'The first thing you see when you get to heaven is all your old pets, running to greet you."
I can't wait! That's from the enjoyably offbeat "I Thought You Were Dead: A Love Story" by Pete Nelson (Algonquin, $23.95), one of many writers inspired by canine companions to publish a number of books.
The narrator, down on his luck, spends a lot of time talking to Stella, a sleek mongrel with an upbeat view of life's dramas.
"The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption" by Jim Gorant (Gotham, $26). Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Vick got a second chance and so, amazingly, did most of the dogs he tortured with his Neanderthal betting pals. Gorant follows their story as the pit bulls leave Bad Newz Kennels and meet up with worthy humans, including the investigators.
"Dog Stories" edited by Diana Secker Tesdell (Everyman's Library/Knopf, $15). This attractive volume includes an appealing story by Patricia Highsmith in which an aging dog murders his unpleasant master and gets a new life with the woman he loves. India's landscape comes to life in a spooky Rudyard Kipling tale and Jonathan Lethem takes us inside a hotel for dogs to meet Ava, a three-legged pit bull who "thinks with her mouth."
"You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness" by Julie Klam (Riverhead, $24.95). It's hard to resist a memoir that starts "One night I dreamed I had a dog." Klam writes amusingly, lightly, about her struggle to perfect herself and various canines, especially Otto, a bug-eyed Boston terrier who acquired a colorful wardrobe.
"The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe" by Andrew O'Hagan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24). A gift from Frank Sinatra, Maf, short for Mafia, was definitely more appreciative of Monroe than all those singers, politicians, presidents and playwrights who blighted her life. Did Arthur Miller ever lick those Champagne-flavored toes with such pleasure? O'Hagan, a funny writer, reaches inspirational heights when Marilyn and Maf head to Mexico to divorce the boor and have a few drinks.