×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Dog Years: A Memoir
  • Alternative view 1 of Dog Years: A Memoir
  • Alternative view 2 of Dog Years: A Memoir
     

Dog Years: A Memoir

3.6 36
by Mark Doty
 

See All Formats & Editions

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

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.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“Doty pays loving tribute to two retrievers…DOG YEARS is a warm, thought-provoking discourse.”
Los Angeles Times
“This is Doty at his best....Doty does in fact make the unsayable sayable, bringing the ungraspable within our reach.”
USA Today
“Lyrical and sensitive…Doty poetically expresses what many have felt but few can articulate.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“I was charmed, moved, often fascinated…Doty manages to make inner lives just a little more knowable.”
Out Magazine
“Doty writes unsentimentally but affectingly about the solace and companionship dogs provide...the hope...they bring into a home.”
People
“A tender reflection on love and loss, this is MARLEY & ME for the cerebral.”
The New Yorker
“Tender and amusing…Doty brilliantly captures the qualities that make dogs endearing.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Potent and expressive...The weight of Doty’s adoration for his pets is expressed with...eloquence throughout.”
Houston Chronicle
“A meditation on how we can live with hope…Dog Years wrestles with the Big Questions.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“No human has ever loved his animals as Mark Doty has…Doty possesses a particular brilliance...[A] stirring chronicle of love.”
New York Times Book Review
“A dazzling, tactile grasp of the world... both arresting and touching.”
BookPage
“DOG YEARS points out what is...magical about life with animals…A...twinkling landscape of the human heart.”
Palm Beach Post
“A great poet can break your heart, sometimes with a single line. Mark Doty proves it twice over….Utterly unforgettable.”
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..”
Washington Post Magazine
“A wounding yet arresting memoir about living with his dogs…Doty’s gorgeous prose and piercing meditations...are simply sublime.”
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.."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061171000
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/13/2007
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Dog Years

A Memoir

Chapter One

No dog has ever said a word, but that doesn't mean they live outside the world of speech. They listen acutely. They wait to hear a term—biscuit, walk—and an inflection they know. What a stream of incomprehensible signs passes over them as they wait, patiently, for one of a few familiar words! Because they do not speak, except in the most limited fashion, we are always trying to figure them out. The expression is telling: to "figure out" is to make figures of speech, to invent metaphors to help us understand the world. To choose to live with a dog is to agree to participate in a long process of interpretation—a mutual agreement, though the human being holds most of the cards.

What the interpreter must do is tell stories—sometimes to the dog in question. Who hasn't heard a dog walker chattering away to her pet, as if she were serving as a kind of linguistic mirror: "You are scared of that police horse," "Lola loves that ball!" Some people speak for their dogs in the first person, as though the dog were ventriloquizing his owner. There's inevitably something embarrassing about this; a kind of silly intimacy that might seem sweet at home becomes a source of eye-rolling discomfort to strangers.

But most stories about dogs are narrated toother people, as we go on articulating the tales of our animals' lives, in order to bring their otherwise incomprehensible experience into the more orderly world of speech. Taking pictures of your pet serves much the same function; it isn't just about memory and the desire to record, but a way to bring something of the inchoate into the world of the represented. This is a part of the pet owner's work. In order to live within the domestic world, the dog must be named, read, and in some way understood.

Of course, listening to stories about other people's pets is perilous, like listening to the recitation of dreams. Such reports may be full of charm for the dreamer, but for the poor listener they're usually fatally dull. The dreamer has no distance from the spell of the dream, and cannot say just how it mattered so, and language mostly fails to capture the deeply interior character of dreams anyway. We listen with an appreciation for the speaker's intent, but without much interest in the actual story.

Love itself is a bit like that: you can describe your beloved until the tongue tires and still, in truth, fail to get at the particular quality that has captured you. We give up, finally, and distill such feelings into single images: the bronzy warmth of one of his glances, or that way of turning the head she has when she's thinking and momentarily stops being aware of other people. That, we tell ourselves, stands for what we love. But it's perfectly clear that such images explain nothing. They serve as signposts for some incommunicable thing. Being in love is our most common version of the unsayable; everyone seems to recognize that you can't experience it from the outside, not quite—you have to feel it from the inside in order to know what it is.

Maybe the experience of loving an animal is actually more resistant to language, since animals cannot speak back to us, cannot characterize themselves or correct our assumptions about them. They look at us across a void made of the distance between their lives and our immersion in language. "Not a single one of his myriad sensations," wrote Virginia Woolf of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's cocker spaniel, Flush, "ever submitted itself to the deformity of words."

Maybe they remind us, in this way, of our own origins, when our bodies were not yet assumed into the world of speech. Then we could experience wordlessly, which must at once be a painful thing and a strange joy, a pure kind of engagement that adults never know again. Can it even be called "painful" or a "joy," if the infant who is feeling those things has no terms for them, only the uninterpreted life of emotion and sensation? We suffer a loss, leaving the physical world for the world of words—even though we gain our personhood in the process.

Love for a wordless creature, once it takes hold, is an enchantment, and the enchanted speak, famously, in private mutterings, cryptic riddles, or gibberish. This is why I shouldn't be writing anything to do with the two dogs who have been such presences for sixteen years of my life. How on earth could I stand at the requisite distance to say anything that might matter?

Last month five thousand people died here in New York; the ruins of the towers in which—with which—they fell smolder still. [I wrote these words in October of 2001; the dead had not yet been properly counted; it was impossible to find the bodies, and the lists of the missing were unclear.] When the wind is right, Chelsea fills with the smell of burning plastic, as if somewhere down in the rubble thousands and thousands of computers were slowly, poisonously burning, along with fluorescent tubes and industrial carpeting and the atomized pieces of corporate art that lined the reception room walls. My friends in other cities speak about the new war, the roots of this atrocity and its relationship to other atrocities around the globe; they worry over the notion of "evil," whether it's a reality or a concept with no use in the public sphere. I understand that such things matter, but for me they're nothing but air.

I can't stop seeing the whitened boots of the rescue workers trudging back uptown, or sitting beside me on the subway benches. Their battered leather and shoelaces, cuffs and ankles are covered with a thick powder composed of atomized concrete: the pulverized stuff of two hundred floors of offices—desk chairs, files, coffee cups—commingled with the stuff of human bodies reduced to creamy ash. The rubble trucks rumble up Eighth Avenue, uncovered. The white grit blows out in troubled eddies, and snow gusts and coats our faces and hair. Somewhere in that dust are the atoms of Graham, a man I knew a little, and saw last at the end of summer, when he was laughing on the street, his tattooed arms flashing in the sun.



Continues...

Excerpted from Dog Years by Mark Doty Copyright © 2007 by Mark Doty. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Ken Munger
“By turns, comic, heartwarming, sentimental (in the very best way) and ultimately heartbreaking.”
John Freeman
“Frankly and beautifully told…DOG YEARS respects Beau’s and Arden’s singularity. Doty describes them lovingly, with poetic specificity.”
Amy Hempel
“Evocative, compassionate, a love story both intimate and grand, this is a beautiful book.”
Pam Houston
“Life-affirming, lyrical, and profoundly affecting…Only Mark Doty could have written a dog book...that covers so much ground.”

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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Dog Years 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
LauraK More than 1 year ago
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.
JoyinHim More than 1 year ago
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.
mkdulle More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
thebookwormNJ More than 1 year ago
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.
andante More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jordan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
-____-
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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}
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Janzee More than 1 year ago
Never really finished this book.Understand the authors love of animals though!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago