Dog Walks Man: A Six-Legged Odyssey


A humorous, thoughtful, absorbing narrative about the metaphysical joys of a simple daily task


Imagine if Annie Dillard had taken a dog along with her to Tinker Creek. Now imagine Tinker Creek was a New Jersey suburb, and you have an idea of the surprises that await in John Zeaman’s book. Humorous, thought-provoking, and playful, Dog Walks Man might also be called Zen and the Art of Dog Walking. Zeaman takes us on a journey from a 'round-the-block fraternity of ...

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Dog Walks Man: A Six-Legged Odyssey

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A humorous, thoughtful, absorbing narrative about the metaphysical joys of a simple daily task


Imagine if Annie Dillard had taken a dog along with her to Tinker Creek. Now imagine Tinker Creek was a New Jersey suburb, and you have an idea of the surprises that await in John Zeaman’s book. Humorous, thought-provoking, and playful, Dog Walks Man might also be called Zen and the Art of Dog Walking. Zeaman takes us on a journey from a 'round-the-block fraternity of “dog-walking dupes”—suburban fathers who indulged their children’s wish for a dog—to a strange and forbidden wonderland at the edge of town, the New Jersey Meadowlands. Along the way, he rediscovers childhood’s forgotten “fringe places,” investigates the mysteries of the natural world, and experiences moments of inexplicable joy. 


Each chapter of Dog Walks Man is a bite-size meditation on the wisdom derived from dogs and dog walking. Woven into the narrative are musings on such familiar dog-walking issues as the war of nerves that precedes each walk (or “w-a-l-k” if your dog is in earshot), the problem of dog-walking monotony, and why dog walkers are always the ones to discover dead bodies. This is also the story of Pete, the prescient standard poodle who begins as the “family glue” and evolves into Zeaman’s partner on a journey through an abandoned landscape as alive as any jungle. 


Above all, Dog Walks Man is about a search for wholeness in an increasingly artificial world. It is about discovering what Thoreau meant when he wrote, in his seminal essay “Walking,” “Life consists with wildness.” Because the truth is, something as simple as walking the dog can open up unexpected worlds. 



An excerpt


In the beginning, I walked around the block.  Or a couple of blocks.  It didn’t seem to matter.  That it didn’t matter was in itself novel. It had been a long time since I had gone out without any particular destination or direction, without knowing whether I was going to turn left or turn right at the end of the front walk. . . .

The simple aimlessness of it made me feel like a kid again.  . . .

Pete, with his boundless enthusiasm for the outside world, was like the reincarnation of that juvenile self.  We’d hit the sidewalk and, like two kids with nothing special to do, spend a half-hour meandering about.  We were suburban vagabonds.  In the mornings, with the whole world rushing to get somewhere, there was something almost subversive about roaming around with a companion who had no responsibilities.

We walked the irregular streets of our hilly town.  We each had our compulsions.  I revived the childhood aversion to stepping on cracks.  Pete made sure that every tree was marked with his scent. . . .

At night, Pete and I would escape the sometimes-suffocating sweetness of family life—the pajamas and stories, the smell of toothpaste and sheets, the damp goodnight kisses and prolonged hugs.  We’d slip out into the silky night like a pair of teenage boys with high hopes for a Saturday night.  We’d walk beneath the streetlights from one pool of light to the next.  The people in the houses would drift past the windows like aquarium fish.  Pete, with his black coat, was practically invisible in the dark stretches and I would let him off the leash. 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An experience shared by millions each day, dog walking establishes a bond between people and their pets, and, at its best, allows for a daily period of contemplation and quiet; at its worst, it's an exercise in tedious repetition. Zeaman, an award-winning art critic and children's book author (Before They Were Pets), presents a set of thoughtful, well-written essays about his experience walking Pete, a poodle who draws the family closer together, and helps Zeaman rediscover his childhood sense of wonder, better appreciate nature, and fully explore the wilderness outside his suburban New Jersey front yard. These essays are alternatively humorous and poignant; from analyzing the Meadowlands after a tropical storm ("Pete sloshes through every puddle. Tiny minnows dart and flicker in the shallow water. How'd they get in there? It's like seeing the origins of life.") to struggling to explain a marital separation, Zeaman's relationship with Pete will be instantly familiar to dog lovers everywhere. The author speaks from a place of great affection for dogs, nature, doggie dads (that "brotherhood of dupes"), and New Jersey.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Zeaman, freelance art critic and creator of the children's book series "Before They Were Pets," provides a welcome diversion from the glut of canine corrective-behavior manuals. No dog whispering, proffering of rules and advice, or guilt trips. He lets his pet poodle, Pete, be Pete—uncrated, unleashed, and (sometimes!) un-picked up after. Zeaman organizes the book around the life span of his companion; beyond that, its chapter structure, playful tone, and unadorned style suggest a daily, casual jaunt accompanied by a "person in a dog suit," as he writes. The author gets serious thinking done while he's out, but his musings never get in the way of his irrepressible curiosity. The primary locale is New Jersey's Meadowlands, a fringe area that becomes paradise to man and dog as Zeaman reconnects with nature and, eventually, himself. With Pete's aid, this professional looker learns that even in the muck and scum of industrial wastelands there is always something worth observing. VERDICT Memoir readers—not just New Jerseyans or nature lovers/dog people—will find this book's gentle humor and wisdom, its exploration of the strange and ordinary, thoroughly absorbing. Highly recommended.—Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont.
From the Publisher

“Memoir readers—not just New Jerseyans or nature lovers/dog people—will find this book’s gentle humor and wisdom, its exploration of the strange and ordinary, thoroughly absorbing. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“Journalist John Zeaman creates a masterpiece of contemplation in Dog Walks Man. . . . His droll observations on dog-walking combine insight, solace and meditation, taking readers into the heart of a routine task, dusting the ordinary with the divine.” —Bookpage

“‘Suburban vagabonds’ Pete and John explore the wild fringes of their neighborhood. . . . Each walk is an adventure, each return home has the level of emotion ‘of Odysseus catching sight of Ithaca on the horizon.’” —Los Angeles Times

Dog Walks Man by John Zeaman is a contemplative and humorous exploration of one of the simplest pleasures: walking with a dog. . . . The author’s musings on life’s wildness are a pleasure and joy.” —Bark magazine, Editor’s Lit Picks

“John Zeaman looks at an activity that can fill hundreds of hours over the period of year, but has never had its own bard—namely, walking a dog. . . . Well worth reading.” —Stanley Coren, author of The Modern Dog

“Anyone who has ever owned a dog will treasure this wonderful book.” —Alan Caruba, Editor,


"A delightful amble of a book..." --Cesar's Way Magazine, "The Year's Best Reads"

"Tag along on the walk. Zeaman is excellent company. And his dog is nice, too." --Cesar's Way Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599219639
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/5/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Zeaman writes an arts column for Design NJ magazine and reviews art for The Record (Bergen County, NJ) and the Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ). He was the art critic and design writer at The Record (Hackensack, New Jersey) for more than twenty years, has won numerous journalism awards, and is the author of a series of children’s books called “Before They Were Pets.” Zeaman’s young adult book, Overpopulation, was selected for the New York Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age” list. He lives in Leonia, New Jersey.


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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A heartfelt story of a man and his best friend

    John Zeaman perfectly tells a story about the many years that he was part of the dog-walker-father's fraternity. This group of men he calls, "the brotherhood of dupes," are the male members of a household who actually were dumb enough to believe their children when they'd begged for a dog and promised with all their hearts that they would take care of said dog and walk him whenever the dog needed to go outside. Of course, as all parents know, the desperate promises of a child are pure lies. John even speaks of the "new guy." He's the one who always looks like death warmed over as he walks his shiny, happy beagle around the neighborhood at five o-clock in the morning, when he should be back home getting dressed and ready for work. John is the head of a family of four, although John knows that Mom is really the boss. The Zeaman's moved from the City to the suburbs where his daughter immediately began to whine about having a pet. Starting slowly, his daughter began with goldfish, graduating to beasts such as the gerbil and guinea pig. Soon, the backyard was turned into a min-graveyard that the squirrels and raccoons began to dig up and turn into an extremely macabre site. A Standard Poodle was the Zeaman's choice. This breed is known to always be calm and prepared, and this particular poodle threw up in the backseat of the car all the way home. The name bestowed upon this new best friend was Peter, a creation loosely based on Bill Murray's character in Ghostbusters. Peter soon became everyone's best friend. And John, like most owners, soon discovered that the dog ran the household (i.e., when the dog was on the couch sleeping, instead of disturbing him you took a seat on the floor. The dog is also the one person in the family that can give you "the eyes." You know? The look that reminds you of a Steven Spielberg movie where the victims were ushered into the gas chamber. The author speaks hilariously about what owners will do for their dogs. Such as, everyone complains about the dog' being left on the ground. In fact, an owner can get a two thousand dollar fine for not cleaning up after their pet. Whereas in the old days not only dogs, but horses, goats, and all types of was found on the streets of NYC, and it was absolutely normal to not have a Ziploc bag at hand to clean it up. As John bonds with his own dog he makes some very specific points to the reader. Dogs are the family glue; they literally hold a family together by loving people unconditionally and relieving some of the stress and uncertainty that comes in life. Through some literally hysterical and heartwarming stories, John Zeaman takes the reader along on his very own odyssey as he explores the world and comes to understand life while talking with Peter, and seeing the excitement of the world through the dog's eyes. Quill says: Every line of this amazing book is touching. Dog owners who are truly devoted to their "best friend" will understand and admire every word. This is three hundred and six pages of pure heart.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2011

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    Bridget's REview

    My dog Reese is one of my best friends. She's been there for me through my husband being in Afghanistan, through losing loved ones and she's right there every single day. I absolutely adore her and because of this, I am addicted to books about that have to do with the love of animals. Reading John's book reminds me of how everyday can be an adventure when you let yourself go and follow your four-legged friend. I really enjoyed Dog Walks Man and I think that every dog-lover should read it. It's loads of fun and very entertaining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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