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We Give Our Hearts to Dogs to Tear: Intimations of their Immortality Hardcover – April 30, 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Whatever your interest in Jack Russels—hunting, trailing, companion—you are sure to enjoy this book. It is absolutely wonderful!. . . . Alston’s great style of writing will make you feel that you knew each and every one of those little dogs. . . his first Phinneas, and his favorite Ifrit, along with many others. You will grieve for them along with him. . . . [T]his is a book I will treasure and read many times over. I encourage all of you to add this one to your library—you will love it!”

—Terri Batzer, True Grit

“[R]eading Alston Chase’s new book, We Give Our Hearts to Dogs to Tear, was a cathartic experience.”

—Ronald F. Maxwell, Chronicles

“Perfect title for a book; and, indeed, that book turned up, lent to us by a friend. . . . [T]he story, warmly and philosophically told, of a family and their dogs over a period of 30 years, and it asks—and answers—the question, “Why do dogs have such power over us?”. . . . We will return this moving and thought-provoking book to our friend, and we recommend it to you.”

—Ann LaFarge, Puppy Love

We Give Our Hearts to Dogs to Tear: Intimations of Their Immorality is a thirty-year love story between humans and their animal companions, Jack Russell terriers, and tells of the authors’ search for the immortality of dogs and what makes them special. First-person accounts of his dogs blends with philosophical reflection in a memoir which is warm and fuzzy.”

California Bookwatch

"[An] altogether engrossing book . . . a wonderful book . . . exceedingly well written and, for me, more powerful than any of the other excellent books of yours that I have read."

—Robert H. Greenwood, The Greenwood Company

"We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear is more than a memoir about small dogs in Big Sky country, however; it is a book about an adventurous life, an intrepid wife, and the passing of the baton from a generation to another. What lasts? Chase's surprising answer is a simple one: Nothing loved is ever lost."

—Patrick Burns, author of American Working Terriers

"[Alston Chase] may have written one of the great dog books of our time. "Hearts" is simultaneously a memoir of his decades spent in Paradise Valley, where, before the movie stars arrived, making a phone call could be a three-day affair, and a well-informed rumination on wilderness land use. Mathematician, philosopher, outdoorsman, and amateur economist, Chase addresses many difficult subjects here, in a direct, yes, Thoreauvian prose style. In a chapter titled 'The Soul of a Dog,' he asks, 'Was not the immortality of dogs at least a possibility?' If you care about the answer to that question, read this book."

—Alex Beam, The International Herald Tribune

"This may well be the most beautiful and richest book about dogs ever penned."

—Richard S. Wheeler, Winner, Owen Wister Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature

"If you haven't read it, get yourself a copy of Alston Chase, We Give Our Hearts to Dogs to Tear: Intimations of their Immortality (Transaction Publishers, 2008). You will laugh, you will cry, and you'll remember again why you gave your heart to JRs. This book's a keeper!"

—Joseph Harvill, Great Scots Magazine

"We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear is a fantastic piece of work. I could not put it down. I pray and hope that many will read this wonderful book to understand better the true character of our terriers, and what is happening to our environment."

—Ailsa Crawford, Founder and President Emeritus, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America

"We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear is a poignant, wise account of dogs, men, the land they inhabit which inhabits them."

—Donald McCaig, author of Nop's Trials, Jacob's Ladder & Rhett Butler's People

"We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear, the story of Alston and Diana Chase's thirty year adventure with successive generations of Jack Russell terriers in Montana, is a thinking person's dog book. Funny, sad, charming and profound, it will resonate with anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog."

—Tim Cahill, author of Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, Lost in my Own Backyard and Hold the Enlightenment

"The author is Alston Chase, one of the more interesting and reflective writers about nature and the wilderness . . . I really like his book . . . Among the delights of the book are the snippets of poetry and prose Alston has used as chapter epigraphs."

—John Derbyshire, National Review Online

"Like the Jack Russell terriers who animate its pages, this book will steal your heart, tear it up—and somehow manage to mend it, too."

—Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig

"Alston Chase's book provides much to consider about the triumph of spirit over death, of the immortality of the soul, even of a dog." 

—Elana Winsberg, Seattle Post-Intelligencer 

“An extraordinary, lyrical, heartfelt, loving, poetic, narrative of some of the dogs in the lives of author Alston Chase and his wife Diane. This is a book that deserves to be savored, then repeatedly reread at intervals. Author Chase is equally at home with his dogs, wildlife, and the land he loves. I think his quote above encapsulates it all. Yes, our animals may not live forever; but the joy they bring while still beside us!”

— Mallory Anne-Marie Forbes, Mallory Heart Reviews

About the Author

Alston Chase has written widely on natural history, the environment, and animal welfare. He is the author of Playing God in Yellowstone, In a Dark Wood, and Harvard and the Unabomber.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers; First Edition edition (April 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1412807794
  • ISBN-13: 978-1412807791
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #352,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen J. Bodio on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Alston Chase has gone against the popular grain with his fascinating account of life on the edge of the wild in Montana with several generations of real, sometimes difficult Jack Russell terriers. They may be "cute" but they are first and foremost working dogs, with bold hearts and ambitions bigger than their bodies. While he may make you cry, Chase is never cheaply sentimental. In a time when too many people reduce dogs to surrogate children or toys, he reminds us what remarkable creatures real dogs are, and how strong a bond they will make with their human partners.
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Format: Hardcover
I read "We Give our Hearts" in one sitting simply because I couldn't put it down. At variance with other "dog" books, this book delves into the man dog connection in a completely new way. Dr. Chase is a philosophy professor and his expertise in this area allows him to investigate our love for our animals in a believable and convincing way, and to answer the question about the soul of a dog. His experiences with his dogs and his love of the land make his ventures ring true. The photographs included portray his life in Montana. His unabashed love for the entities in his life that are meaningful flow beutifully. This book is a real treasure.
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Format: Hardcover
On one level, this is a book about the Chases' retreat to Montana wilderness and their discovery of the treasures around them, including the Jack Russell Terriers they began to acquire. But it runs deeper than that, and explores what dogs are and need to be, and how breeders are ruining them by heeding human criteria, such as form and size, and ignoring the genetic traits that keep a breed viable and healthy.

But this is also a love story, about how the Chases and their Jack Russells (and other pets) deal with each other, and how their differing personalities give and receive differing commitments and differing forms of love. There are passages of great tenderness here, but also passages of speculation: do animals have anything we might call a soul, anything that might transcend death? Might we ever be reunited with our pets beyond the grave?

There is warning here as well: we stand on a precipice. If dogs continue to be bred for purely human criteria such as those imposed by the AKC, and not for those qualities that yield a healthy, athletic animal, the time is not far off when some breeds will be ruined. They will suffer more and more disorders such as deformity, and fewer live births.

This is a love song, and we need to listen to Alston Chase's music.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
....but in particular, JRT lovers. A comprehensive narrative of JRT breed origins, and a virtual ballad of canine/human interaction. Love, joy, sadness, tears....the celebration of what most call dog ownership, and what dog lovers call true partnership.

I initially hesitated to buy this book, based on the price, but I am so glad I took the leap. I am also a multi dog owner, or should I say, multi terrier owner. Terriers, because of their rough and tumble natures, are the dogs most often abused and dumped at animal shelters (pit bull terriers being the most common.) It is clear this author understands the essence of a terrier, and celebrates rather than attempts to change what is truly the very core of these wonderful dogs. Several times while reading, I wanted to curse the author because he let his dogs run freely, resulting several times in the death of his dogs, but I also understand how he chose to let his terriers simply be what they were bred to be; feisty, wonderfully silly hunters, that were all the better for being able to exercise their true selves. I'm only sorry that the author took so long to realize that each dog that shares our lives is a gift, and in wanting to replicate a beloved friend, we may miss out on the next gift we're given, different as it may be..
Keep a box of tissues close at hand....
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Format: Hardcover
A real scholar pens an absorbing tribute to his tough and stoic terriers whose lives enriched his own with their unfailing love and loyalty. Set in rugged rural Montana, the author paints vivid word pictures of a way of life and its wildlife almost gone from "hollywoodized" Montana. He does not sugarcoat the harsh realities of the poverty and hardships he and his wife endured nor does he sentimentalize the deaths of his beloved dogs. His spare, strong prose makes a much deeper impression than would flowery prose. This is a book one can pick up again and again, open at random and refresh ones acquaintance with some remarkabls people and their animals.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book a few weeks after burying my 9 year old setter...I had read an excerpt of the book in RANGE magazine, the chapter titled "Bungee's Ghost". I learned a lot about JR terriers from the book. I sympathize greatly with the author and his family , we try so hard to protect our dogs and sometimes we just cannot.
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By Linsey on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
For me this precious read is best served with tea, a cozy chair, and a ray of light pouring through a window. I waited each day for just the right moment to pick it up. It is a book to savor.

I understand that Alston Chase is quite the intellectual - the author of several very heady reads. I have to say that in "We Give Our Hearts To Dogs To Tear" I can see the heart of the author, splayed for all the world to see.

This book takes the reader aside from the hustle and bustle of life and drops into the true essence of living. Maybe that shift is seen through a canine friend's field of vision or maybe because of these canine friends Alston Chase has made that shift himself.

"We Give Our Hearts To Dogs To Tear" is reflective of days gone by, of pioneers, and grit, and lasting love.

Thank you for such an endearing read.
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