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Dog Years: A Memoir (P.S.) Paperback – April 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Award-winning memoirist (Firebird) and poet (School of the Arts) Doty 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. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

To be loved by Doty, as a human or a canine, is to be elevated into a realm of utter glory, where one is cherished and cradled, sheltered and supported, and, most of all, where one's very essence is acknowledged and appreciated in a manner both simple and sublime. In his latest elegant and elegiac memoir, poet Doty recounts how the love of two dogs, Arden and Beau, sustained him during times of his most grievous losses, and how he, in turn, came to nurse them through their inevitable years of failing health. On the brink of a life-threatening depression, Doty recognized the necessity of caring for his beloved dogs, which then metamorphosed into a life-affirming realization that he was, in fact, the one being attended. Sprinkled among poignant and merry anecdotes about typical and peculiar doggie behavior are Doty's tender yet cogent reflections on the underlying truths such conduct reveals about the canine species, observations that transcendently celebrate the essential connection between man and pet. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061171018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061171017
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By cdkscully on March 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Mark Doty handled the other side of the story that "Marley and Me" didn't touch on. He spoke to us from the dog's point of view and how we think they feel.

With every sentence that I read, I kept thinking to myself, "YES! That's what my dog does!" or "I know that is what my dog is thinking!" He truly spoke to the pet moms and dads and siblings in the voice of the dog.

Mr. Doty explained that dogs are more than just pets to some and sometimes others cannot understand how important they are in our lives. They are there for all major life changes and are affected by them just as much as we are.

This is a wonderful book that dog parents and siblings can relate to - from the beginning with the adoption of his dogs until the last, sad, final day which every pet owner dreads. He captured the way we think dogs think perfectly. This book is sure to be a hit amongst pet owners and pet lovers. It's one you cannot put down until the last page is read.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mark Doty in DOG YEARS has written a sometimes sad and always deeply moving beautiful memoir about loss, grief and the comfort that animals, in this instance Beau, a golden retriever, and Arden, a black retriever, bring to the sick and dying and those who remain. Mr. Doty is nothing if not opinionated: sentimentality is a mask for anger; "compassion for animals is an excellent predictor of one's ability to care for one's fellow human beings;" "no death equals another;" "the wounds of loss, the nicks and cuts made by our own sense of powerlessness, must form a sort of carapace, an armor." The kindgom of heaven may be "the realm of paradox, "attachment and detachment," memory and forgetfulness, "everything and nothing." Whether you agree with Mr. Doty's conclusions hardly matters although he is convincing and persuasive. What is just as important is that the reader is swept along by the writer's precise and beautiful language. (We should expect no less from a first rate poet.) So on September 11 the hole in the north twin tower reminds him of "an unfamiliar continent in a school geography book. A version of Australia." New York is a "pierced city." An old woman who runs a kennel in Key West has a voice "shredded by decades of Chesterfields." An old house in Provincetown has "straggly irises" in the yard. Furthermore, Mr. Doty strews gems from the greatest of American poets, Emily Dickinson, throughout his narrative. Just as his canine friends overlook nothing on their daily scavenger hunts, Mr. Doty's reader must use the same care for he skims this book at his peril.

Whether you are a dog lover or not, DOG YEARS is not to be missed.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By subclone3433 on March 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Those in the sad condition of not already being aware of Mr. Doty's splendid body of work may be tempted to overlook this book. Readers who know Mark Doty's work will already know that they are in for more than just another book about dogs. Last night in Harvard Square, I attended a reading by Mark Doty from this fine book. It turns out to be, of course, a set of meditations on dogs and their relationship with their owners, but also of grief and loss. No one writes about the latter with more grace and wisdom than Mark Doty. Last night, he reminded us, "The agreement to participate in this life is a pact with grief." This book is highly recommended.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Picky Reader on March 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I don't even own a dog and I loved this book. It's about love and loss and finding joy in small moments. Doty is an amazing writer who can bring tears to your eyes and make you laugh out loud, all within the same page. Highly recommended--whether you're a pet owner or not!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jane VINE VOICE on July 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked up Dog Years for my husband, as he liked the Jon Katz books. Once I started reading I couldn't put it down. I expected a somewhat sentimental eulogy but this memoir is so much more -- it is really a kind of treatise on the inevitability -- and necessity -- of pain in any fully lived life. Further, it is about the limits of language to express experience, and the capabilities that dogs and humans have to communicate without words. Doty moves back and forth between the mundane and the sublime, from poop to poetry (he cites Emily Dickinson's poetry as language that tries to capture the eneffable, the unsayable). Of course he explores his own sadness but he lets us know early on that he had always had a melancholy bent. An important dimension of this memoir is his own journey down and through depression and his recognition that he was in need of help. I was reminded of other writers as I read -- John Updike, Andrew Solomon, Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall. Much more these than -- Jon Katz. Beautifully written, deeply affecting: a book that is an undeniable pleasure to read even while you're close to tears.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure why I picked up this book in the first place...I'm a cat person and as I began to read "Dog Years" I was convinced that this would be a comparison read. But when, early on, author Mark Doty learns how to administer subcutaneous fluids to his beloved Beau, I was flooded with memories of having to do the same. From that point on I was hooked.

"Dog Years" is, among other things, about connections...the most intimate kinds, of course. It is also about yin and yang, the pull of life tugged by the presence of death (and the loomingness of the latter). It is about philosophy and reality, poignancy and resignation, humor and grief. There is even Judy Garland mixed with more than a whiff of Joan Didion. Hope crosses with depression, as does love and separation. Yet it is the author's gift for finding just the right words and setting the right tone that makes this book such a glorious memoir.

"Dog Years" is a complex and articulate work. I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever lost a loved is that good.
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