Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life (Book Review)

I bought this book because I fell in love with the photo of the dog on the cover or rather the eyes of the dog in the photo. The dog was Devon, a border collie, whose name was changed to Orson, later on.
Orson was a very difficult dog, and his owner says he did everything in his power; that is, everything he thought of that would help the dog, but to no avail. Yet, the dog was a very loving dog. In the owner's words: "It was hard to stay angry, anyway. He was extraordinarily loving. In the car, he loved to ride with his head on my shoulder, as if navigating. While I worked, he curled up at my feet."
Still, in the owner's words, the dog was impossible. "And at times, he was more than a nipper. When highly aroused, he could grow crazed, barking and lunging, not completely under my control or his own."
Yet, the dog and the owner connected in an intimate, personal manner, so much so that the writer identified his own self with that of the dog's. The dog led the owner to an internal renaissance of sorts, but at the end, Orson proved to be too much to handle.
It is my personal opinion that the dog, as difficult as he was, did not deserve the end the owner saw appropriate for him, especially because the dog was so devoted and affectionate. "Orson was one of those dogs who gave unqualified love to only one living thing: me." Unfortunately for Orson, that love proved to be one sided.
True, the dog was a misfit, even crazy and savage at times, and could be called a terror, but do we have to do away with every misfit? Should we euthanize every mentally unbalanced person or a hyperactive, schizophrenic, or autistic child just because he doesn't behave in the ways we expect him to? Are our pets much different from our children, even if we deem them as being less valuable?
On the other hand, I felt empathy with the owner, not because of the dog, but because of the struggles he had to go through to face who he really was. I think, the subplot of the owner's story that lurks in the background is more powerful and also sadder than Orson's fate. As for the dog, I can't say if he deserved better, but I feel he would do better with another one-dog-only owner, instead of an owner of a menagerie of dogs and other animals.
The writer has a good command of the English language, but I found his expression--although poetic, philosophical, and self-searching at times--to be defensive and self-conscious, and that took away from the flow of his story-telling.
"Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life" is in hardcover with 224 pages and an ISBN of 140006189X.
The author, Jonathan Katz, is a US journalist with online credentials. He has also written for New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the AKC Gazette. He has authored fifteen books, six of them fiction and nine nonfiction. Among those are: Katz on Dogs, A dog Year, The Dogs of Bedlam Farm, and The New Work of Dogs.
As unforgettable and touching Orson's story has been, this book was heart wrenching for me. I am sorry I read it.
This article has been submitted by Joy Cagil in affiliation with http://www.PetLovers.Com/ which is a site for Pet Forums. Joy Cagil is an author on http://www.writing.com

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