cover images from Goodreads
Inspired by the dog book post on My Imperfect Dog yesterday, I thought I would share some of my favorites which have stayed with me over the years.
The first is a novel, The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst, which also has a place in my top ten of all categories. I have read it twice, and the melancholy magic of its mystery was not diminished even when I knew the outcome. The book follows a man who tries to piece together the circumstances of his wife's death through attempts to illicit communication with the sole witness: their soulful Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lorelei. It is a beautiful novel about love and loss and the secrets we all keep, and it's one that I can hardly talk about without a lump in my throat.
It would be redundant to say that Dog Years is "poetic," since Mark Doty is a prominent contemporary poet. He resides in a world of metaphor, and for that reason he cuts into the difficult, the unsayable, with a blade of revelation. This is so much more than a dog book. We're given glimpses of a human life that is woven into and around the lifetime two retrievers and a through dreams, vignettes and intimate scenes. It portrays the immediacy that dog love demands, the beauty of it at its most basic and wild.
Pack of Two was one of the first dog memoirs that I read, and still one of the most affecting. The author, Caroline Knapp, struggled with eating disorders and addiction before getting her German Shepherd, Lucille, and learning how to take care - and be taken care of by - a dog. It's a beautiful journey of healing and friendship, of both the canine and human variety as Knapp meets kindred spirits at the dog park along the way. It's the tale of a first dog and the independence and strength they can help us find. I related so much to this book because I adopted Lasya at a time when nothing was stable or certain, but I felt that with her by my side everything would be okay. Tragically, Caroline Knapp passed away at an all-too-young age. Her best friend Gail Caldwell wrote a tribute to their friendship, Let's Take the Long Way Home, and makes mention of their many dog walks together.
The New Work of Dogs by Jon Katz is an unsentimental look at the very different lives of twelve dogs in a New Jersey city, from service dogs to shelter dogs. It is a powerful portrayal at the changing role of dogs in society, and suggests that their modern jobs may be more difficult and complicated than we realize.
I was lucky enough to meet the author of Part Wild, Ceiridwen Terrill, at a book-signing here in Denver. I really admire Terrill's bravery in telling the story of her wolfdog Inyo and illuminating the heartbreak and danger of trying to contain wild animals in human bonds. She went farther than personal memoir with a great deal of research into the challenges facing wild wolves, the still-debated origin of domestic dogs, and the "genetic tameness" experiments with foxes in Russia. She is also an accomplished writer and describes nature and its creatures in eloquent detail. While Terrill was drawn in by the fairy tale allure of wolfdogs, she is now an advocate for for legislation and enforcement banning the continued sale and breeding of these animals. This is a compelling and important book emphasizing the differences between wolves and dogs.
What are some of your favorite dog books?