More than a hauntingly beautiful memoir about small dogs in Big Sky country, this book is a wise account of the relationships among dogs, humans, and the land that surrounds them. It is the story of successive generations of Jack Russell terriers, their animal friends, and their human companions. Alston Chase searches for the immortality of dogs, what makes them unique companions, and why we humans willingly give them our hearts knowing that someday they will be broken. This book will resonate with anyone who has ever loved a dog.
Chase muses that dogs are the embodiment of spirit over mortality and through the window of their brief lives we glimpse eternity. This eternal includes the Earth, the land, and the bonds forged between people and dogs over thousands of years. Chase sees threats in the decline of rural life, unbridled urbanization, and in dog breeders who judge by conformation to breed standards and fashion rather than ability and health.
An uplifting tribute to the dogs we love, and a reflection on the limitations of life, this book shows a triumph of the spirit. Rich in poetic citations, it is an environmental cry for help, a naturalistic appreciation of a dissolving world, and a deeply spiritual reminder that nothing loved is ever lost.
Alston Chase has written widely on natural history, the environment, and animal welfare. He is the author of Playing God in Yellowstone, In a Dark Wood, and Harvard and the Unabomber.
Table of Contents
Preface xi Acknowledgments xiii Prologue: A Ghost Story 1 The Misunderstanding 7 The Summer of 1972 13 The Earth Life 27 Phineas 33 The Dogs of Devon 39 Growing up Small 51 The Soul of a Dog 59 Hamilton Farm 65 Special Dogs 77 Living at the Edge 83 Show Dogs 89 Leaving Millegan 99 Paradise 105 America Discovers Jack Russells 115 Searching for "Genetic Immortality" 123 Ifrit's Spirit 129 Ifrit Passes 135 Daisy and Bungee 139 Ranching the View 147 The Stealth and "A" Teams 153 Bungee's Summer 161 Bungee's Winter 173 Cricket 179 A Sporting Dog 193 Ghosts 199 Eternity 205 Millegan Return 211 Epilogue: The Future of Dogs 219 Image Information and Credits 237
"Like the Jack Russell terriers who animate its pages, this book will steal your heart, tear it up--and somehow manage to mend it, too."--(Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig)
"Alston Chase comes to Montana looking for a new pair of glasses, and is as surprised as anyone when they appear in the form of a series of small terriers which serve as a window into the land and the forces that have made it. We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear is more than a memoir about small dogs in Big Sky country, however; it is a book about an adventurous life, an intrepid wife, and the passing of the baton from a generation to another. What lasts? Chase' surprising answer is a simple one: Nothing loved is ever lost."--(Patrick Burns, author of American Working Terriers)
"We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear is a fantastic piece of work. I could not put it down. I pray and hope that many will read this wonderful book to understand better the true character of our terriers, and what is happening to our environment."--(Ailsa Crawford, Founder and President Emeritus, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America)
Richard S. Wheeler
"This may well be the most beautiful and richest book abut dogs ever penned."--(Richard S. Wheeler, Winner, Owen Wister Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature)