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
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 March 2007, and has been updated for the April 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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