Steven Kotler was forty years old and facing an existential crisis - which made him not too much different from just about every other middle-aged guy in Los Angeles. Then he met Joy, a woman devoted to the cause of canine rescue. 'Love me, love my dogs,' was her rule, and not having any better ideas, Steven took it to heart. Together with their pack of eight dogs - then fifteen dogs, then twenty-five dogs, then, well they lost count - Steven and Joy bought a tiny farm in a tiny town in rural New Mexico and started the Rancho de Chihuahua, a sanctuary for dogs with special needs.
While dog rescue is one of the largest underground movements in America, it is also one of the least understood. This insider look at the cult and culture of dog rescue begins with Kotler's personal experience working with an ever-peculiar pack of dogs and becomes a much deeper investigation into exactly what it means to devote one's life to the furry and the four-legged.
Along the way, Kotler combs through every aspect of canine-human relations, from human's long history with dogs through brand new research into the neuroscience of canine companionship, in the end discovering why living in a world of dogs may be the best way to uncover the truth about what it really means to be human.
Okay first I have to confess that I read this book in July of last year :) <during my not-really-blogging time>. So it's been awhile, but don't worry I still remember everything about it! First off, the book was not at all what I originally expected it to be. I was expecting a sappy story about a dog rescue with individual stories about the 'special' dogs that have come through. I ended up a bit surprised lol :). While there is a component of that in this book, the larger part is comprised of an exploration into the science and philosophy of animal psychology and the human/animal bond. That threw me for a little bit of a loop! :)
It was also very interesting to read a story like this written by a guy who didn't even start out as a dog person. He didn't grow up with dogs. He lived alone in the city without one for a long time before bringing home his first dog Ahab. But moving in with a pack, and then realizing he needed them - and further realizing that they were deepening his worldview threw his world for a serious loop. Being a skeptical journalist, Kotler responded by researching the heck out of the situation.
That's when the book became intriguing to me - when Kotler began writing about his research into dogs and various states of being - he discusses altruism, sexual orientation, enlightenment, shamanism and shapeshifting, dog and human evolution, inter-species communication, and even more. I enjoyed how he would use an experience with his dogs as a jumping off point for a scientific discussion, then circle back to the initial story. I don't always like that technique but for this book it made the science/technical bits more personal and easier to understand in relation to the author's life.
In the end, dog rescue is hard work and by no means pretty, but the rewards come in so many different ways. This book proves that there is a lot we can learn from animals, and there are somethings we may never understand. I really enjoyed this book and how different it was, I definitely recommend it!
Check out the other books I've reviewed:
Dog is My Co-Pilot
When Elephants Weep
Scent of the Missing
Tell Me Where It Hurts
Little Boy Blue
Pawprints of Katrina
Hit By a Flying Wolf
What the Dog Knows