A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life

A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life

by Steven Kotler


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608193035
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 10/11/2011
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Steven Kotler is the author of the novel The Angle Quickest for Flight, a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller, and the non-fiction West of Jesus, a 2006 PEN West finalist. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Wired, Discover, Popular Science, Details, Outside, National Geographic, and elsewhere, and he writes "The Playing Field," a blog about the science of sport for PsychologyToday.com. Kotler runs the Rancho de Chihuahua dog sanctuary with his wife in New Mexico.

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2010 Steven Kotler
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60819-002-7

Chapter One

Not too long ago, I took all the money I had in the world and bought a postage stamp of a farm in Chimayo, New Mexico. It was an impulse buy. I didn't know much about country living, had never entertained secret pastoral fantasies. One moment I was a money-grubbing bastard, the next a guy negotiating for a donkey. Sure, there was the recent conclusion that nothing in common remained between the life I had imagined and the one I was leading—but did farm animals solve this particular problem?

It wasn't much of a problem. Just another existential crisis in the early spring of 2007, and they were in fashion that year. It was the season of nowhere to hide. The economy was lousy, the ice caps melting. There were water wars on the horizon and oil wars under way, and those bees kept dying. Global pandemic came back on the menu. We were freakishly short of food. And this, the experts said, was just the warm-up round. The term scientists have coined for our current planetary die-off is the "Sixth Great Extinction." I couldn't remember ever not feeling tired. All that seemed clear was that at some point we had butchered the job and begun to call up down and right left, and just about everybody I knew could no longer find their way home.

Like others, I had learned the necessary stagecraft. During my waking hours I was a competent enough act as far as such things were concerned: a journalist by trade; a taker of notes, meetings, and an acceptable level of nonprescription pharmaceuticals; a waterer of house plants; fully capable of handling most cutlery; able to recall Spencer Tracy's advice on thesping—"remember your lines and don't walk into the furniture"—during those times of need. As I turned forty that year, there had been plenty of times of need.

In four de cades I'd managed to accumulate some hard facts, but little true wisdom. I can say for certain that the Fifth Great Extinction was the one that killed off the dinosaurs, but didn't think to ask anyone a question about Chimayo before moving there. I was unaware that my new home sits in the heart of the Española Valley and that the Rio Grande Sun is the newspaper that serves that valley. I did not know that the Sun's weekly police blotter had lately become something of a national amusement. Jay Leno liked the woman who smuggled heroin inside a burrito to her boyfriend in jail. National Public Radio liked the man "in a white Dodge chasing people around with a sword" and the guy wearing "a blue sweater and blue pants talking to the robotic horse in front of the grocery store," and the one who "challenged his entire family to a fight and was presently hitting his mother."

It had also escaped notice that Chimayo has one of the highest rates of drug addiction in the country and that a significant portion of the local population was arrested in September 1999 when Operation Tar Pit swept through town. Nor did I hear the August 18, 2005, NPR broadcast that included the commentary of local clean-living activist Dr. Fernando Bayardo, who pointed out that such abuse has been entrenched in this area for over fifty years. "You have a grandmother shooting up with a grandchild. You have family members shooting up together. It's not something the teenage son hides from other family members. How are you going to change those unhealthy lifestyles and habits and develop new norms?"

I had no idea how to develop new norms. All that was certain was that my girlfriend and I had been thrown out of our house in Los Angeles with no other options beyond the just plain dumb. In our case, the just plain dumb was deciding to bet everything on a bunch of dogs and a pie-in-the-sky list of homesteading desires. The dogs we'll get to in a moment. The desires were organized into a wish list of sorts, written the night after we'd learned we were being booted, in a state of not so quiet desperation. A number of the items on that list were critical. My girlfriend had lupus. I had Lyme. Together we were two tenors with multiple sclerosis shy of an autoimmune quartet. We needed long days of brilliant sunshine because we needed to walk. Few zoning restrictions and lots of space were also important because we had a bunch of animals and plans for more. Unfortunately, what we didn't have was all that much money.

The only location in America that fit all our desires was Santa Fe, New Mexico, but Santa Fe was nearly as expensive as Los Angeles. Maybe an outlying community that had escaped the housing boom was the pipe dream. Oprah Winfrey had a ten-million-dollar mansion in the only outlying community we'd heard about, so maybe this was the crack-pipe dream. There were forty items on our wish list. We had the bud get for ten. The thing about Chimayo—we got thirty-nine. I should have known there was a pretty good reason for this, but by the time that puzzle was solved, talking to a robotic horse in front of the grocery store made as much sense as anything else I could think up.

Chapter Two

About six weeks before I bought the farm, I decided that life weighed too much. So I gave away three thousand books, six garbage bags of clothing, four bookcases, three chairs, three backpacks, two tables, two pairs of skis, two surfboards, two computers, an old skateboard, a torn tent, a packed filing cabinet, a small comic book collection, some entomological gear left over from the bug-collecting phase, a bit of pornography—two-thirds of everything by the end. I had decided to move in with my girlfriend. She lived in a very small house.

My girlfriend's name is Joy. Her small house sat just south of the Santa Monica Mountains, just north of Hollywood, in the township of Los Feliz—two words that translate from Spanish to English as "the happy." Nearby is the Griffith Park Observatory, the Greek Theater, and the three thousand other acres that collectively make up Griffith Park. The park was bequeathed to the city of Los Angeles in December 1896, a sort of Christmas present from the appropriately named Griffith J. Griffith. His gift came with only one condition: "It must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people." We were the plain people and—for a short while—we lived in the happy.

Our house was rented, cheap, possibly haunted, and measured out to exactly 666 square feet. It perched atop a steep cliff, surrounded by a dense thicket of tall trees. Inside, a small living room gave way to a smaller bedroom and on into a kitchen the size of a ship's galley. Everywhere, the paint peeled and pipes broke. There were cracks in the walls, holes in the floor, and doors that wouldn't quite shut. Even the stairs leading up that cliff were not much more than a makeshift ladder of rotting wood, but life at the top was quiet and calm and the living room was a wall of windows. We had fallen in love looking out those windows, looking at our view of the happy.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "There is more to life than increasing its speed," and while I agree completely, two weeks after Joy and I moved in together, we moved out together. There was no other choice. Our landlord had bought too many properties back when the getting was good. In person, he'd told us ours was the last he'd planned on developing. "Two years at least—and a six-month warning before I give you the boot," was what he'd said. We had been going on faith here, as none of this was in writing. In writing was an already expired lease followed by a month-to-month contract. That contract gave us thirty days to vacate and no recourse. When we mentioned lawyers, he mentioned the ASPCA. That, as they say, was the end of that.

Our problems were more than a few. The first was simple economics. We were broke. Certainly I had the money to buy that house in New Mexico, but that was the entirety of my savings account, and we'd been living off that savings account for much of the past year. We were both writers. The magazine industry was in the tank, and the publishing industry wasn't far behind. It was a silly time to try to make a living out of words, but it was a silly time in general. Anyway, our real problem was the dogs.

The reason we lived in a broken-down house atop a steep cliff was that that house came with an exceptionally large yard and exceptionally few neighbors and we needed both because there are seven animal shelters in Los Angeles and dozens more in surrounding communities. At capacity the bigger ones hold about two hundred animals, and they're almost always at capacity. There's only one way to make more space. Canines may be man's best friend, but most of these shelters still have ninety percent kill rates. They euthanize more than a thousand dogs a month in the City of Angels, and Joy spent much of her time trying to even those odds.

Dog rescue involves plucking a dog off death row in the hopes of eventually finding the animal a home. Most of these animals arrive in pretty poor shape. Rehab takes months of hard work. It often takes thousands of dollars in medical care—much of which comes out of the rescuer's pocket. Occasionally, after all that, some of these dogs end up too sick or too difficult to be adoptable. Dog rescuers call these "lifers." In my late twenties, an old girlfriend awoke one morning to end our relationship. "I want eight kids, you don't want any," was her reasoning. While I couldn't fault her logic, she'd long known of my antipathy toward children. It had taken her over a year to realize there was no changing my mind. Not much later, for advertising purposes, I printed up a T-shirt reading Dogs Not Kids. I still feel that way—but lifers add a whole other dimension to the equation.

Years back, Joy had started out rescuing English bull terriers. For those unfamiliar, these are squat white beasts created by some eighteenth-century madman intent on crossing a bulldog, a pit bull, and a Dalmatian. They were bred for bull baiting, a process that involved leaping at the underbelly of a bull, clamping jaws to testicles, and applying something like sixteen hundred pounds per square inch of pressure to said testicles. Eventually the bull fell down. Then the dogs released the balls and tore out the throat. Until it was outlawed in 1835, this is what passed for fun in Britain.

Afterward, bull terriers became fighting dogs, meaning they were still bred for aggression. Their albino coats are highly prized, but the inbreeding required for such coloration leaves them with compromised immune systems and limited social skills. They also have an extremely short intestinal tract, which leads to bad digestion and worse gas. The results are an aggressive, easily agitated, stubborn, single-minded fireplug of a fart machine so damn macho that the only other dogs Joy's bull terrier wouldn't attack on sight were Chihuahuas—thus she had five of them.

And there was also some kind of dachshund-beagle hybrid, and then my half-husky, half-Rottweiler got added into the mix. We totaled out at eight—and they were all lifers. This was a little tricky since Los Angeles's canines-per-household law specifies three as the legal limit. Trying to find a landlord willing to bend this rule under the best of circumstances was difficult. Then the real estate market stalled and the rental market soared. The city's occupancy rate stood at 96 percent. Under such conditions, finding an affordable apartment that took eight dogs was right up there with world peace and ample leg room in coach class on the list of things that weren't going to happen anytime soon.

It was a Sunday when we found out our house was being sold. I came back from running errands to find Joy crying on the couch. She told me the landlord had dropped the hammer, and then told me she had made a decision. She was moving to Mexico, where life was cheap and they didn't care how many dogs one owned. I had no desire to live in Mexico. I had no chance to revive my career in Mexico. This wasn't, it is worth pointing out, her first choice. It was her last chance. She knew I couldn't move to Mexico with her, but it had taken over two years of constant looking to find our small house and we didn't have two years. We had less than a month—and almost no money. She couldn't stand the thought of being a burden. "You want a life in the city, a great career, and you're not going to get that with me and my dogs."

All of which might be true. It was also true that I didn't want those things anymore. What I wanted was to feel like something in this world mattered, even if it had been a long time since that had been the case. What was the case was that I've been downright silly for Joy ever since the day we met. I gave away a lot of stuff to move in with her, and truthfully, it all could have gone. Most days, my gal and her dogs were the only things around worth keeping. So no, none of us were going to Mexico, though all of us were going somewhere—that much for sure.

Chapter Three

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons" are nine words that T. S. Eliot once wrote. During the period of time I'm talking about I would often repeat these words to myself as some kind of talisman, meant to ward off ... well, I was never quite sure. They were often stuck in my head when I was stuck in traffic, among the hundred-foot billboards, the thousand-dollar haircuts, the everybody with their shopping bags, the endless repetition of strip malls and strip clubs and suntans—this whole mad crush that was often Los Angeles. These words were my way of putting into perspective the feeling that had become much of my day. I was forty years old and no longer sure my life meant much of anything.

I had come into adulthood equipped with the essentially romantic delusion that life would get easier. It had not gotten easier, but had gotten something. I began making choices. I gave up cooking for thirty seconds in the micro wave. I wrote books but stopped reading. I missed the days when the drugs did the work. I wasn't unhappy so much as unsure. Just the constant sensation that whatever else might be true, this was definitely not what I'd ordered.

It was a time when I wasn't alone in questioning the way I was living. Joy and I had been having philosophical differences. When being polite, we called these differences "art versus altruism." We were not always polite. I believed in creativity, the act of making something from nothing, the high-minded transfer of inspiration, and other such claptrap. She felt the making of art was inherently selfish, and instead trumpeted the quiet generosity of laying it all on the line for every blessed creature. It doesn't sound like much of a fight—but it was.

What seemed to be at stake was the best way to live in the world; what was really at stake was the best way to live together. Dog rescue is often emotionally exhausting and physically time-swallowing, while freelance writing is more of the same. Love doesn't always hold up under those conditions. Joy's had both ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands grow jealous of her dogs—which helps explain how they became exes—while I hadn't managed a long-term relationship in de cades.

Then there was our financial future. Neither of our causes came with a great paycheck, a downside I combated with the traditional metaphysics: do what you love and the rest will follow. But with both of us doing what we loved, would the rest really follow? And if one of us had to get a real job? Since her higher calling involved living creatures and mine involved putting words together in a straight line, common sense said I should be the one to make the sacrifice. Unfortunately, in my experience, common sense and higher callings are contradictions in terms.

It was into this debate that a dog named Damien arrived. He was not much over ten pounds, flea-bit and back broke. His entire life had been spent tied to a radiator, his home range a two-foot patch of hard-packed dirt, his collar a thin metal chain dug so deep into his flesh it required surgery to remove. There were plenty of available comforts lying around; Damien was past the point of available comforts. For his first three months with us, he stayed beneath the house, living inside an old truck tire, trying to kill anything that came close. And more and more, I was coming around to his perspective.

It was clearly time for a change. Joy's side of the argument hinged on the crucial fact that besides doing animal rescue she was also a writer, with two books to her name and more success than had ever come my way. She had lived the art and preferred the altruism. Until I'd done the same, in her opinion, my opinion remained suspect.


Excerpted from A SMALL FURRY PRAYER by STEVEN KOTLER Copyright © 2010 by Steven Kotler. Excerpted by permission of BLOOMSBURY USA. 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.

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A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
BookHounds More than 1 year ago
This is such an interesting story. Steve Kotler went from being dogless to dog rescuer all because of love. When his girlfriend states that he needs to love her dogs as well as her, he jumps in, well, with reservations, but he is quickly won over by four legged furries that warm his heart. He gives up everything in Los Angeles to follow his love and his heart to New Mexico where he helps found a sanctuary for dogs. It is wonderful that this man found his purpose in life through dogs. People underrate the fulfillment that dogs (and other pets) can bring to someone's life. Any one who love dogs and memoirs are going to find this heartwarming story a true pleasure to read.
kathydianad More than 1 year ago
This book became a true spiritual journey for me - not at all what I expected, but one of the most profound and enjoyable books I have read in a very long time. [Full disclosure: I bought the book for it's cover - I love dogs - but this way surpassed my hopes.] Kotler manages to carry the reader through some unexpected terrain, all within the difficult and challenging framework that is dog rescue. You will end up knowing much more than you ever anticipated learning, on unimaginable levels. His wit and timing are entertaining, his pace and language really delightful (at times, colorful!) You know there will be somber passages, but the author moves quickly and deftly through without minimizing or glossing over some of the hurdles and setbacks. I laughed out loud through many chapters - and was amazed by the shear scope of this work, and honestly inspired. I plan to buy more copies - this book will make an excellent gift. If you know a dog lover, this book will not disappoint.
LosAngelesDan More than 1 year ago
Living with a dog can be trying. Living with a dog-rescuer can be even more trying; the effects on the author are life-changing. Buy this book and follow Steven as his capacity for humanity grows and his understanding of his purpose in life becomes clear. This book will make you happy to be a human being.
RedReaderKCMO More than 1 year ago
Just finished this book and Steven Kotler has become one of my most favorite authors. A Small Furry Prayer is well written and researched. Kotler is also very well read and philosophical. When I first saw the subtitle I thought about giving the book a miss but I am so glad that I changed my mind. Besides being honestly autobiographical it made me seriously think about having pets again. Please if you only read just a few books about rescuing please please make A Small Furry Prayer one of the books on your list. You will never regret it. I promise.
BookAddictFL More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I laughed and cried. I didn't want it to end. Kotler didn't set out to be a hero to unwanted dogs. That role came to him, first with a dog named Ahab, then with a woman who said that to love her meant loving her dogs. But this is more than a story about dogs. It's about a man finding his purpose through and with these dogs, about what it means to be human, about compassion and love and what's truly important in life. This book touched me all the way to my core.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love New Mexico and dogs so this non-fiction book was a fun read. Very interesting view of dog rescue.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have a dog you should read this book! I couldn't put this book down! Not only did this book touch my heart with its moving story of dog rescue. But it also taught me a lot about the inner workings of my dogs mind. I find me and my pack (4dogs) are more in tune with each other and better at communicating after reading this book. Kudos to the writer for not only living the story but being able to put it together so wonderful in such a great educational book
kpkp1130 More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book about the joy, sorrow and challenges of running a rescue for dogs. The author had me laughing out loud when describing his adventures hiking the badlands with his pack but also went into great detail about the challenges of rescue including the emotional toll it can take. I love dogs and wish I had the funds to rescue all the wonderful dogs in shelters. Dogs are a blessing from god and this book - and the authors absolute love for his mutts - make this a must read for anyone wishing to learn more about saving these precious lives. Bravo!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super quick read. Totally enjoyable. Love, life, passion, humor, psychology, history, science, awesome.
tejaslady More than 1 year ago
Truthfully I expected this book to be a longer epithet on the horrors of rescuing stray dogs. Since my husband and I also do animal rescue and rehab I thought I might find some tip to helps us do our job better. If you think this, too, and that's all you want, don't buy this book. If you want a book written from the heart and soul with total honesty, results of studies and philosophical renderings on the aspects of animals, their needs, feelings, desires and fears, then buy this book immediately. I laughed; I cried (a lot); I stopped to think the theories through. It's a good read with a good flow to it, too. I had to go to the website and see just who these folks were. I can tell you that now: they are great people with big hearts who really care about animals. You won't be sorry to have bought this book. I'm recommending it to everyone I know.
ParadisePorch on LibraryThing 18 days ago
The sub-title wasn¿t fooling. Kotler and his wife are deeply involved in dog rescue. I was prepared to hear about the difficulties of moving to the country & a new lifestyle, of the struggles of finding homes for the dogs, of dogs being sick and of dogs dying, but I wasn¿t looking for metaphysical speculation and ¿deep ecology¿. It's a great glimpse at what people who live for dogs think about, but I wanted more dog stuff, even it was gritty, and less theory.
vancouverdeb on LibraryThing 18 days ago
The book " A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life " gives little information on animal rescue, and many short essays on topics such as : cross species altruism, brain neurochemicals, Mayans, evolution, Darwin,toteism, philosophers and religion. By the time the author got onto an essay on Shamanism and shape-shifters, he had really lost my attention. I found that there was precious little information on actual animal rescue and far more on the above topics which loosely related back to animal rescue in some fashion. Steven Kotler and his wife Joy moved to New Mexico and began an animal rescue operation, but there is very little information about how they established the animal rescue, how they supported themselves financially or the emotions surrounding the entire operation . I felt at a distance from this author's story and never felt emotionally engaged to the rescue animals, the author nor his wife, whom he did not really write about at all.
live4tea on LibraryThing 18 days ago
I received a copy of A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life as an Early Reviewer. I enjoy memoirs that revolve around animal lovers and the non-human companions Life puts in our paths. I know a few people who do rescue work and respect that it is a calling not many can (or should) undertake. Reading this book before bed, I struggled to stay awake. This story focuses more on the the author's interpretation of meaning of life than what I expected to find¿rescuers and the animals they save. Small Furry Prayer went deeply into the existential and not nearly enough (for me) on the life of the author or his wife. I loved the photos, wished there were more. I wanted to know more about the individual dogs in their care and how the author and his wife managed to afford to do what they did for these many dogs. While I wanted to connect to this couple and their story, for wont of a good editing, I never did.
Carolee888 on LibraryThing 18 days ago
I have been turning over and over again about how to write this review. To me, there were two books in one. One book is about the personal experiences of the couple with the dog rescue in northern Arizona and the other is related or not sometimes not of philosophy of religion and animal research.The part that I enjoyed was the telling of Joy, Steven Kotler¿s almost saint like wife and his relationship to her and the dogs. Both of them had chronic illnesses. She has Lupus and he has Lyme disease. So both of them were limited physically in what they could do by their immunological diseases. Joy seemed to be driven in her desire to run a shelter operation. I didn¿t know before reading that the many of the rescue dogs are often so feral that they could never be pets. They might seek the heat of a human¿s body for warmth at night but if that human woke up and started to get out of bed, the dogs might bite them.The couple moved from Southern California to Chimayo, New Mexico soon after starting their rescue operation. Partly because the place they rented was going to be sold. I had some hunches about which dogs from shelter would be most adopted. I knew without saying that the puppies that are cute and cuddly and especially those that were already housebroken are the first to be adopted. I didn¿t know that the color of the dog¿s coat made a difference. When searching for a dog in the pound that would be considered a candidate, they looked for the shy, the handicapped, deaf, blind, drooling, chewy, dogs who were probably not housebroken.I learned that I probably would never be up to heartache and the disappointment of running a dog rescue operation. Joy loved the dogs so much, that it was love me and the dogs or we don¿t get together. So since Steve loved her, he decided to accept the dogs and was surprised to find that he was profoundly grief stricken when they died, often of old age.Now, the part I didn¿t like. This may be because of my educational background. I took philosophy and philosophy of religion course and a full year of animal behavior courses. I have also read a great deal about animal intelligence and behavior. That is why, when the author would discuss a study or an animal story, I felt irritated. When I decided to read this book, mainly because of the endearing cover of a dog looking so forlorn, I didn¿t expect to review all or most of the material that I had already covered in college. I started skipping through the book whenever a study or a religion thought was discussed.If you are different from me and are interested in animal rescue operations, love dogs but haven¿t read many animal studies than you will probably love this book and wonder at how many things we know about animals and dogs and familiar. But if you are already well schooled in this topic you might not learn very much from this book and will be disappointing.I received this book from the Library Thing program and that in no way influenced any part of my review.
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing 18 days ago
After receiving this book to review, I instantly thought maybe I should not be the one to do it. I have been in dog rescue for 14 years and am incredibly jaded about "dog" books (rescue, behavior, "Marley and Me," etc.) and just probably have read my share of bad ones. But wow, was I surprised at this one. I loved it. As the title suggests, it is not just about dog rescue, although that is the nucleus for the psychological and scientific studies and stories in various chapters. The thing I most enjoyed was Steven's kind, unique approach to helping some of the dogs with severe behavioral issues. Having had my share of those throughout the years, I was not very hopeful this would be anything good. I thought I had heard everything, but there were some great new things to be found here. I also thought the fresh historical approach to dogs and their relationships with humans (and amongst their packs) was amazing, e.g., altruism in dogs, creation of play and strategies, how dogs can read our facial expressions and movements and homosexuality in dogs! Although not always related to the rescue, the stories on rural Northern New Mexico are really interesting too. I whipped through this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in dog rescue or humane treatment of animals - if nothing else, to learn some new things about both. I did not give this five stars because at times it was a bit too "memoir-ish" or "All About Steve" and I really just wanted the dogs/dog science. But I suppose the meaning of life must be applied to the meaning for the human telling the story, to make it real.
sblock on LibraryThing 18 days ago
Steven Kotler was feeling adrift when he fell in love with a woman who had dedicated her life to saving dogs that no one else wanted. When they were kicked out of their rental home in LA, they used their savings to buy a small farm in Chimayo, New Mexico, a rural area filled with bikers, convicts, drug addicts, shamans and a lot of abused dogs.The tale of their efforts to found a rescue in the badlands of NM is compelling, and Kotler's prose is vivid and honest, sometimes heartbreakingly so. Unfortunately, for me at least, there wasn't enough dog rescue and far too much meaning of life. As the book progresses, it reads more and more like a term paper. Kotner trots out every scrap of research and analysis on dog-human interaction, and if you've read a lot of dog books (and I have) it's stale stuff. By the last third of the book, I found myself skimming over his long discourses on the metaphysical aspects of dogs and screaming inwardly, "What about Bella? And Igor? And Bucket? And how are you paying for all of this?" He does return to the dogs in the end, but it's too late. This is a book in need of an editor. Preferably one who loves dogs and knows how to tell a story.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing 18 days ago
Steven Kotler is a big man who fell in love, opened a dog rescue facility in Colorado and learned to love little dogs. His accounts of showing love to lost and easily disposed of creatures is a new look at what to expect from human-dog interactions. This is a great look at psychology using our four footed friends as the medium for phrasing research.
PamelaBarrett on LibraryThing 18 days ago
I received Steven Kotler¿s book A Small Furry Prayer in the mail on the day we picked up our first foster dog, a chocolate and tan dachshund with an attitude. Good thing, then I didn¿t take all the growling personally. I found that Steven¿s book was something I needed to sift through. There are short anecdotes of his life at the dog rescue, Rancho De Chihuahua that he and his wife run in New Mexico, inter-dispersed with science and esoteric meanderings. I loved reading about the dogs and how this started¿the process he went through emotionally to embrace the life his wife choose. The scientific studies he quotes from are interesting and I¿ve even seen some of the documentaries on PBS and read some of the articles in National Geographic, but the conclusions he jumps to don¿t always add up. The quality of the writing is great and at times I laughed and cried, so it is touching. There is a take-away, the breakthroughs he made hiking with the dogs; that imagery will stay with me inspiring longer exploratory walks with our dogs. I received this book through Librarything.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing 18 days ago
The subtitle for this book sums it up perfectly; Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life. Half the book tells the story of how Kotler came to the vocation of dog rescue and his experiences, with the rest consisting of a free-flowing, philosophy "lite" of his thoughts and feelings. These begin with dogs, but move onto pretty much everything. I was very interested in Kotler's concrete experiences running a dog rescue in rural New Mexico and much less interested in his musings about the meaning of life. So, for me, half of this book was great.
-Cee- on LibraryThing 18 days ago
This is a terrific book on dog-human connections contemplated in deep thoughtfulness, questioning, and research by the author. Building his case, Kolter includes evolutionary theories and scientific facts, as well as experimental and spiritual insights. Living, and having intimate relationships, with rescue dogs Steven Kolter exposes his emotions and discoveries of the many primary similarities between canines and humans and why they co-exist so well.This nonfiction narrative relates how Kolter became involved with dog rescue and how it impacted his life and beliefs. The rescue aspect of his story is primarily the context in which he garners emotional strength, spiritual insight, and connection to the natural world. This is not a comprehensive how-to or insider information on dog rescue. The title itself is somewhat misleading. This becomes a hard look at our sensitivities to animals/nature and trying to understand how it all fits together.We don't know all the answers yet, but Kolter makes an honest effort to understand his world. The philosophy, psychology, and biological evidence he has incorporated is interesting and informative to me. No topic was taboo in this book. The reader explores a myriad of issues from animals' use of hallucinogenic substances - to dog homosexuality - to mimicing human facial expressions and emotions. Kolter is a man who examines every aspect of being and belonging.A combination of humor, surprise, and deep examination of life this book may not appeal to everyone. I found it fascinating.
AquariusNat on LibraryThing 18 days ago
This is a memoir about the author's decision to open a dog rescue with his girlfriend/future wife . It's beautiful , funny at times and heartbreaking in others . The story has three parts alternating through it . There's the author's falling in love with and marrying his wife that convinced him to help her open the dog rescue , the author finding himself becoming emotionally attached to each rescue dog and then there's the part spent exploring the history of the "Man and Dog relationship" . So glad I won this book from LT's Early Reviewers ! If you love animal-centered memoirs then you will love this book !
tanya2009 on LibraryThing 18 days ago
This is not your ordinary dog book. This book is about dog rescue and the meaning of life. Steven meets Joy who is a woman devoted to dog rescue and with her 'Love me Love my dogs' rule they became a rescue team. I highly recommend reading this book.
horomnizon on LibraryThing 18 days ago
I requested this book from EarlyReviewers and wasn't that surprised when I 'won' it, since I've read and reviewed many animal books in the past. I was looking forward to reading it....and then it failed the 100 page test. (You know, where if you don't like a book after the first 100 pages, just give up on it because it's a waste of your time and there are another 200 books on the shelf, floor, etc. waiting to be read and there's a good chance some of them are better.)I did skim through the rest of the book and read parts here and there, but I'm wondering what the reviewers who found humor here were smoking (or drinking) because I was highly disappointed in the lack of humor. Usually tales of dogs involve a good deal of it, but I only found one instance where I snickered a little at the description of what the dogs were doing. I have no doubt that these animals are getting lots of affection and have a better 'rest of their life' than they otherwise would have, but I didn't feel a real connection between Kotler and the dogs. Even when he declares that he loves Chihuahuas, there is little bonding between him and the individual dogs. In fact, he keeps naming new dogs that he never introduces. I didn't get to know most of the dogs on any kind of level that would make me care about them - therefore, why do I want to read about them? Then again, the book isn't so much about the dogs as it is about Kotler anyway, which is OK, but not my thing. And the science stuff thrown in just makes it sound like a bunch of short National Geographic articles strung together in a book - usually not in any kind of way that made sense to me....not even an interesting stream of consciousness - just random and to me, incomprehensible.So, while it is not common for me, I didn't read the whole book. I'm sure some people will like this combination of scientific and philosophical and memoir, but there was too little dog love and cuteness and hilariousness in there for me. Others who do dog rescue might find it more enlightening, but I was just bored.
Judgejudy2u on LibraryThing 18 days ago
I was thrilled when I was to recieve this book to read and review. I am into dog and cat adoption and believe it is the only way go. I give major kudos to Mr Kotler and his wife Joy for the dedication they have to these animals. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of how the author found meaning in his life thru finding the right person to share it with and their journey to Chimayo, NM. That story was wonderful and well written, exactly what I would want from this story. But I wish the book was call A Small Furry Prayer - Dog Rescue. I was quite bored with the ramblings about altruism, Darwin and Roughgarden anf animals ang psychedelics, etc. This for me greatly took away from a great story. Would I recommend this book? Maybe. Was there potential for a terrific read. Yes. Unfortunetly as a whole it missed the mark
blockbuster1994 on LibraryThing 18 days ago
Bring out tissues; I was crying before I was even through the preface. I will be processing A Small Furry Prayer for a long, long time. Steven Kolter's writing is easily consumed, almost like breathing. Immediately, I could identify with Kolter, his situation in life and his love for dogs. It is exactly as I feel, but I can't live it the way he can. Because he did this without a financial safety belt. Because he did this despite chronic illness. The real beauty of this novel lies in Kotler's quiet courage to willingly moved from Los Angeles to a remote, poverty strickened, drug riddled town in New Mexico to give these misfit, "lifer", unadoptable dogs grace and dignity. Sad, yes, because they die. But what a noble pursuit.