The Book of Dog is an anthology of 45 stories and is an ode to canine companionship expressed through essays, dramatized tales, poems and pictures. The book features contributions from leading voices in eclectic domains: animal welfare activists; academics; media personalities and journalists; bestselling authors, poets, filmmakers and playwrights; graphic artists, and chefs. Some write about personal experiences, memories and incidents; while others invert the lens, exploring the canine perspective of human companionship of house pets and strays. Owners and animal cohabitors would as easily identify with the unmitigated silliness and light animals can bring into lives, as with the empathy or anger stirred from accounts of loss or cruelty. Some are sweet, some are funny.
Ashok Ferrey’s ‘The Average Sri Lankan Family’ includes biting humour—my favourite bit is when he describes their household as being the average family which is behind every successful woman. Where authors recall incidents and behaviours (or misbehaviour!), the exasperated fondness such relationships entail when furniture is chewed, gardens are dug up and monkeys or other animals chased, will have dog owners smiling or nodding along in understanding. However, it is Naomi Barton’s ‘Death, Dignity and Dogs’ that truly stands out. The story, which begins with the author moving back home under ‘circumstances [that] were profoundly funny, the way very sad things tend to be,’ is about life with Melody and Angel, and combines the rare gift of being genuinely laugh-out-loud funny while simultaneously beautifully sensitive.