Mr. and Mrs. Dog: Our Travels, Trials, Adventures, and Epiphanies

Mr. and Mrs. Dog: Our Travels, Trials, Adventures, and Epiphanies

by Donald McCaig
     
 

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The New York Times–bestselling author Donald McCaig has established an expansive literary career, founded equally on books about working sheepdogs and the Civil War novels Jacob’s Ladder and Rhett Butler’s People, the official sequel to Gone with the Wind.

In his new book, Mr. and Mrs. Dog,<

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Overview

The New York Times–bestselling author Donald McCaig has established an expansive literary career, founded equally on books about working sheepdogs and the Civil War novels Jacob’s Ladder and Rhett Butler’s People, the official sequel to Gone with the Wind.

In his new book, Mr. and Mrs. Dog, McCaig draws on twenty-five years of experience raising sheepdogs to vividly describe his—and his dogs June and Luke’s—unlikely progress toward and participation in the World Sheepdog Trials in Wales.

McCaig engagingly chronicles the often grueling experience—through rain, snow, ice storms, and brain-numbing heat—of preparing and trialing Mrs. Dog, June, "a foxy lady in a slinky black-and-white peignoir," and Mr. Dog, Luke, "a plain worker—no flash to him." Along the way, he relays sage advice from his decades spent talking with America’s most renowned dog experts, from police-dog trainers to positive-training gurus.

As readers of McCaig’s novels will expect, Mr. and Mrs. Dog delivers far more than straightforward dog-training tips. Revealing an abiding love and respect for his dogs, McCaig unveils the life experiences that set him on the long road to the Welsh trial fields. Starting with memories of his first dog, Rascal, and their Montana roadtrip in a ’48 Dodge, McCaig leads us into his thirties, when he abandons his New York advertising career to move to a run-down Appalachian sheep farm in the least populous county in Virginia. This 1960s agrarian adventure ultimately brings McCaig, Luke, and June to the Olympics of sheepdog trials. In his narration of one man’s love for his dogs, McCaig offers a powerful portrayal of the connection between humans and their animal companions.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Michael Dirda
Happily, Mr. and Mrs. Dog is an exception to the "heartbreak rule" about animal books. In this account of McCaig's run-up to the World Sheepdog Trials in Wales, all the main characters are alive at the end…McCaig's voice on the page might be described as down-home, occasionally sardonic and sometimes even a little vulgar.
Publishers Weekly
Sheepdog trainer and novelist, poet, and essayist McCaig (Eminent Dogs) takes more than a few detours en route to describing his experiences in the World Trial, the “only truly international” competition for sheepdogs, and he may well lose readers along the way. McCaig has a penchant for making provocative statements that some will find frustrating, such as in an early reference to animal sadism, or when referring to speculation by a neurobiologist that “thin skinned humans” outlasted the Neanderthals because of the domestication of the dog. Most sections not dealing directly with preparations for the World Trial analyze, with a critical eye, various approaches to dog training from his vantage point as a “crude American pragmatist.” The humor is uneven (the remark that “I’m probably too old to be a serial killer, which, like lyric poetry, is a young man’s game,” won’t tickle everyone’s funny bone). The end result is a rambling narrative, with the tension inherent in describing a competitive event vitiated by the side topics. (Apr.)
James Herriot
Donald McCaig is quite simply a great writer in this field, and his insight into animal and human nature is masterly.

Patricia B. McConnell
Donald McCaig is the Mark Twain of dog writers.

Carol Lea Benjamin
Funny, instructive, and delightful to read! A combination of eloquent, touching, telling, and sometimes quirky observations. I read the book in a single day, unable to stop except when my dog needed to go for a walk.

Shelf Awareness
McCaig's wry, down-to-earth tone expresses a kind of clear-eyed devotion. While he loves his dogs, readers will not find any cloying or precious sentiments here, but rather an interesting primer on dog training and sheepdog trials studded with shrewd philosophical insights into humankind's relationship with our oldest friend.

An informative and thought-provoking memoir about a trainer and his two border collies making their way to the world's championship for sheepdogs.

Washington Post
Happily, Mr. and Mrs. Dog is an exception to the ‘heartbreak rule’ about animal books.... By my count, this former advertising executive-turned-farmer has managed to bring out at least fifteen books while somehow keeping sheep in western Virginia, training dogs, and competing in far-flung sheepdog competitions.... Still, there’s more to Mr. and Mrs. Dog than just a series of qualifying competitions in the United States, followed by our human-canine trio’s adventures in Wales. Throughout, McCaig intersperses chapters on dog-training and on current, and competing, theories about how this should be done.

Kirkus Reviews
Novelist and essayist McCaig (The Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club, 2007, etc.) chronicles his experiences training sheepdogs for companionship and competition. The author took his two dogs, June and Luke, to Wales to compete in sheepdog trials, where they won. Most of the book, however, is a detailed account of dog psychology and the sheepdog way of life. McCaig discusses his conversations with various trainers and dog psychologists who had different theories about effective methods for training dogs. One trainer advocated the use of the e-collar, which shocks dogs when they misbehave. Another used "behaviorism," a combination of positive and negative reinforcement of different behaviors, and one even believed in positive reinforcement only. One of the more interesting training methods involved an evaluation of dogs based on their personality, giving dog owners a series of questions that determined whether "prey" drive or "pack" drive was more dominant in each dog. The trainer then recommends a series of exercises to make the pack drive the predominant one. Almost all of the trainers emphasized reading the dog's behavior over blind practices. McCaig talks about his dogs in an amusing and affectionate way. While the author mentions that Luke is not the best sheepdog, his other attributes, such as being a good companion, make up for his lack of skills. The author provides plenty of information about dog habits and breeds, sheepdog competitions and coaching for them, as well as tidbits regarding the joys of having a dog (or multiple). A straightforward but unremarkable book for dog lovers or those considering a dog.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813934518
Publisher:
University of Virginia Press
Publication date:
04/15/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
641,293
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Donald McCaig, a New York Times–bestselling novelist, poet, and essayist, is the author of Nop's Trials, Nop's Hope, The Dog Wars, A Useful Dog (Virginia), Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men, Last Poems, and An American Homeplace (Virginia). A sheepdog trainer, he lives with his wife, Anne, and their nine dogs on a farm in the western mountains of Virginia.

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