I heard about A Three Dog Life quite a few years ago in my favorite dog magazine, Bark. I 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|