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BookBrowse Reviews Dog Years by Mark Doty

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Dog Years

A Memoir

by Mark Doty

Dog Years by Mark Doty X
Dog Years by Mark Doty
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 224 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 256 pages

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A remarkable work: a moving and intimate memoir interwoven with profound reflections on our feelings for animals and the lessons they teach us about life, love, and loss.

Doty brought Beau home in 1994 when his longtime partner, Wally Roberts, was dying of AIDS. Mistaking Beau's post-operative drugged stupor (he'd just been neutered) for a calm temperament suitable for both Wally and Arden, their mature and gentlemanly black Labrador, Doty brings 3-year-old Beau (a golden retriever) home and within moments Beau shows his true colors and total lack of training - jumping on to Wally's bed, licking his face exuberantly and devouring his lunch. Thus begins a love affair between man and dogs. After Wally's death, it is the dogs' insistent demands that life go on - meals served, walks taken and affection reciprocated - that provides Doty with the anchor he needs to see him through his desperate despair.  As time passes the dogs accept Doty's new partner, Paul, and a new family unit is formed. However, age is catching up with Arden and finally at the age of 16 he is put to sleep, but before Arden, Beau dies young from a neurological infection that is eerily reminiscent of Wally's final days - leaving Doty with his memories, as recorded in Dog Years.

Inevitably compared to Marley & Me, Doty's tone is more philosophical than sentimental, merging memoir, poetry and prose into his eulogy for his two dogs.  But Dog Years is more than a simple celebration of the relationship between a man and his dogs; Doty delves into the universal themes of life and death, grief and happiness, with the result that Dog Years has more in common with The Year of Magical Thinking than with Marley & Me.  However, Doty's earnest sincerity and relentless probing at his subject matter will not be to everyone's taste. As always, you can judge for yourself by reading an excerpt at BookBrowse.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in March 2007, and has been updated for the May 2008 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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