Thursday, February 26, 2015

Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park, by Matthew Gilbert

Thomas Dunne Books, ISBN 9781250014214, August 2014

Matthew Gilbert had a lifelong fear of dogs, and then he married a dog lover.

It takes a while, but in time they get a yellow Lab puppy from a good breeder, and Matthew is embarked on a new adventure. The sheer animal exuberance of their new puppy, Toby, is a challenge for him at first. He falls in love with Toby, but much of giving him a full and rewarding life seems more like a new, disruptive set of chores. This includes taking Toby to the Amory dog park in their home of Brookline, MA.

Taking Toby for his social outings to the park is Matthew's chore; husband Tom prefers taking him on long, solo walks. But going to Amory during the off leash dog hours means Matthew has to be social, too, and for a shy, generally asocial, somewhat depressed man, that's a challenge in itself.

Over the next year, Matthew and Toby both learn the rules of the dog park and of social interaction with their respective species. This comes much easier for the happy-go-lucky Toby than for Matthew. The human half of this pair at first sees everything that's weird, odd, or just unfamiliar about his fellow dog owners--a collection of people who, after all, are brought together by nothing except ownership of dogs needing exercise and socialization. Gradually, though, he discovers and becomes a part of the fellowship of dog owners. He learns the good and the bad of his accidental friends, and discovers the willingness of this group to pull together to protect the digs, but also to respond to purely human needs and tragedies.

It's a human education as well as a canine one, and one that makes some important changes in his life.

Recommended.

I bought this book.