Why do dogs speak so profoundly to our inner lives? When Mark Doty decides to adopt a dog as a companion for his dying partner, he finds himself bringing home Beau, a large golden retriever, malnourished and in need of loving care, to join Arden, the black retriever. As Beau bounds back to life, the two dogs become Mark Doty's companions, his solace, and eventually the very life force that keeps him from abandoning all hope during the darkest days - their tenacity, loyalty and love inspiring him when all else fails.
"Dog Years" is a remarkable work: a moving and intimate memoir interwoven with profound reflections on our feelings for animals and the lessons they teach us about life, love, and loss. Mark Doty writes about the heart-wrenching vulnerability of dogs, the positive energy and joy they bring, and the gift they bear us of unconditional love. A book unlike any other, Mark Doty's surprising meditation is radiantly unsentimental yet deeply affecting. Beautifully written, "Dog Years" is a classic in the making.
Mark Doty is the author of seven poetry collections and three books of non-fiction. He has won numerous awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the T.S. Eliot Prize. He is a professor at the University of Houston and lives in New York City.
"The fact that I know that stories of faithful dogs are kitsch does not in the least diminish their power," notes poet and memoirist Doty (Still Life with Oyster and Lemon, 2001, etc.), who goes on to write something rather amazing. With the idea of comforting his terminally ill lover, Wally Roberts, the author headed to an animal shelter to adopt a cuddly puppy as a playmate for their black lab, Arden. He ended up with a rambunctious golden lab named Beau, who became a "golden anchor" after the "reverberant, disordering loss" of Wally's death. Arden and Beau saw Doty through his terrible grief: Life went on, walks had to be taken and meals served. Time passed, and the dogs accepted Doty's new lover, first grudgingly and then enthusiastically, with Arden forming a particular bond with the now-familiar Paul. But then both dogs fell ill, Arden with Lyme disease and youthful Beau with a neurological infection that eerily echoed Wally's: difficulty walking, paralysis, followed by death. Arden lived to the ripe age of 16, his elderly presence a constant pleasure for Doty and Paul. A catalogue of the lab's late-life pleasures (the beach, biscuits and "demonstrating, through a nonstop, willful exertion . . . that he can still climb the three flights of stairs to our apartment") round out the tribute. While Doty is clearly fond of animals, his boundless affection is tempered by graceful observations. His warm commemoration of the lives of Beau and Arden makes a fitting companion to his previous chronicles, in prose and poetry, of Wally's illness and death. A profound reflection on hope, and a song of praise for the dead.