When Mark Doty went looking to adopt a small dog, a cuddly creature who might comfort his terminally ill partner, Wally Roberts, he was surprised to find himself returning home from an animal shelter with a full-grown golden retriever, a dog whose "absolute openness of regard", and paw gently offered through the bars of a cage, proved irresistible to him. Beau, as the retriever was called, was so malnourished and in need of care that he was initially mistaken for a different breed, and Doty soon found himself attending to the constant needs of a dog starved for attention and a man confined to his bed. But the new member of the household, which also included Arden, Doty's black retriever, managed to provide a measure of comfort to everyone; as Wally neared death, Beau rushed headlong into his new life.
Dog Years is the story of Doty's life with Arden and Beau, two retrievers who, each in his own way, leave a profound mark on him: Arden, who likes sleeping outdoors, even in the rain, who is observant and contemplative, who is friendly and eager to please; Beau, blithe, snatching the glove from his master's hand and running away with it, a mischievous gleam in his eye, always full of daring and bounding toward his next source of amusement.
As his time with the dogs reaches its end, Doty must face the difficult realization that to deal with death is to accept it as the utter loss of an irreplaceable value. To grieve is to understand that, while we may carry on, while we may find new loved ones, the loss we have experienced is the disappearance of a unique individual who will never return, and this tragic disruption will become a permanent part of us.
©2007 Mark Doty; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers
"Elegant and elegiac." (Booklist)
This is a beautifully written book about love and loss and the peculiarities of human emotion. This was the first work that I have read by Mark Doty, and I am not at all surprised to learn that he is a poet; Doty reads the prose as if they were verse and the steady, rhythmic quality of his reading serves to create an intimate space into which the reader is invited to sit and grieve with him.
I feel the need to add that, while Mark Doty is a gay man, and he reflects on both the loss of his partner to AIDS as well as the rebuilding of his life with a new love, the themes in this book are universal and the recounting of personal trauma enriches the text, rather than diluting the author's message. The focus of the book is Doty's relationships with his pets, and how they affect and are reflected in his human relationships. Anyone who has mourned the loss of a loved one, canine or otherwise, will not only connect with Doty but find themselves experiencing their relationships, with their pets and loved ones, with a fuller awareness.
This book was such a surprise. One of our most notable U.S.poets is also an incredible memoirist.
I wept and laughed through Dog Years --and am now listening to it for a second time. It is not your ordinary "dog book." It is much more about the bigger issues of mortality, humanity, humility and love. A truly inspiring, amusing, heartwrenching piece of literature. Thank you, Mr.Doty.
I have a beautiful Golden and I laughed and cried as I recognized her traits so wonderfully described by Mark Doty. This is not just another dog book and it is NOT a book about being gay. It's a book about love, life and mortality. The second the recording finished, I started listening again. I got even more from it the second time around. This is a remarkable book beautifully read by the author.
Robert D burgess
I laughed many times listening to the story, and I cried too. It was told so well. I have had similar experiences with two similar dogs and with a spouse who left too soon. This story and the good narration helped me to remember a little better, and to grieve, and to celebrate the memories at the same time. Soon, I will look forward to getting to know and love a new dog.
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