The Help Desk: A gnawing concern

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

My girlfriend’s dog, Mayte, eats books. My girlfriend solved this issue for herself by keeping books high up and out of Mayte’s reach. But I tend to read until I fall asleep on the couch, and then I wake up to the sound of Mayte chowing down on the fifth chapter of whatever sleazy erotic historical novel I happen to be in the middle of at any given moment.

Mayte was a rescue, and she’s a pretty old mutt, so training her away from books isn’t really a possibility. The three books she’s eaten so far have all been common enough that my girlfriend can easily (and apologetically) replace them.

I’m very aware that my problem is relatively mild, but I wonder if you know of any quick fixes that can keep my books from being chowed on. At some point we might be moving in together, and I don’t want to have to climb a ladder every time I go to choose my next novel.

Vanessa, Northgate

Dear Vanessa,

You are wise to realize that some bad habits are impossible to break – for instance, my bad habit of buying memorial plaques dedicated to people I dislike and bolting them to park dumpsters.

Instead of changing her behavior, change yours. Try buying Mayte a couple of books to chew on while you read. Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard and Infinite Jest by whatshisface are both very long, terrible books that would give Mayte's geriatric jaw a healthy workout. You should be able to find deeply discounted copies of them at your local used book store.

If you do move in with your girlfriend, I suggest investing in a lawyer's bookcase (they have glass doors). You could also try lightly spritzing your spines with a vinegar/lemon solution if you don't mind your books smelling like a sulky German hausfrau. If you choose your sleazy historical erotica with care, it could help set the mood.