A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Picking up this book, I anticipated lots of stories about dogs playing at a city dog park, and there was that, but it was also insightful and philosophical. In fact, I can’t recall a book that was so open about someone’s personal evolution.
The author, who is a TV critic for the Boston Globe newspaper, was deathly afraid of dogs as a child and still uneasy about them as an adult. Then one weekend, he and his husband took care of a friend’s dog and the pleasant experience led them to getting a puppy, a yellow labrador which they named Toby. To say his life changed is an understatement. Gilbert fell in love with the pup and is fascinated by every little thing about him. We share the joy of watching Toby grow over the year long course of the book.
To expand Toby’s horizons, the author is soon taking him to Amory Dog Park, in downtown Boston, where a cast of quirky characters also take their dogs. At first, he is aloof, but gradually begins to thaw as he gets to know them, albeit unwillingly at first. Watching Toby throw himself headlong into the games and interactions, makes Gilbert realize he too, needs to respect and overlook other people’s quirks and be less judgmental. For instance, one person, nicknamed “Cell Phone Lady” was completely different than the assumptions he had of her before they talked. Being at the dog park forces him to unplug and be in the moment, which causes him to make new priorities in his life. Interacting with more people teaches him how to be a better friend and partner. All of this is reflected through the kaleidoscope of the playful puppy and the world surrounding him, Toby makes the author a better person.
One of the issues Gilbert explores is the death of a pet and whether the lasting grief is a good trade off for the short life span of a dog. He really does look at it objectively, and concludes that no matter how painful the loss, the intense joy and love from a pet is worth it. Most people with a pet would agree, though it almost catches the author by surprise.
There’s that cliche, “this book is full of laughter and tears”, but it’s fitting in this case, it’s that and so much more.
Thomas Dunne Books 2014 240 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1250014221