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A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life Hardcover – September 28, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190021
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190027
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (272 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kotler is a journalist who dove into the world of dog rescue to impress his love interest, now his wife. He did not foresee adopting the least appealing, most troublesome dogs from shelters and living intimately with them until they either were rehabilitated and adopted by others or died in his lap. According to this part memoir and part philosophical study of the dog-human relationship, many of them died on the small farm that he and his wife bought in crime-ridden Chimayo, New Mexico, leaving him very depressed. From the heart-wrenching work, however, he began to find purpose and see how many canine experts have misunderstood dog behavior. Reflecting on the writings of mystics, philosophers, and animal scientists as varied as St. Francis, René Descartes, Claude Levi-Strauss, and Elizabeth Hess, Kotler elevates this tale about saving dogs to a story about human stewardship of life. Rough language and frank descriptions of sexuality may offend more sensitive readers. Full of well-told stories, Kotler’s book will please many animal advocates. --Rick Roche


“Joyous… Brimming with humor, gratitude, and grace, this is a remarkable story.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Part Hunter Thompson, part Carlos Castaneda, but mostly so original that it’s difficult to peg…This is a delightful, rich read sure to take you to unexpected places and beyond.”  —Bark magazine, Editor's Lit Pick
“With nods to psychological and ethological research, Kotler describes his surprising sojourn to a houseful of mangy pups and the power of animal bonds, positing that our canine connections tell us about human nature... Kotler's talepart obsession, part inquiry, part adventureserves up a well-rounded meal of soul-searching and psychology.”  —Psychology Today
“As he recounts their life in Chimayo (the pack at times approaches 50, all entertainingly delineated), Kotler seamlessly blends a history of Chimayo, a well-articulated understanding of how humans and dogs coevolved, and background on animal welfare efforts in this country with his witty, sharp-edged, and rewarding reflections on life. Kotler defiantly proclaims his love of Chihuahuas (he's hilarious), then shatters our hearts and ends by laying down a real ethical challenge. Highly recommended not only for dog lovers but for readers of memoir, biology, and anthropology and seekers generally.” —Library Journal, starred review
“Part memoir and part philosophical study of the dog-human relationship... Reflecting on the writings of mystics, philosophers, and animal scientists as varied as St. Francis, René Descartes, Claude Levi-Strauss, and Elizabeth Hess, Kotler elevates this tale about saving dogs to a story about human stewardship of life.” —Booklist
“Kotler offers a touching account of Chihuahua adventures alongside interesting blurbs on the history of pet ownership, canine ethology, the semantics of the dog-adoption process, homosexuality in nature and the intricate science behind canine domestication.  A heartfelt example of humanitarianism at work.” —Kirkus Reviews

“I read this compelling book for hours and found myself completely hooked as I am sure any reader who loves dogs will be. Steven Kotler captures something essential about dogs and humans in a way I have not seen anyone else do. With a hip, growling intensity, Small Furry Prayer is bound to inspire.”—Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of Dogs Never Lie About Love and When Elephants Weep

“Thousands of books have been written about dogs, thus it's amazing and also very encouraging to find a book like this one, filled with original thought and plenty of new information. And if that's not enough, it's a great read, a real page turner. I strongly recommend it to anyone who has a dog, or has more than one dog, or who just likes to read a great book.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

A Small Furry Prayer is a wonderful read that’ll take you all over the place, pondering life in general, dogs and other awesome animals, spirituality, religion, flow experiences, and who you are in the grand scheme of things.”—Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals, Wild Justice, and The Animal Manifesto

"Reading Kotler is like having a drink (or three, or five) with an old friend -- only this friend is particularly interesting, more than willing to admit his faults and failures, has a sharp eye and an even sharper tongue, and has done loads of research... [Empathy] drives his earnest inquiries into a host of subjects ranging from spirituality and philosophy to neuroscience and deep ecology, all with the goal of understanding the ancient, complex and essential relationship between humans and other animals — especially dogs... There’s no sap here, but Kotler’s honest, heartfelt stories will have you laughing through your tears. This book is a must-read. "  - Mother Nature Network
“A thought-provoking inquiry... Are dogs special? Are humans? Or are we just special to each other because we care for them and they for us? Read this book, slowly, and decide for yourself.” — New Mexico Magazine

“Science, history, and a smattering of politics is interspersed with the continuing story of the shelter, its humans, the dogs and the occasional wildcat and coyote... It's obvious that Steven Kotler is not only a very competent writer, he is quite an educated person. Dare I say brilliant?  Anyone who is interested in the human-animal connection, the bond that we feel with our dogs, will find this book fascinating. It's almost a guarantee that you will look at your dog in a totally different way.”Examiner.com

“A beautiful, deep encounter with the world of animal rescue on both a grand and personal scale...  A Small Furry Prayer is not only for dog lovers, but for everyone who cherishes life and enjoys a good adventure. It’s delightful, funny, profound, sad, eye-opening and powerful. It’s about discovering what it means to be human.” Guideposts.org

More About the Author

STEVEN KOTLER is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and co-founder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include the non-fiction works "The Rise of Superman," "Abundance," "A Small Furry Prayer" "West of Jesus," and the novel "The Angle Quickest for Flight." His work has been translated into more than 30 languages. His articles have appeared in over 60 publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Wired, GQ, Outside, Popular Science, Men's Journal and Discover. He also writes "Far Frontiers," a blog about technology and innovation for Forbes.com and "The Playing Field," a blog about the science of sport and culture for PsychologyToday.com. He lives in New Mexico with his wife, the author Joy Nicholson.

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Customer Reviews

If you are a dog lover, you will love this book.
It's about a man finding his purpose through and with these dogs, about what it means to be human, about compassion and love and what's truly important in life.
Darcia Helle
Humor is a difficult thing to write in a book and this author tried way too hard to make this funny at every turn.
Charlotte O'donnell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 164 people found the following review helpful By Jo-Ann Mapson on September 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A Small Furry Prayer is the story of two writers who are dog rescuers in the town of Chimayo, New Mexico, famous for its church of miracles and scary drug statistics. Joy (Tribes of Palos Verdes) and Steven (West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief), are already rescuing dogs in LA when the story opens. But their space is limited, and the cranky landlord who asks them to leave spurs them to make a drastic move: They spend all their money to move to a chunk of land in Northern New Mexico. Because Joy's bull terrier seemed to accept Chihuahuas, that was the breed they took in. The dogs that come to them are truly at rock bottom. Abused, injured, mangy, the dogs with deformities, unloved, sometimes unloveable, they are the dogs everyone turns away from, pretends they don't exist. If a Chihuahua or mixed breed is on death row, they take them in. Special needs, elderly, and the toughest cases, those who bite if you try to pet them, all find salvation at Rancho de Chihuahua. There is no "training method" here, simply acceptance, love, exercise, good food and kindness. Each individual dog delivers a story worth telling, proving their hearts, teaching a lesson, and earning my admiration. The patience Joy and Steven have with up to 50 dogs at a time is worthy of the Nobel prize. I loved how this book placed the dog in a wider perspective--philosophically (You'll never think of Rene Descartes in the same way again), scientifically (did you know that dogs can laugh? Isn't that the greatest news ever?! ) and the history of the dog and its relationship with humans will expand the way you look at dogs forever. Sometimes even the most avid dog lover will skip over such a book in order to avoid the emotions such stories stir up.Read more ›
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85 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Osterman on October 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Small Furry Prayer is not the book that I thought it was going to be. I thought that I would be reading just another heartwarming tale of outrageous animals changing peoples' lives. In fact, that is only one of the elements that comprises this book. This is the story of a reluctant dog rescuer, a midlife crisis, a girlfriend and a ranch with a donkey. Each chapter does encompass one or more anecdotes about the rescued dog, but each also ranges far and wide into topics including neurobiology, ethology, religion, mysticism, heartbreak, inequality, trust and renewal. Deep, introspective and engaging, this book was far from the fluffy read I was expecting. Highly recommended for dog lovers and anyone else who may have once wondered if they're smarter than we give them credit for.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Nanciann on October 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book, and have already recommended it to my dog-loving friends. I bought the book on a whim in an airport bookstore. Chalk that impulse buy up to the endearing cover image. From page one to the very last page, I couldn't put this book down. I was simply amazed to learn that Joy and Steven didn't "crash and burn" along the way. Talk about withstanding adversity!

The book is not at all about how to train dogs to get along in a pack. But that was OK. I have 5 rescues, and what this book did for me was give me two gifts: a new perspective and improved coping skills. I now put myself in my dogs' "paws" more quickly, and I think more about why I react to them the way I do. I used to think I had it rough. Now I know what courage in ending abuse, suffering, neglect, and pain is really about.

If you buy the book and like it, don't forget to donate to Steven and Joy's sanctuary: [...]
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By NebraskaIcebergs on November 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In November, I received an advanced reader copy of "A Small Furry Prayer" by Stephen Kotler, which I thought would be "yet another dog book". The good news is I liked the middle section about the dogs and their rescue. The bad news is I felt confused by the early chapters, wherein Kotler presents a jumble of details how one choice after another that led to his involvement in dog rescue. I cared even less for the sections, interspersed throughout and predominant in the final chapters, where Kotler analyzes reasons why people have relationships with dogs and why some become dog rescuers. These musings might help make "A Small Furry Prayer" stand apart from its genre, but this animal lover quite frankly desired "yet another dog book".

In other dog books, I have also liked reading about the author's journey from reluctance to commitment. If Kotler had better narrated his journey, I might have cared equally about his own story. Kotler's journey is however written in such a circular fashion that I frequently felt lost and frustrated. In chapter one, he outlines the negatives about Chimayo (the town where he and his wife will establish a rescue), tells how he and his wife lose their rental house, and shares a story of an animal rescue. In the second chapter, he talks more about his wife, their rental, and their plans for a dog rescue. In the third, he outlines their financial difficulties, muses about altruism, and introduces one of their rescue dogs. In each chapter Kotler revisits the original events, without ever providing a clear timeline. Even after having finished the book, I could not provide a linear narration of his journey. Shouldn't an author make more sense of his world for readers?
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