I am reading after midnight alone in my bedroom. Husband is off doing Air Force Reserve duties and I can read as late as I want without bothering anyone. So I do.
I finish The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein sometime before 1 in the morning and as I turn the last page, I am weeping. I climb out of my bed and stumble downstairs in search of my dog. I must see him. I find Luke, my 12-year-old Labrador, asleep on his bed. I kneel down and throw my arms around him. “You’re such a good dog,” I murmur between sobs. He thumps his tail and just lets me do it.
I am not giving anything away by telling you the dog dies in The Art of Racing in The Rain. You learn that from the opening chapter. But reading this rather unconventional book, told from the point of view of a dog named Enzo, took me to a place I fear: the place where I lose my good old dog to old age. Luke is 12. He is losing his hearing. His hips sag and sway. He doesn’t run up the hill anymore. He sleeps a lot.
But I am not ready to say goodbye. Especially now, when I consider the highly remote possibility that Luke, like Enzo, could narrate the story of his life with us if he wanted to. And if he could, what he might say.
I loved this book for the fresh perspective on what a dog might observe as he lives out his life with the humans who gave him a name and an identity. If he had language, what would my dog say if given the chance to tell his life story? My dog has seen me at my best and my worst. He has seen me when life was breezy and when it was as turbulent as a cyclone. And he still wags his tail when I come in the door, whether I’ve been gone five minutes, five hours or five days. and you can just hear his unspoken thoughts: “You’re home. I’m glad.”
If you’ve ever read the excerpt from dog’s and cat’s diary – the author of which is unknown to me – and found it wildly funny, you will understand the depth of my devotion to my dog.
Perhaps it was because it was nearly one a.m. when I finished it and I was over-tired from watching the Olympics every night past midnight for two weeks straight.
Perhaps it was because I was alone and didn’t have to hide my reaction from anyone.
Or perhaps it was because I know dogs don’t live near long enough. Enzo didn’t. And neither will my dog.
And it just doesn’t seem fair.
Why do we love our dogs so much? I think it’s because they love us, warts and all. I bet we’d be amazed at the stories they could tell, if we were brave enough to listen to them.
Great book. Don’t read without tissues at the ready.