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And into this fabled chapter of the writer’s life comes the perfect dog, an English Springer Spaniel named Whistler who arrives not only as the family pet, but as her private symbol of triumph over all that age-old sadness. She wants to ignore it but can’t help but see that their perfect pup is something of a neurotic mess, snarling at manhole covers, barking at children, growling at people in wheelchairs.
The writer herself is not seemingly done with the anxieties born of all that early trauma and loss either, and she begins to worry obsessively about losing this difficult dog, the one they so love. Wrrrrnnnggdgggg! she begins to dream. Wrrrrrnnnnng dgggg!
"And now I love this book, too. Like everything Vandenburgh writes, The Wrong Dog Dream is profound, brilliant, honest, painful, gorgeous, precise and wild, funny and real. She only writes about what matters most: love, family, art, and survival. You don't have to love dogs to enjoy this book, because it is about Life, which is to say, joy, loss, chaos, love, death— and then those things all over again. It's about her marriage, children, and grandchildren, and their pets; her childhood in a deeply crazy environment, and its pets, her life as an acclaimed artist, her loneliness, salvation in marriage, and pets. This book is about devastation, hope and victory, and it is beautifully written." —Anne Lamott
Posted June 13, 2013
The Wrong Dog Dream is a book for all who have loved and lost a dog and lived to love another. That said, it is anything but a sentimental dog book. Jane Vandenburgh is a wildly original, big-hearted and darkly humorous writer who doesn’t need to stoop to the sentimental when relating her life shared with dogs. It’s not just the keen observations regarding her pure bred English springer spaniel Whistler (a “well thought out and intentional animal”), and the less intentional but equally adored porch hound Thiebaud, but her wise and witty survey of the human scene, from PLU—People Like Us, to deeper family concerns. Her endearing, brilliant take on blended family relations is offered in the chapter titled The One Cake Rule.
Vandenburgh’s delightfully circuitous thinking can at times be like holding a leash attached to a rambunctious, curious creature taking in all she finds along a fast-paced walk as she tells of her life in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area. Along the gracefully winding path she brings us to surprising truths, including her belief that a dog’s pure, uncomplicated love is possibly the truest love a human can experience. And as with any good memoir, the author delivers us to powerful understandings about herself which she could not have arrived at without the company of her beloved canines. As for the book’s many entertaining asides, I found she and her husband Jack’s brief residency in a high rise in the instant community of Emeryville to be so acutely whacky, she might want to consider it a setting for her next novel.
Readers of The Wrong Dog Dream will be thankful Ms. Vandenburgh has gone so willingly, and winningly, to the dogs.