No One Has Such a Dog: Counting a Borrowed Year

Lately, Sally has been struggling with the heat.  Her typical mastery of Canine Thermodynamics is no match for the oppressive southern summer weather.  As those of you who’ve read the book or who know Sally personally understand, she’s elderly and suffers from a condition known as laryngeal paralysis.  We’ve always known that it would not “get better.” But we accepted the risks of forgoing a surgery that posed its own set of drawbacks and pitfalls.

Today, after having several rough days in a row, Sally suffered from the deep heat and humidity keenly.  She couldn’t cool herself enough, and even a brief foray from one room to another or out into the back yard for a pee, left her sides heaving as she struggled to breathe.  She wet the carpet in my bedroom this afternoon, because no one was present to let her into the back yard.  To her credit, she did try to find a human.

Then, while awaiting a bite of chicken from my dinner, she suddenly turned and started jumping on furniture.  First, the couch and then an armchair, the latter of which is now missing its seat cushion because she peed on it. Then she crawled under a side table and threw up.  This is unprecedented, and the worst breathing difficulty she’s had in our Borrowed Year.  Last summer, the vet pronounced her a hopeless case.  She was done for, he said, not unkindly.  Twelve months I purchased by forgoing a traditional job, creating Puppy Soup–a recipe made from scratch and incorporating as many of the vitamins and minerals I know dogs need–and adapting my sleeping and working schedules to be on hand if she needed me.

 

All the More Important

It’s not a perfect arrangement, and there have been days that worried me.  But, she’s still here.  As I slide over into Tomorrow, I think about the roller coaster day through which we managed to survive.   Between bouts of caring for Sally, I submitted an essay to The Rumpus.  Two hours later, I’d been rejected with a very nicely-worded, impersonal form letter.  I cried a bit.  Then, I realized that something far more wonderful had happened in the past few days.

Sally’s book (yes, it has other dogs in it, but Sally is much discussed.) received two wonderful reviews from accomplished writers.  I wanted to give space here specifically to Fiona Cooke Hogan and Cristel Orrand, to speak a bit about their work and the kind words they offered to a project I dearly love.

Fiona Cooke Hogan

She’s a rather magical lady who lives in Ireland and has written a collection of short stories that may be found, here.  She also has a new book that will be completed rather soon, and I’m looking forward to reading it.  She’s been a supportive online presence as I worried over Sally this past week.  I’m so thankful our paths intersected, and deeply gratified that she took the time to offer such a generous review.

She wrote:

on June 25, 2016
I loved this book! A beautifully philosophical look at our favourite furry companions. I read it with one hand rubbing my own snoring pup who lay stretched beside me on the couch. It made me laugh, it made me reflect on past and long gone pets and it opened my eyes to why we love our doggy friends so much. The author knows her dogs, her essays demonstrate a keen insight into the psyche of the dog in his interaction with his human family. A must have for all dog lovers.

Cristel Orrand

We are a part of the same writer’s group on social media.  We chanced to exchange publication news via one of the group’s conversation threads that revolved around reviews–who needed them vs. who could take time to give one or more projects a read n’ rate.  She is, I discovered, a practice freelance writer with a special skill for non fiction writing. Over the course of our nascent interaction, I’ve come to hold her in high regard for both her kindness and her insightful intellect.  I confess that I’d never heard of either of her books–The Amalgamist or Khayal.  But after reading Khayal, I know I’ll seek out her work, continuing to stay abreast of any new stories from her.  You may find her work, here.

She wrote:

 

on June 28, 2016

Sandlin brings a unique voice- part scholar, part humour essayist- to an age old topic- how awesome are dogs! There are the funny stories we all have about quirky dogs hording socks (or pacifiers with my pit bull) and opening doors (or turning on the faucet in the case of my boxer). You find yourself laughing right along with their antics and wanting to shout “mine too! I know just what you mean.” But the book is so much more than funny dog stories.

Sandlin explores the sciences behind dog behaviors and our co-evolution, bringing an anthropologist’s sensitivity and context for an enlightening but very accessible read. You’re left feeling in the know, and that knowledge matters. We’re also introduced to the dogs or, “Persons of Importance and Great Worth”, in Sandlin’s life and her mother’s curiously hilarious terms for them.

Parts of the book are truly saddening as anyone who has lost a fur baby knows all too well, but Sandlin leaves you with a feeling of peace, because dogs don’t need to live as long as we do to learn everything they need to know. People are much slower learners, as any dog who has taken on a human as a pet can tell you.

I’ve never before set out to read a book about dogs- scientific or humorous- so I can only liken it to the difficulty of any non-fiction writer in keeping the reader engaged, avoiding the pitfalls of academic boredom or too “cutesy” anecdotes. What Sandlin accomplishes in nothing less than a captivating journey of thought and emotion, one that is satisfyingly whole. And while I am a dog-person, Sandlin’s prose is so lovely, I’d be happy to read anything she writes on any topic.

To all those who have graciously written reviews for a book so close to my Heart–who is currently resting quietly (at last) in front of the fan–thank you.  Thank you doesn’t seem big enough a phrase to hold my gratitude.  I want to share these essays not because I want to make a million dollars.  Being a writer is precisely what has enabled me to stay at home and care for Sally during our Borrowed Year.  I’m endlessly grateful for that, and I hope that I can offer a bit of laughter or interest to the casual learners and the dog lovers among you.
If you’ve read No One Has Such a Dog, and No One Should and you would like to leave a review of your own, you can do so here. Reviews are always deeply appreciated, not only because Amazon uses them to determine how visible a book is to customers, but also because a review connects me to you and allows me to see that my work has made an impression.  There is no greater gift you can give to a writer.
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