I came across this book via the Pet Travel Book Club. A lot of doggy books are overly sentimental or follow a different school of thought around behaviour than me, but this one was more about how I remember having a dog used to be. It’s witty and understated in an almost British way, and I can recognise my own and my dogs’ behaviour. The sections on his exploration of the wilderness at the edge of town, the New Jersey Meadowlands, are well done, if a bit prolonged. He’s particularly sound on the importance of going back to familiar places (the town | the wild fringe), for both parties.
John walks his dogs the way it should be – free to roam within their own limits, with no mention of training. Pete just learned how it should be with John, and vice versa. There’s no mention of pulling, socialisation, meeting other dogs or ‘reactors’ – no pressure, they sort it out themselves. The section on communication via sniffing is very well done.
He occasionally abuts against 21st dog style – a dogpark with too many rules, a dogwalker in Central Park with dogs who seem to be on drugs they are so placid. What on earth has gone wrong? Dog walking has sadly mutated into an increasingly stressful activity for all concerned.
- dog walking as monotonous, a chore vs the plain and metaphysical joys of a simple daily duty (Zen and the Art of Dog Walking)
- round the block (squares) – the problem of dog walking monotony vs (re)discovering ‘fringe places’ you’d never go to otherwise
- something as simple as walking the dog can open up unexpected worlds if you let him lead you to new territory; dogs can lead us to discover so many things we’d normally miss
- “obsessive analysis of the tide guides and barometric readings afflict us West Coast beach walkers”
- “my husband and I always split dog walking duties…we each had our own walking routes and routines plus a third routine when we decided to take a family walk on the weekends”
- why are dog walkers always the ones to discover dead bodies?
Posts I enjoyed from The Four Legged Walden (2010-11):
- World’s greatest dog walk
- Paths, real and artificial
- Smelling like a dog
- The dog-bird controversy
- Canine nirvana | It’s good for you
- The Thoreau connection
More books about dogs, walking and writing:
- Herr und hund/A man and his dog aka Bashan and I (1918) by Thomas Mann, for German speakers available (in Gothic script) on the Open Library
- All the dogs of my life (1936) by Elizabeth von Arnim, who was, it seems, more into the garden
- Diary of a dog walker (2011) based on Edward Stourton’s columns in The Telegraph, this has some pleasant enough doggy touches, but very little about walking as a thing
- Shaggy muses by Maureen Adams, portraying the dogs who inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Brontë