Dog Years: A Memoir
Harper Collins, 2007
Professor Mark Doty, an award-winning memoirist and poet, explores with compassion and intelligence the complicated, loving territory inhabited by devoted dogs and their loyal humans. In 1994, when the author's longtime lover was dying of AIDS, beloved pet Arden kept the surviving partner afloat. A new adoptee, the rambunctious Beau, in his "sloppy dog way," becomes a part of the tribe and carries some of the burden of grief. Doty says Beau "carried something else for me too, which was my will to live." In a time of devastating pain, as well as in happier times, Doty's two dogs are the "secret heroes of my own vitality." The dog characters in the book are irresistible and the arcs of their lives are delineated with the tenderness and passion of the truly smitten. Arden's quiet nobility and slow decline breaks the heart, while Beau's goofy enthusiasm peaks with youth and mellows in illness. With a marvelous ability to present the pain of mourning with a poet's delicate hand and an irrepressible instinct for joy, Doty delivers a soulful love story which illuminates no less than the big human mysteries: attachment, death, grief, loyalty, happiness. The book nimbly sidesteps sentimentality and lands squarely on a philosophical, inquisitive tone as intellectually evocative as it is emotionally resonant.