhood. During walks, every time we turn the corner (near the rabbit-sighting spot), Sadie would pick up the pace. She kept doing that long after the rabbit disappeared. … Things like that lighten up my spirit.”

Four-legged trainers

Unfortunately, most Americans likely are not taking advantage of what Lawson calls the “four-legged personal trainer.”

With 65 million dogs, Americans lead the world not only in dog ownership but in obesity rates.

Dog Helps With Weight Loss

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Three years ago Patti drove to PetsMart just to look at dogs because she was tired of being lonely and thought maybe a dog would cheer her up. There fate in the form of a lady volunteer at the Love-A Pet-Adoption Center tapped her on the shoulder and handed her a little black and tan puppy to hold for a minute.

Fast forward three years and this little puppy is now a long-legged Pollyanna type creature she named Sadie and simply cannot imagine her life without her.

While it was not love at first sight for either of them, they found their way together and formed a bond stronger that anything Patti experienced… Along the way, Sadie lifted her out of that depressive state, helped her lose over 30 pounds and fills her days with once unimaginable joy.

While Pattie won’t lend her dog Sadie out to anyone, perhaps you already have one of these amazing dogs, or can find one at your local shelter.

Check on Animal Radio: Dog Helps With Weight Loss Patti Lawson, The Dog Diet

With a puppy to love, author no longer needed food to fill the hole in her heart

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Greenville News, Greenville, SC

By Donna Isbell Walker • STAFF WRITER • June 3, 2008

Like many women, Patti Lawson turned to food for comfort during a long, bleak winter and a painful romantic breakup five years ago.

She felt “pudgy and pitiful,” lacking the motivation to do more than think fleetingly about getting into shape for spring before reaching for another candy bar.

But a chance visit to a pet store one dull Saturday night netted her an unlikely personal trainer, best friend and, ultimately, muse — a mixed-breed dog with floppy ears and wise brown eyes.

Lawson, a South Carolina native and an attorney in West Virginia, has written a book about the life-changing friendship with the cocker spaniel-German shepherd puppy she named Sadie. “The Dog Diet,” subtitled “What My Dog Taught Me About Shedding Pounds, Licking Stress and Getting a New Leash on Life,” tells the story of how Lawson managed to get fit and happy just by making room in her heart and home for a pound puppy.
In the book, Lawson reluctantly takes home the puppy for a night, then returns it the next day after being kept awake half the night by barking and the dog’s many trips outdoors to tend to bathroom business. But she soon realizes she misses the dog and returns to the pet store to claim the puppy for keeps.

For the first week, Sadie keeps Lawson so busy she doesn’t have time to overeat, and when she tries to sneak ice cream into the bed one night, the dog leaps onto Lawson. The bowl overturns, the bed sheets are covered in chocolate goo, and Lawson decides it’s just not worth it.

When she finally takes a moment to step onto one of her three precisely calibrated bathroom scales, Lawson finds she has lost eight pounds, without even trying.

The next day at work, her secretary asks what she’s doing to lose the weight, and Lawson replies, “I’m on the dog diet,” the author recalled in a recent phone interview.

Eventually, Lawson lost 30 pounds, although she said she has since regained a few. But the changes in eating habits and lifestyle, as well as attitude, have become permanent.

She found that whenever she ate something that smelled good, Sadie wanted to share. If Lawson opened a package or a can and Sadie could hear it, she wanted to share that as well. So Lawson developed a regimen of healthy foods that she likes and Sadie doesn’t, and she shares recipes and cooking tips in the book.

“From Sadie I learned that food can’t be your comfort, and it can’t be the thing that keeps you going,” Lawson said. “And I got active, that was the main thing. I got really active.”

The activity, which Lawson dubbed “dogercise,” included walking Sadie for the necessary bathroom trips, but also just playing and goofing around with the energetic dog. Lawson came up with some moves that work for strength and resistance training as well, such as “leash triceps” and “dog leg lifts,” in which she drapes Sadie over her calves and lifts her a few inches off the floor.

The furry little dog also helped Lawson to retool her way of looking at life.

“Dogs have such a spirit about them. They accept you, and they’re happy about everything. … Sadie would watch me when I woke up in the morning, and her tail would wag. I mean, how can you be in a bad mood?” Lawson said.

While Sadie’s presence gave Lawson the inspiration to make healthy changes, it isn’t necessary to have a dog to make the “Dog Diet” principles work, Lawson said.

“Set a goal, and not an unrealistic one,” she said. “Make exercise something you enjoy, not something you hate. I don’t know anyone who likes running on a treadmill; it’s not fun. … If you don’t have a dog, make an appointment to walk yourself. Everybody can get up a half hour early, and I think it makes the work day seem like that’s not your whole part of your day.”

On the diet side of things, it’s important to learn how to like healthy foods, Lawson said, and that can sometimes be accomplished by finding interesting spices or new ways of cooking.

“And learn when to stop. I have learned to quit eating when I’m not hungry anymore, and to eat when I’m hungry. … And keep healthy stuff around. If you don’t have it in the house, you’re not gonna eat it.”

Exclusive Look: The Dog Diet

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A little puppy was the big change Patti Lawson needed to lose weight. When her new puppy Sadie began to shower her with unconditional love and devotion, it had an amazing effect on her — Patti dropped pounds and gained peace and happiness.

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