Saturday, August 4, 2012

Book Review: A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

I love to  read and I love dogs, but I don't always love books about dogs.  Many of them are overly sentimental memoirs or dry training tomes that just bore me or make me feel guilty about my pet parenting skillsA really great dog book is a rare treat.

 I heard about A Three Dog Life quite a few years ago in my favorite dog magazine, BarkI planned to read it but only got around to do so last week and I wasn't disapointed.  What first attracted me to this memoir is the title, after all for four years my husband and I shared a three dog life with Tubby, Norbert, and Ping first in Brooklyn and then in the Upper East Side in Manhattan.  While I love having Norbert and Weasley and owning our own home with a yard for the dogs, no matter how miniscule, I do have many fond memories of my previous three dog life.
I found Thomas an easy narrator to relate to.  Despite the major differences in our lives: she is a successful author, a mother and grandmother, is brilliant, and has three decades on me.  I did notice some simalarities: we are both New Yorkers, we enjoy knitting, and we love dogs.    Another similarity is we  both adore our husbands and have happy marriages.   However, Thomas's marriage, her third, experiences marriage tragedy in the first pages of the book.  While out walking their beagle, the leash snaps and Thomas's husband chases the dog into the street to save him and is struck by a car.  The dog is uninjured but Thomas's husband, Rich, experience a major brain injury which alters his personality and robs him of all short term memory.

The book deals with how Thomas moves from the utter devestation of this tragedy on to a calm and happy life, and a truly loving, although unconventional marriage, with her husband.   

After the accident Thomas's friends ask her if she blames her dog and she is surprised by the question since her dog is her primary source of comfort and support.  Gradually, she begins rebuilding a life focused around dogs.  She moves to Woodstock NY to a house close to the long term care facility her husband lives in and adds two new dogs to her pack.    She spends  her days cuddling in bed with her dogs, watching them play, and walking with them through the woods. A few times a week she visits Rich in the hospital and they too lie in bed together and hold hands or she listens to the snippets of information and memories he shares with her.  Rich's understanding of the world around him varies from confusion to moments of such deep insight that Thomas feels there is something almost extra-sensory about it. From  her dogs and her husband she learns to live in the moment and take pleasure in simple things.  Despite the tragedies in the book it is really a joyful memoir and never overly sentimental.

Some dog lovers might be dissapointed that the dogs don't play a bigger role in the story, and it's true they are not  the focus of the memoir.   However, they are eternally in the back ground and color the whole account.  I really think you have to be a dog owner to appreciate Thomas's relationship with her dogs and indeed to understand this entire book.

Early in the book Thomas's describes a married couple she used to watch as a young women.  They were an older couple who owned a store and when Thomas would see them walking arm in arm and not speaking, completely comfortable in each others presence, she would think how that was the sort of marriage she wanted some day to have.  At the end of the book Thomas's husband can not remember how long they have been married, he thinks it has only been a year when it has really been 17.  He says; "Abby our life has been so easy that the days glide by."  That really is the message of the book, even with the tragedy Thomas and her husband have a loving marriage one that is based on real love and acceptance and that has moved beyond words, much like the relationships we share with our dogs.

Here is a link to an article by Thomas from the New York Times that is an abbreviated account of what transpires in this lovely book: Link
Thomas's three adorable dogs


  1. Great review. Hope you are having a great Olympics. Have a great Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Great review. Now I have a new book to add to my reading list. Thanks

  3. Great review! So sorry about author's husband's accident but the relationship they have sounds wonderful. We sure learn from our fur babies to live in the moment and take pleasure in simple things.

  4. That sounds like a great read, I will have to look out for it!
    Lynne x

  5. Thanks, I just finished a book and was looking for something to read. I hope this book is available for the Kindle...

  6. Thanks for the review. I feel the same way about most dog books. I'll definitely be checking this one out.

  7. Hey Urban Hounds, Jet here. Hi Miss Kate.

    Wow, you got Mom on this one. She loves to read, enjoys knitting, loves K9s (of course) and has a head injured Mom... she 'll put this title on her wish list!

  8. Great review. I will have to check it out on Amazon.
    I've just done a book review over at Sheba's life story. It's cat related though.


  9. This is the first time I have visited your blog I think, came over from Something I thought the comment you left on her post was well thought out and. Sometime I fill find time to read again and hope I remember this book to add to my list...

  10. Lovely review. I've had this book sitting on my shelf for ages, but haven't picked it up. Like you, not a huge fan of the super-sappy dog memoir. But this one sounds excellent.

  11. It sounds like a beautiful book. It's hard to find a writer who can easily capture your heart with their technique. I have only found a couple of authors whose stories I love reading and it's wonderful you found yours.

    Huggies and Cheese,


  12. That does sound like a lovely book.

    Love and licks, Winnie

  13. You have a beautiful way of sharing ,,,,, the way you described the book makes it sound soooo good, and I just know it would be just the right book to read. The message about real love is the key to this story.
    Nice job!

  14. Mom is going to see if the library here can order it for her....we will let you know after we read it ..i am sure it will be a really good book!
    Stella Rose