Saturday, July 18, 2015


My Rottweiler mix, Jack, loved, loved, loved going to the dog park and we used to go to one close to my house several times each week. He loved meeting other dogs and would chase balls as long as he could find anyone who would throw one. My current dog, Star, also loves to go to the dog park, but she could care less about other dogs. Her objective is treats and she moves from person to person, politely sitting down in front of them, sometimes nudging a pocket, sometimes drooling a little, until people feed her. Her relentless pursuit of treats is just a little embarrassing and I rarely take her to the dog park. I miss going though and hanging out with other people who love dogs.

I was delighted then, to find OFF THE LEASH: A YEAR AT THE DOG PARK by Matthew Gilbert.  Gilbert is a television critic for the Boston Globe. Several years ago, he and his partner, Tom, adopted a yellow lab puppy, Toby. Although Gilbert had never been a dog lover, and was, in fact, afraid of dogs as a child, he and Toby quickly bonded. Someone suggested that he and Tom should take Toby to the Amory, a neighborhood dog park for socialization and exercise, and it quickly becomes a daily habit.

Gilbert beautifully captures a year at the dog park- everything from the poop delinquents (people who don't pick up after their dogs, but aren't malicious, they just kind of forget the dog has gone), to the poop rebels, (those people who actually refuse to pick up after their dogs). He chronicles the humpers (I laughed out loud at this chapter) and the fighters. And the friendships among the dog owners, the dogs, and the dogs with their owners.

Maybe most importantly, Gilbert captures his relationship with Toby, and how the relationship changes and betters him as a human being.
Toby had made me a more contented, freer person, someone who lives and loves despite the outcome, someone who risks play and who no longer needs to forge excuses. When I can't hear his panting furry blond head nearby, and feel the weight of him on my feet, and smell his paws, and feel his confidence and cheerfulness and automatic forgiveness, I will still have his spirit embedded in mine. He will exert his presence; he will be a part of my everlasting family of choice. That little goose I unhooked at the park every day-- I will remember how he took me into his caravan, how he pushed me to play ball, how he led me onto the field, how he let me off the leash (218). 
 I think pretty much anyone who has ever owned a dog or loved a dog can identify with these sentiments. If you are one of those people, you should read this book. You will love it!

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