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A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life Paperback – October 11, 2011
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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
“[An] insightful mediation on the relationship between humans and animals that explores the realms of neuroscience, anthropology, and spirituality.” ―Chronogram
“This gritty journey into ‘a world made of dog' is unlike any dog story you've ever read.” ―Christian Science Monitor
“Kotler's tale--part obsession, part inquiry, part adventure--serves up a well-rounded meal of soul-searching and psychology.” ―Psychology Today
“Reading A Small Furry Prayer is a pleasure. Kotler's creation of dogs in prose avoids the cute, bypasses the nature-boy crap, and goes straight for the heart and the soul of the creatures in his care. Here's a book that charms, speaks to the heart, involves the mind, and challenges your intellect without overwhelming you.” ―The Agony Column
“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
“With nuggets of wisdom and insight, "A Small Furry Prayer" moves seamlessly across a challenging psychological and physiological landscape with passion and persistence.” ―Seattle Kennel Club
“Like most dog-related stories, Kotler's tale is sweet and oftentimes heartbreaking. But Kotler doesn't indulge in sentimental prose, and he's a frequently hilarious writer.” ―Seattle Weekly
“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
“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
“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)
“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. Full of well-told stories, Kotler's book will please many animal advocates.” ―Booklist
“Joyous… Brimming with humor, gratitude, and grace, this is a remarkable story.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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
“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
“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
“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
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On the downside, he inter-splices his work with research and philosophy in which he is not expert, and simply presenting it as truth, and he does it a lot. I've read those same works, and watched those same Discovery specials, and I don't write about them as if I'm an evolutionary biologist. I would have rated 4 stars but it went down to 3 because of the faux expertise.
Later, that same friend introduced Kotler to Joy, a woman with a passion for chihuahua rescue. As he fell deeper in love and felt the need for a change, he and Joy set out to find a place, secluded from neighbors with lots of cheap land. They ended up in Chimayo, New Mexico, and started Ranco de Chihuahua, where their simple mission was to save lives, or make the last memories of the sick memories of love.
While there is a bit of narration about a few individual dogs, Kotler's main focus is on the historical and biological reasons that canines became our best friends. He describes in detail how saving lives and bonding with his dogs has helped him find meaning in his own life.
This was an easy read, with a lot of food for thought.
This book opens ones eyes to the difficulties involved in taking on the responsibilites of rescueing animals, especially ill or senior animals. It is not for the faint of heart. Kolter's decent into depression is definitely understandable.
He does an excellant job of describing the personalities of various members of his tribe and makes the reader feel as though he knows them. We mourn along with him as he loses them one at a time.
I wish there had been more positive stories to tell about his charges, but maybe he didn't have that many positive experiences. This obviously does not prevent him from continuing his dedication to these most wonderful creatures.
This book is well worth reading, just to see that there are people in the world who love and relate to these, our friends, who give so much of themselves to the human race.
Though, having a math degree, I'm particularly disappointed in Rene Descartes.
If you doubt a human can learn from animals, you haven't spent time around animals. I've learned greater patience, broader acceptance and unconditional love.