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Dog Years: A Memoir

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Why do dogs speak so profoundly to our inner lives? When Mark Doty decides to adopt a dog as a companion for his dying partner, he finds himself bringing home Beau, a large golden retriever, malnourished and in need of loving care. Beau joins Arden, the black retriever, to complete their family. As Beau bounds back into life, the two dogs become Mark Doty's intimate companions, his solace, and eventually the very life force that keeps him from abandoning all hope during the darkest days. Their tenacity, loyalty, ...
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Dog Years

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Overview

Why do dogs speak so profoundly to our inner lives? When Mark Doty decides to adopt a dog as a companion for his dying partner, he finds himself bringing home Beau, a large golden retriever, malnourished and in need of loving care. Beau joins Arden, the black retriever, to complete their family. As Beau bounds back into life, the two dogs become Mark Doty's intimate companions, his solace, and eventually the very life force that keeps him from abandoning all hope during the darkest days. Their tenacity, loyalty, and love inspire him when all else fails.

Dog Years is a remarkable work: a moving and intimate memoir interwoven with profound reflections on our feelings for animals and the lessons they teach us about life, love, and loss. Mark Doty writes about the heart-wrenching vulnerability of dogs, the positive energy and joy they bring, and the gift they bear us of unconditional love. A book unlike any other, Mark Doty's surprising meditation is radiantly unsentimental yet profoundly affecting. Beautifully written, Dog Years is a classic in the making.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In 1994, Mark Doty was standing at the worst sort of crossroads. His longtime lover was slowly dying of AIDS, and Mark was restlessly searching for some way to bring comfort to him in his waning days. The solution came with four paws and a wagging tail. Beau, a large golden retriever, arrived at the house malnourished and equally in need of emotional support. With the help of black lab housemate Arden and his two human companions, this lovably sloppy dog somehow brought peace and his own brand of surrealistic humor to this troubled home. A supremely touching memoir by a National Book Critics Circle Award winner.
Publishers Weekly

Doty brings a mellow, soft-spoken dignity to the narration of his memoir, which chronicles the lives of the distinguished poet and author's beloved retrievers, Arden and Beau. The narrative thread comes together in the form of essays evoking the joy, tenderness, pain and loss in the compressed canine life spans of the two dogs. The four-legged drama takes shape amid the backdrop of Doty's human journey of grief and resiliency, particularly in regard to the loss of his longtime partner to AIDS and his subsequent glide into a new romantic relationship. Given Doty's literary pedigree, it should come as no surprise that he takes a meandering path in the autobiographic story line, pausing frequently to offer philosophical insights. The thoughtful pace and tone of Doty's audio performance brings to mind the spoken-word journals of NPR's This American Life. Audiences eager to cut to the chase for a classic inspirational dog saga may lose patience, but discerning listeners will appreciate Doty's perspective. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 12). (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Poet Doty (Still Life with Oysters and Lemon) celebrates the 16 lovely years his two beloved 70-pound Labs, Beau and Arden, gave him, but there's an ill wind blowing through the memoir. It concerns the inevitable truth that most dog owners only dimly accept—that they will probably outlive their canine companions. Against a backdrop of devastating human loss, both personal (the death of his partner) and public (9/11), Doty bears witness to the inexorable decline of his beloved retrievers. He well understands the risks he takes in writing about his pets while human calamity unfolds. Even so, he notes, "someone was here, an intelligence and sensibility, a complex of desires and memories, habits and expectations…gone from the world forever." This sad, sad book represents a curious blend of memoir, journal, literary criticism, and prose elegy, and it borrows some structural elements from drama and poetry. Its tone is plangent, its complex formal structure is like memory itself, and its exquisite pace reminds one of nothing so much as a stroll in the park with Fido. Poignant, intelligent, and quite simply superb; highly recommended for most collections, although the Emily Dickinson criticism may make it too literary for the Marley & Mecrowd.
—Robert Eagan
Kirkus Reviews
"The fact that I know that stories of faithful dogs are kitsch does not in the least diminish their power," notes poet and memoirist Doty (Still Life with Oyster and Lemon, 2001, etc.), who goes on to write something rather amazing. With the idea of comforting his terminally ill lover, Wally Roberts, the author headed to an animal shelter to adopt a cuddly puppy as a playmate for their black lab, Arden. He ended up with a rambunctious golden lab named Beau, who became a "golden anchor" after the "reverberant, disordering loss" of Wally's death. Arden and Beau saw Doty through his terrible grief: Life went on, walks had to be taken and meals served. Time passed, and the dogs accepted Doty's new lover, first grudgingly and then enthusiastically, with Arden forming a particular bond with the now-familiar Paul. But then both dogs fell ill, Arden with Lyme disease and youthful Beau with a neurological infection that eerily echoed Wally's: difficulty walking, paralysis, followed by death. Arden lived to the ripe age of 16, his elderly presence a constant pleasure for Doty and Paul. A catalogue of the lab's late-life pleasures (the beach, biscuits and "demonstrating, through a nonstop, willful exertion . . . that he can still climb the three flights of stairs to our apartment") round out the tribute. While Doty is clearly fond of animals, his boundless affection is tempered by graceful observations. His warm commemoration of the lives of Beau and Arden makes a fitting companion to his previous chronicles, in prose and poetry, of Wally's illness and death. A profound reflection on hope, and a song of praise for the dead.
Pam Houston
“Life-affirming, lyrical, and profoundly affecting…Only Mark Doty could have written a dog book...that covers so much ground.”
John Freeman
“Frankly and beautifully told…DOG YEARS respects Beau’s and Arden’s singularity. Doty describes them lovingly, with poetic specificity.”
Ken Munger
“By turns, comic, heartwarming, sentimental (in the very best way) and ultimately heartbreaking.”
Amy Hempel
“Evocative, compassionate, a love story both intimate and grand, this is a beautiful book.”
People Magazine
"A tender reflection on love and loss, this is MARLEY & ME for the cerebral."
New York Magazine
"Doty is at his best…exploring the mirrorlike quality of a dog’s gaze or the inextricable duality of hope and despair.."
People
“A tender reflection on love and loss, this is MARLEY & ME for the cerebral.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“No human has ever loved his animals as Mark Doty has…Doty possesses a particular brilliance...[A] stirring chronicle of love.”
People
“A tender reflection on love and loss, this is MARLEY & ME for the cerebral.”
Los Angeles Times
“This is Doty at his best....Doty does in fact make the unsayable sayable, bringing the ungraspable within our reach.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Doty pays loving tribute to two retrievers…DOG YEARS is a warm, thought-provoking discourse.”
USA Today
“Lyrical and sensitive…Doty poetically expresses what many have felt but few can articulate.”
Houston Chronicle
“A meditation on how we can live with hope…Dog Years wrestles with the Big Questions.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Potent and expressive...The weight of Doty’s adoration for his pets is expressed with...eloquence throughout.”
Palm Beach Post
“A great poet can break your heart, sometimes with a single line. Mark Doty proves it twice over….Utterly unforgettable.”
BookPage
“DOG YEARS points out what is...magical about life with animals…A...twinkling landscape of the human heart.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“I was charmed, moved, often fascinated…Doty manages to make inner lives just a little more knowable.”
New York magazine
“Doty is at his best…exploring the mirrorlike quality of a dog’s gaze or the inextricable duality of hope and despair..”
The New Yorker
“Tender and amusing…Doty brilliantly captures the qualities that make dogs endearing.”
Out Magazine
“Doty writes unsentimentally but affectingly about the solace and companionship dogs provide...the hope...they bring into a home.”
New York Times Book Review
“A dazzling, tactile grasp of the world... both arresting and touching.”
Washington Post Magazine
“A wounding yet arresting memoir about living with his dogs…Doty’s gorgeous prose and piercing meditations...are simply sublime.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061233197
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/24/2007
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Doty's books of poetry and nonfiction prose have been honored with numerous distinctions, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and, in the United Kingdom, the T. S. Eliot Prize. In 2008, he won the National Book Award for Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. He is a professor at the University of Houston, and he lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 22, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautiful and poignant story of love and loss

    This book is definitely not for dog lovers only. It's about love, devotion, poetry, life and yes, loss. If you have never loved a dog, you may understand the bond that forms between dogs and their humans better. But the book is about so much more than that! It's simply beautiful- Mark Doty is my new favorite writer.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Those eyes just drew me in.

    I thought I was buying Marley and Me, maybe with a little more pathos, but this book is a work of literary non- fiction. My brain had to work to read it, not a bad thing, but unexpected. A well written account of a relationship between two dogs and two men... touching and rich and humorous. The first part was more objective, more distant, more rational. But once I got into the story I wanted to find out what happened. I grew to care about the dogs and the people. I could feel the love between them all in the words of the author. Though not what I expected when I bought it, I am glad I did buy it and read it. It enriched my life.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    It'll make you think

    This was a moving memoir. I've lost animals I've loved, I've felt depression and despair as well as love and hope. Mr. Doty's real-life experiences can bring you to a fuller understanding of the human condition and how we can find ourselves by being open to other people and other species.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2007

    Beautiful, Heartwarming

    Anyone that has and loves dogs should read this book. It was so inspiring and hard to put down. I laughed, cried and it made me think about my Lab and Schnauzer in a different way. I love you Mark Doty for introducing me to this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    No wonder I love dogs

    What a beautiful and sad story. It is so nice to read a real story of loss and love. Not only for a furry friend, but love between people and their dogs.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2007

    For dog-lovers only!

    Fell in love with the cover of this book! I've had dogs in my life since I was a child, have wonderful memories & stories of each one. I can totally relate to this memoir. It's beautiful. If you think your pet is not a member of your family,you won't get it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I borrowed this ebook from my local library and pretty much read

    I borrowed this ebook from my local library and pretty much read it in a single sitting. As Mark Doty shared his story I laughed, I teared up, and having recently lost my own dog, I related to it.

    Mark and his partner Wally, are dads to Arden, a black Retriever. Wally has AIDS and is bedridden and dying. He was the one closest to Arden and the dog now sleeps in his bed, rarely leaving his side.
    Although some thought it was not a good idea to bring a new dog into the house while his partner is terminally ill, Mark winds up going to the shelter and adopting Beau, an underweight, yet rambunctious Golden Retriever. Not too long after, Wally passes away leaving Mark and the dogs behind.

    During a time of devastating grief over the loss of his partner, Mark says his dogs gave him the will to live. They needed him to care for them just as much as he needed them. Mark gives glimpses of his daily life with his dogs and with the new man in his life, Paul, whom he starts dating a year later.
    As the years pass, the dogs Arden and Beau both start to become ill. When Arden was sick and Mark described the visits to the vet and how he was trying to save him but deep down knew the end was near, I truly teared up. Then there were moments I laughed out loud, like when one woman took one look at Arden, who was obviously an older dog and getting towards the end of his life, and she makes a comment about how it's all part of the cycle of life. Mark shared the colorful reply that popped in his head but that would be too rude to say aloud. Moments like that made this a very down to earth read and I appreciated that this one wasn't all depressing. Mark pays homage to his dogs and to the love and happiness all dogs bring their owners. He does this by sharing memories close to his heart.

    I'm not surprised to see the author has published poetry as there is a distinct poetic flair within this candid memoir. I also enjoyed the Emily Dickinson snippets and references throughout.

    I enjoyed this one and I recommend Dog Years: A Memoir to any dog lover or to those who like heartfelt memoirs.
    disclaimer:

    This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers and authors I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I borrowed my copy of this book from the local library.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2007

    A thought-provoking look at the relationship between dogs and humans

    While this book brought me to tears several times, I still enjoyed reading this memoir. Dog-lovers will be able to relate well to the feelings and memories described in the book. Doty does an exceptional job bringing out the emotion and describing the bonds that form between humans and dogs.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2007

    A WONDERFUL book for all pet lovers

    Dog Years made me laugh, made me cry and it made me think. Plus, the dogs were a rescued Golden and a rescued lab mix - my favorites! What more could you want from a book? Highly recommended! Mark Doty is a wonderful poet/writer and a downright nice human being.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2007

    Yes!

    If you love dogs -- and maybe even if you don't - you'll like this book! Love, humor and loss - you'll experience it all with this author. I highly recommend this book. I loved it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2014

    VicMars

    Payton

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2014

    Rebbeca

    Hottest... Hmm... Dang, hard to pick. Maybe one of the higher people. Shesh, uhh. I guess....ugh, i have to say who I think? <p> 1. Uhh. *cough* Cyrus*cough* <p> 2. Hmm. Id have to say... no one. Now click that beatiful little {X}

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2014

    Randome

    Jordan

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2014

    Aqua

    -____-

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2014

    VOTING NOW CLOSED

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  • Posted February 14, 2014

    So so book

    Never really finished this book.Understand the authors love of animals though!

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  • Posted February 7, 2014

    Not my kind of book

    I deleted this book from my e-reader after three chapters.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2014

    Natalie

    Im sorry ........ but after i got off u asked for s.ex on date res one sooo we are over bye

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    Just ok

    Not that great

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    Should i

    Hmmmm sounds intresting should i get it

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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