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The $60,000 Dog: My Life With Animals [Kindle Edition]

Lauren Slater
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A stunning new book about the role of animals in our lives, by a popular and acclaimed writer
From the time she is nine years old, biking to the farmland outside her suburban home, where she discovers a disquieting world of sleeping cows and a “Private Way” full of the wondrous and creepy creatures of the wild—spiders, deer, moles, chipmunks, and foxes—Lauren Slater finds in animals a refuge from her troubled life. As she matures, her attraction to animals strengthens and grows more complex and compelling even as her family is falling to pieces around her. Slater spends a summer at horse camp, where she witnesses the alternating horrific and loving behavior of her instructor toward the animals in her charge and comes to question the bond that so often develops between females and their equines. Slater’s questions follow her to a foster family, her own parents no longer able to care for her. A pet raccoon, rescued from a hole in the wall, teaches her how to feel at home away from home. The two Shiba Inu puppies Slater adopts years later, against her husband’s will, grow increasingly important to her as she ages and her family begins to grow.

Slater’s husband is a born skeptic and possesses a sternly scientific view of animals as unconscious, primitive creatures, one who insists “that an animal’s worth is roughly equivalent to its edibility.” As one of her dogs, Lila, goes blind and the medical bills and monthly expenses begin to pour in, he calculates the financial burden of their canine family member and finds that Lila has cost them about $60,000, not to mention the approximately 400 pounds of feces she has deposited in their yard. But when Benjamin begins to suffer from chronic pain, Lauren is convinced it is Lila’s resilience and the dog’s quick adaptation to her blindness that draws her husband out of his own misery and motivates him to try to adjust to his situation. Ben never becomes a true believer or a die-hard animal lover, but his story and the stories Lauren tells of her own bond with animals convince her that our connections with the furry, the four-legged, the exoskeleton-ed, or the winged may be just as priceless as our human relationships.

The $60,000 Dog is Lauren Slater’s intimate manifesto on the unique, invaluable, and often essential contributions animals make to our lives. As a psychologist, a reporter, an amateur naturalist, and above all an enormously gifted writer, she draws us into the stories of her passion for animals that are so much more than pets. She describes her intense love for the animals in her life without apology and argues, finally, that the works of Darwin and other evolutionary biologists prove that, when it comes to worth, animals are equal, and in some senses even superior, to human beings.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In a thoughtful examination of a sometimes difficult life, ameliorated and often alleviated by connections with nature and animals, psychologist Slater (Welcome to My Country, 1997; Opening Skinner’s Box, 2005) shares that she was raised in a troubled suburban home, her mother gradually deteriorating with mental illness. When she received a bicycle for her birthday, young Lauren began to explore the area and discovered the edge of town and then the country. A country lane, with its animal inhabitants, became her refuge from the strangeness at home. Horses and riding helped her to survive until she was sent to a foster home at 15, when a young raccoon became her next lifeline. A stint as a veterinary technician provided a brief hiatus in what she felt was a year of drudgery when a young swan, victim of an attack by a snapping turtle, was fitted with a prosthetic beak. Years later, Slater still finds the swan to be her muse. Dogs, wasps, and bats also figure in a poetic narrative that gives the reader a melodic look into a deeply considered life. --Nancy Bent


"Slater continually surprises wtih connections she makes. Beautifully written, and not just for animal lovers." —Kirkus Reviews

"A thoughtful examination of a sometimes difficult life, ameliorated and often alleviated by connections with nature and animals. . . .Dogs, wasps, and bats also figure in a poetic narrative that gives the reader a melodic look into a deeply considered life."—Booklist

Product Details

  • File Size: 1255 KB
  • Print Length: 265 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B005LW5HLY
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (November 20, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,158 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not buying it... January 31, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have mixed feelings about this book. It's beautifully written and quite a compelling read. My main problem is that I don't believe the author. She admits in a previous "memoir" that she's a compulsive liar. I thought I found hints of that in this book as well. In the former, she tells us that she had/has epilepsy and Munchausen syndrome and underwent an operation where the two halves of her brain were separated. Not a hint of any of that in this one which covers much of the same time period. While the story feels psychologically authentic, I'm just not buying it as literal truth. (Two deadly fires?) Some chapters are only tangentially about animals. I suggest readers read this as fiction.

P.S. I came back and gave the book an extra star. The chapter on Ivory, the swan, alone is worth the price of the book. The writing is breathtaking. But please, Ms. Slater, if you're writing fiction, label it as fiction. If the book isn't fiction, explain the lack of congruence with the earlier memoir.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant as always December 2, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Slater has a dramatic, deep, troubled and honest way of looking and remembering. Sometimes disturbing but always ridiculously readable. I gave this book to my animal adoring wife who is not a big reader and she is tearing thru it. Giving us a lot to discuss.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more than the title suggests December 28, 2012
From the title, I expected a light and fluffy book on dog ownership. Instead, I found a deeply moving story of the author's painful childhood and adolescence. I am surprised that this book is not getting more critical acclaim.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected January 26, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Writing style inconsistent, and the whole thing was not what I expected. It was not really a book about this author's life with animals, rather a book about her life, with animals on the fringes of her experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Consider the lessons animals teach us December 19, 2013
By Jessie
I really enjoyed this, but I have to caution people from being misled by the title. As intriguing as the title "The $60,000 Dog" sounds, Slater's writing is far from centered around dogs, or any sort of in-depth analysis of the cost of "pets" on our society. That kind of article would be better suited for an interest magazine piece or research paper assignment at your local university. And the subtitle "My Life with Animals," although broad, does not truly convey what the reader is picking up when they delve into Slater's pages.

Slater's work is a new kind of autobiography. The kind that manages to convey events both through a child's eyes and with adult meaning and sensitivity. If I had to describe the book in one word it would be just that: sensitive. Although others may find it neurotic, I believe that opinion would come from a reader who has not experienced depression that can take you down the rabbit hole of your own mind and leave you shaking in the darkness. Slater's writing is so nuanced you can taste smoke on your tongue and see the living AND dying cells within the network of your own skin, and yet she still manages to appreciate what she still does not know, and quite possibly, what she will never know. I applaud Slater for opening herself up in such a truthful way; admitting to her fears, questions, and acknowledging her pain.

So where are the animals? - you might be wondering. Animals are tools, teachers, and conduits through Slater's life, but I would not consider them the main focus of the book. At the center of everything is Slater (as we each are the principal of our own story). And her prose is filled with "quotable quotes" that question humanity's purpose and very existence.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book ever. January 27, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Worst book I have ever read. I know the reader had some kind of mental illness because the writing was typical of one with fragmented thoughts. Only one chapter on the dog.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE TITLE DOESN'T TELL YOU THE HALF OF IT December 22, 2012
This book is about so very much more than what we will spend to save a dog we love. The writing in this book is so intensely beautiful and evocative that it pings your heart and brain at the same time. While the memoir does wend its way to the issue of how much any of us might spend on a beloved dog, the earlier parts of the book have writing that is universal and so luminous about childhood and nature and the refuge that animals of every kind afford us through our lives. This book will be a surprise gift to anyone who experienced the wonders of nature as a child, and has perhaps forgotten the beauty all around us. A searingly lovely book. Everyone who is or wants to be a writer should soak it up. You can hear an interview with Lauren Slater on my radio show DOG TALK([...]) on Feb 9 2012 where we can all enjoy meeting the poetic woman who created this wondrous book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An examination of why and how we connect with animals January 9, 2013
Lauren Slater is a gifted memoirist--she not only tells you her stories, she takes apart the complex emotions behind them and even the reasons she's telling you them. Her connection to animals is bone deep, and this book looks at how it has influenced her at different stages of her life. So much more than an animal memoir, it offers rewards to any reader who wants to look deeper at their own love of the creatures in their life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Hypocritical
I would give the first half of this book a solid 4 stars because of the author's gift for storytelling. Read more
Published 2 months ago by One person's opinion
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Actually got beat up in the mail but straightened out…no fault of senders
Published 4 months ago by gail
5.0 out of 5 stars She writes with poetry in her prose
This is a book to savor, like a grand meal. Some parts sweet, some savory, others full of tension and mystery. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Elizabeth Trogdon
4.0 out of 5 stars My Thoughts
I loved almost everything....yes I affirm one can love and grieve an animal companion as much as a person... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Pat
5.0 out of 5 stars She's good gets to the point!
I liked it because she explained being a foster child so vividly I can understand some one close to me!
I love my dog
Published 7 months ago by Brigitte Patterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thank you for sending my copy out to me in a timely manner. Really enjoying it.
Published 9 months ago by Sherry L. More
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting
I love reading books about animals & this book delivers. Various animals were included by this author. I haven't read her other books.
Published 13 months ago by Jackie Anderson
1.0 out of 5 stars I did not enjoy.
I Could not get into the book... It appears to be not about a dog at all. Very difficult to read...
Published 15 months ago by Nadine Salee
1.0 out of 5 stars A completely indefensible pitiful excuse for a human being.
I haven't read this book, nor any other by the author; I was brought here because I read an extensive excerpt that describes in agonizing detail her experience of loving her dogs... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mike Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this Book!
Love animals and especially dogs. At first, I couldn't understand why this book was titled as it was, but after several chapters
I understood. Read more
Published 23 months ago by TB
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More About the Author

LAUREN SLATER is the author of "The $60,000 Dog: My Life with Animals" (Beacon Press, 2012) and "Playing House: Notes of a Reluctant Mother" (Beacon Press, Nov. 2013). A psychologist and writer, Slater is the author of five books of nonfiction: Welcome to My Country, Prozac Diary, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir, Love Works Like This, and Opening Skinner's Box, as well as a collection of short stories, Blue Beyond Blue. Slater has received numerous awards, including a 2004 National Endowment for the Arts award, multiple inclusions in Best American volumes, and a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Photographer Photo Credit Name: Dianne Newton, 2012.

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