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Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park Hardcover – July 29, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“An admitted curmudgeon just a few steps away from Cruella de Vil, Gilbert sees his life change when he falls in love with a dog person and then falls in love with dogs… Gilbert captures with great humor the world within the dog park… Beyond the individual quirks, Gilbert finds community and the ability to empathize among people who on the surface have little in common.” ―Los Angeles Times

“In Off The Leash Gilbert chronicles a year at the dog park (Brookline's Amory Park), observing the characters he and [his dog] Toby meet there... Gilbert's book is witty, sweet, and affirming.” ―The Boston Globe

“A wonderful, engaging, surprising book. It's what I've walked past all the time without having noticed until now, since my dog is from Hammacher-Schlemmer. It's also any dog's dream of how to be written about, and a real squeak toy love fest of a memoir by displacement, in which social form, social interaction, and the vicissitudes of the social order are convincingly examined and explained via the presence of a wet snout.” ―Ann Beattie

“Your local dog park is a world on to itself - full of laughs, drama and life's revelations. Matthew Gilbert's new book captures it all delightfully and astutely.” ―Claudia Kawczynska, editor in chief of The Bark

“The love story of a man, his new dog and the freedoms they both discovered through their relationship with each other... Gilbert explores many aspects of the dog-park environment ... Young dogs, old dogs, sick dogs, doggy toys, aggressive dogs and their owners, who refused to apologize for any fights, and humans who acted as ventriloquists for their dogs - all played a role in transforming Gilbert from a work-at-home critic, sheltered from the world by a screen, into a man devoted to his dog and his dog-loving friends. A lightweight, humorous tale of a new dog owner and the friendships he formed at the dog park.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“An honest, funny and heartwarming tale about the love between a man and his dog. Gilbert's quirky cast of characters--both human and canine--will be familiar to anyone who's logged serious hours in the dog park.” ―J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Maine and The Engagements

“Dog Park People are one of the most committed, loving and often neurotic subcultures in the booming companion animal world, Matthew Gilbert has written a wonderful man-and-his dog books that takes us inside a year in this quite wonderful, funny and sometimes poignant universe.” ―Jon Katz, author of Second Chance Dog: A Love Story

“Move over Tulip, there's a new dog in the park. Matthew Gilbert's Off the Leash is wry, warm, and witty enough to rival J.R. Ackerly's classic, My Dog Tulip. Canine characters and their humans are observed with just the right blend of skepticism and compassion, and Gilbert's relationship with Toby is one of the more convincing love stories I've read in a long while.” ―Stephen McCauley, author of The Object of My Affection and Insignificant Others

“Dog enthusiasts will flock to this entertaining account of an unlikely canine lover's ascent into full-fledged member of the neighborhood dog park.... Any dog owner who has ever steeped foot in the local dog park will recognize these types, and Gilbert is an adept storyteller, adding just enough intrigue...to keep the pages turning.” ―Publishers Weekly

“As the TV critic for the Boston Globe, Gilbert has a fine nose for observing, reporting, and navigating this territory. And in this, his first book, he has created a witty and memorable read that will delight and enthrall off-leash readers everywhere.” ―The Bark

About the Author

Matthew Gilbert is the TV critic at The Boston Globe, where he also covered books and movies. He has written for Slate, served as the managing editor of Boston Review, and clerked at Harvard Book Store. He lives in Brookline, Mass., and Off the Leash is his first book.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (July 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250014220
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250014221
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Glickenhaus on July 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Until I got a dog, I had never given a thought to dog parks. Didn't even know that they existed.

Since I got a dog, I have come to understand the role that they play in the lives of both humans and canines.

In this book, Gilbert paints an engaging and amusing portrait of life at the dog park. He captures the humor and drama that are present whenever groups of people spend time together. But his keen eye and breezy writing make this more than a "dogs are a metaphor for life" book. The little triumphs and affronts that we face in our typical day are brought to life with wit and compassion. This glimpse into the human condition, writ just the right size, make this book appealing to both dog owners and non-dog owners (who, if they are anything like me, will have their eyes opened to this amusing, yet tender, world).

Gilbert's perspective is unique. For most of his life he was the opposite of a "dog person" - afraid of dogs at an early age and not warming to them in later life. A bit of a TV loving recluse, he was not prone to seeking out groups of people for sustained engagement. Under pressure from his husband to bring a puppy into their life, he relents and... enter Toby, a playful and adorable yellow Lab. He finds wet-nosed love and enters the dog park world with its quirky characters and strong sense of community.

Lest that sound cliched, the story he tells of his gradual transformation into a lover of both dogs and humans is touching, written in a compelling manner and easily relatable. While the tales of dog park exploits are engaging, it is the author's own emotional journey that provides the real meat on this bone.

This book is not -- thank goodness -- "War and Peace". It is -- also thank goodness -- a deft and readable story of dogs, people and life. A lovely read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Matthew Gilbert has got it right and written it with philosophy and heart. This book is about dogs and people, but especially about their meeting in a special environment. Written in memoir style, the story begins in fall and ends in summer, covering the first year of his and his lab puppy's experiences at a local Boston dog park. Gilbert, a professional TV critic, puts his wonderful analytic skills to work on dissecting place, people, dogs, and emotions.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a lovely book: a portrait of the dog park culture that Gilbert stumbles onto with his dog Toby, an equally moving portrait of the love Gilbert feels for his winning pooch, and a surprisingly moving tale of the author's stumbling upon hidden recesses of his own heart. There he discovers capacities for relationships both human and canine that at one time he'd felt were not only impossible but not especially important. Gilbert writes, as he does in his Globe reviews, with casual insight, humor and heart. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Recommended by a fellow dog park person in Fort Worth. An amazing observation of life at the dog park, which mirrors my 10+ years at Fort Woof. Vivid descriptions of the dogs and people encountered during the author's first year of dog park life. Well worth a read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Matthew Gilbert brought me right into the center of the Amory Street dog park--I loved the close-up of personalities; loved the deep honest look into Gilbert's life and how Toby (his dog) changed him and opened him up.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fantastic book - loved the characters - both human and dog. I liked how the author let you in to his mindset and growth - concerning the dog culture and him personally. I really loved this book.
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Full disclosure, I quit about the 40% mark. This book is not at all what it was billed to be. I was hoping to find good stories about dog owners. I wanted to get a peek into the lives of the various people who came to the park. I expected to see the author change and grow as he interacted with those people. And, of course, I wanted some feel-good moments related to dogs. Instead I got a self-absorbed narrative that was more about the author than his dog or anyone else and their dogs. It was like being trapped in a car with someone droning on endlessly about their precious puppy and giving you all the meaningless details of how they met their partner, set up house, etc. Maybe it got better; I don't know. Ugh.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Wonderful LOL stories of a man, his dog and the dog park. Beautifully written, funny, just a great read. As dog lovers, my husband and I loved the book. I guess a non-dog person could enjoy it as well as his people observations are great. I highly recommend this book.
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