Initial comment: Thanks, everyone, for all of the kind and encouraging comments this weekend. I was floored and flattered to be featured on “Freshly Pressed” on the WordPress home page. Your input has been so valuable to me! I hope that Doggerel will continue to be a fruitful and useful guide to the wide world of canine pursuits. With that, and my humble gratitude, here’s a semi-scathing book review… — Abby
This book had a lot of potential to be an interesting memoir. The subtitle is “My Year of Competing Dusty, the World’s Least Likely Agility Dog.” I read a few agility blogs and am interested in the sport as a whole, particularly since the dogs I’m interested in tend to be fairly good at agility.
But I found Dogged Pursuit, by Robert Rodi, to be almost unbearable. Mainly because Rodi comes off as such a pretentious jerk. I’m sure he’s probably a very nice human in “real life,” but his writing persona was so arrogant and off-putting to me.
The book chronicles Rodi’s journey of adopting Dusty, a nervous wreck of a Shetland sheepdog, from a sheltie rescue agency in Illinois. Rodi decides to get Dusty after his agility champion dog, Carmen, another sheltie, is forced into retirement by an injury. Clearly, he is adopting Dusty to turn him into a champion athlete. Which is fine. But it seems like that’s the only reason Rodi wants another dog. Throughout the book, Rodi expresses not a shred of affection for Dusty. Which is also fine–the dog does sound like a disaster–but it’s also not particularly endearing when you’re reading a canine memoir.
From the beginning, Rodi wants his readers to know how extremely cultured and educated he is. He wants you to remember, constantly, that he just “doesn’t fit in” with his fellow agility aficionados. He reads Tom Stoppard; they read Tom Clancy. He eats pancetta and pappardelle; they eat pizza rolls. In every chapter, he has to detail why he chose this particular, delicate Dvorak symphony for his drive to the next trial. Ugh. I think he keeps harping on how sophisticated he is for comic effect, but it falls completely flat. Instead, Rodi just comes off looking like a pretentious ass.
But that’s not even his most egregious vice.
What’s more upsetting to me about Dogged Pursuit is that Rodi is blatantly breaking what, to me, should be the cardinal rule of agility: You should only compete in agility if your dog genuinely loves agility. If agility trials turn your dog into a bundle of snapping nerves and you have to drag him out of a crate to compete, maybe you shouldn’t be competing in agility. Rodi never gets this. He forces this poor, anxious dog from trial to trial, desperately trying to prove something with this trembling creature, and for what? The dog certainly doesn’t care about qualifying for Regionals; Rodi does. And this dog doesn’t even enjoy being here. So stop. Shut it down, Rodi. Go home and stop dragging your dog to agility trials. He clearly hates it.
So, what did I learn? If decide to try agility one day, I’ll just do the opposite of everything Rodi did. In that sense, I suppose this book was helpful.