Saturday, July 2, 2011

Books With Dogs

I recently finished two books, both, at least to some extent, about people and their dogs.

Gail Caldwell's book is Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship. Caldwell describes her friendship with Caroline Knapp. Both are writers; both are recovering alcoholics; both enjoy the water (swimming and rowing). They know of each other, through their careers, but it is through their dogs that they finally come together and become close friends.

The reviews I read were very positive, describing it as a moving book about death and loss and friendship, about how friends and dogs fulfill us.

Unfortunately, it just didn't click for me. I will admit that I enjoyed the writing, such as this passage, describing Caldwell's new puppy, Clementine:

"After the first sleep-deprived twenty-four hours of her invasion, I sat on the back porch with her sprawled asleep in my lap - She has white eyelashes! I thought - and tears started streaming down my face. I had had animals all my life, but never had my heart been seized with such unequivocal love" (page 37).

Writing such as this, along with the narrative Caldwell shared, held my interest, but I never really felt a connection - I felt more like an passerby, looking on as Caldwell analyzed her life, her friendship, death, animals - maybe that was my problem with it: too much analysis.

The second book is "Rescuing Sprite: A Dog Lover's Story of Joy and Anguish," by Mark R Levin. He relates the story of their two dogs - Pepsi, whom they acquired as a puppy, and Sprite, the rescue dog they adopted. Sprite was an older dog, and so his time with them was nowhere near as long as they would have liked. Levin describes how the dog readily joined their family; how the two dogs bonded; and how the family struggled as Sprite's health deteriorated.

It seemed promising - how can you lose with a dog story? - but the book grew wearying. I am sure it was therapeutic for the author to describe his experience and feelings (in great detail), but it was a bit tiresome for me. I think the book would have improved with a lot more editing and a lot less sentimentality.

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