“A Dog For All Seasons,” by Patti Sherlock. Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin’s Press. $24.99.
I have never owned a border collie, but after grabbing Duncan’s leash and following his spirited lifestyle through four seasons, I have a new appreciation its tenderness, savvy and infectious enthusiasm. And plenty of respect for Patti Sherlock’s ability to weave special meaning into an unforgettable memoir.
Upon finishing this powerful narrative, I paused for a moment, looked over at our two aging rescue dogs, Andy, an 11-year-old German Shepherd, and Trudy, a 9-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and thanked them for being the lights of our family’s life.
From puppyhood to his final days at 16 years of age, Duncan is a catalyst for Sherlock and her three children on a working sheep farm in Idaho. Duncan is not only a super sheep herder but a best friend for this author through a divorce, the children growing up and eventually leaving home, troubled times when one of them gets into trouble with alcohol and drugs and the author’s tearful decision to stop raising sheep.
Throughout, the resilient Duncan elicits almost every reaction imaginable from tears and laughs to awe and anguish. This is a dog that cringes from storms and suitcases yet knows the perfect time to reach out with tenderness to those around him, from family to total strangers.
While he is in his element on the sheep farm throughout most of his life, an aging Duncan hardly misses a beat in Las Vegas for several months, where Sherlock finds much needed work to pay the bills at home. Engagingly written with zippy anecdotes that make for a breezy yet poignant read, Sherlock is at her best when capturing the role of the dog is our lives.
“. . . dogs show us how to live big. They do everything with gusto, whether it’s drinking from the toilet or heading down the driveway for a walk they’ve taken a thousand times before. Every day is new, every activity is the best. In their company, we’re lifted out of human concerns and remember what it’s like to be excited.
“But here’s what strikes me as the most important. And it’s not about what they give us, but about something we give ourselves. We get to love a dog full out.
“. . . Dogs live in such a way that we forget their mortality. We can’t imagine the day when the dog’s exuberant spirit will be extinguished. So we open our hearts to them and discover our hearts hold an extravagant amount of love. We let it flow out. Think what this does for us as people. Think how that enlarges us.”
So if you’re looking for an earthy wake-up call with a dose of inspiration, a “Dog For All Seasons” delivers with vivid, ragged slices of life to savor.