Day: August 23, 2007

Life and Love with the World\’s Worst Dog
by John Grogan

Columnist John Grogan and his new wife knew little about labrador retrievers when they acquired their first dog, Marley. Their entry into the world of dog ownership is full of challenges: flea control, obedience classes, dilemmas over neutering, and what do you do with a dog who eats everything: any kind of food item, sofa cushions, plastic toys, gold necklaces, etc. Marley crashes through screen doors, jumps out of car windows and wreaks havoc at the dog beach. His terror of thunder causes him to tear through drywall and rip up floors. In short, he is an incorrigible dog.

With a big heart. He throws himself into everything with all the enthusiasm he can muster, crashing \”joyously through life with a gusto most often associated with natural disasters (p 279)\” He is lovable, brave and silly. He comforts his family, protects them one moment and embarrasses them the next. I don\’t really think Marley is the \”world\’s worst dog\”: he does things all dogs do, and is constantly forgiven his wild behavior, because of his endless benevolence and innocent doggy nature. When old age finally slows him down, there is no end of love extended to Marley.

Marley and Me is just as much about the ups and downs of a new couple as it is about a dog. The funny and poignant moments of family life with two small boys and a dog bring this book its laughter and tears. Marley will steal your heart with his hilarious antics, unflagging loyalty and selfless nature. A must read for animal lovers, especially dog owners. Grogan\’s fluid writing style, humorous asides and knack for turning a phrase make it a pleasure to read. I laughed out loud many times, and enjoyed this book immensely.

Rating: 4/5              Published 2005, 291 pgs

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My Life by the Book

by Pam Houston

An Irish wolfhound in motion is a beautiful creature of grace, speed and power. Missing a leg, it\’s just another big, hairy awkward dog. Or is it? This story by Pam Houston of a woman\’s struggle to save her cancer-ridden dog\’s life against all odds is inspiring and heart-wrenching. Not just because of the strong bond of love between Rae and her wolfhound Dante, the endless, painful treatments he suffers with patience, the strong rallying support of friends and family. But because this dog knows great dignity and wisdom, and is determined to pass on his steadfast confidence and hope to his human owner. He\’s not just a dog, he\’s a philosopher. His observations on life soar above the simplistic remarks of the other animals and the gossip of the people.

That myriad of voices is what I didn\’t like about this book. Rae, her ex-boyfriend, her fiance, her house-sitter and best friend, her therapist, her vet, the vet\’s tech, her cat, her other dog, and the wolfhound himself all have something to say. That\’s ten different points of view, which means you never get to know any of them well. Wait, I forgot two characters: the dog\’s pen-pal, and another friend of Rae\’s. So that brings us to twelve! It is so rambling. When I first opened the book I could hardly make out what it was about (except that I had read the flyleaf). It was like jumping into the middle of someone\’s train of thought, and they don\’t stop to explain what they\’re talking about. I would like how candid it feels, if it didn\’t happen every chapter.

I left Sight Hound feeling like I\’d met a bunch of strangers at a party, heard all their stories and opinions about each other, but not come away with any dear friends. What it does accomplish is to show how the lives of twelve beings weave together in support of one grief-stricken dog owner. In spite of all the wandering the story does, it all comes back to Dante and centers on Rae\’s deep attachment to her dog.

Rating: 3/5                    Published 2005, 342 pages

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All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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