Review: Dog Is My Co-Pilot

Dog Is My Co-Pilot.

As I’ve said before, I’m not one who likes to read sappy stories about dogs. This is why I don’t watch dog movies. The dogs are always exceedingly and supernaturally noble and then they always get killed in the end. So over that.

I like stories about real life–which is why this collection of essays about living with dogs was perfect for me. Dog Is My Co-Pilot is a curated series of memoir-like writings by respected authors, pulled together by the editors of The Bark magazine.

Many of the stories were very funny. Many of the stories were very sad. Almost all of them (with a few exceptions, namely Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’ story and Jon Katz’s and the super-dramatic New Age guy) were great. The essays successfully avoided the sappiness that so often permeates dog-human narratives.

Some of my favorites: I loved the essays by the wonderful poets Maxine Kumin and Mark Doty. My husband is a poet and has always encouraged me to read more poetry. You can imagine my delight when I learned that such well-respected poets like Kumin and Doty were also avid dog lovers. Kumin’s essay “Mutts” is a sweet and reflective essay on the dogs that have passed in and out of her life, particularly on her New England farm. “Accident,” by Doty, is a heartbreaking story about loss and grief, connected to both his dog and his partner.

Another essay that was very moving to me was “Sit. Stay. Heal.” by Lee Forgotson, written in the aftermath of 9/11. Forgotson was living in New York at the time, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center, and wrote this essay describing her fear and depression in the months following the terrorist attacks. She was holed up alone in her apartment with her dog, waiting for her husband, a broadcast news anchor, to come home. The essay ends with this heart-rending moment: Forgotson, her husband, and their dog go out to eat. The dog is tied to a table and wanders off slightly to sniff a young man at a nearby table. When Forgotson looks back in a moment, the man is on his knees with his arms around her dog, weeping. It’s a touching and beautiful story of that gift animals can give us that no people can.

Regardless of your thoughts on over-emotionality, this is a collection of essays that is sure to make you feel the whole range of emotions that we feel with dogs: Joy, elation, frustration, rage, sympathy, grace, and redemption. Just to name a few. I recommend this collection very highly and I’m thankful I was able to find a copy myself.


7 thoughts on “Review: Dog Is My Co-Pilot

  1. Nice to hear that there is a dog book out there that leaves the reader feeling more than one emotion. Namely for me is usually frustration with myself – “why on earth did I watch this movie..?? I knew exactly how it would end!!”

    This book may have to go on my Christmas wish list 🙂

  2. I would recommend James Herriot’s Dog Stories. James Herriot was a WWII era country vet in England. I think you would enjoy his tales about the dogs he encountered (both working and pets) very interesting.
    I am going to guess the Jon Katz story was too sappy for you? People always seem to excerpt is sappiest stuff.

  3. Dear Abby: Thank you for your kind comments on the Bark anthology and on my essay “Sit, Stay, Heal.” I just came upon it today while searching for a piece by Mark Doty (whom I had the honor of editing for this anthology). My dog Wallace (a/k/a Rex) has been dead for a number of years now, but I still remember how awed I was by him on that evening, after September 11th, when he let a broken man hug him. Thank you for sharing this story with others. May all beings experience the joys and wonders of pure dog love!
    Yours Sincerely,
    Lee Harrington (formerly Forgotson….but now I am divorced 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Lee; it mean so much to me! Your essay is so beautiful and such an important part of that collection. I am a big Mark Doty fan as well! Wishing you all the best in this new year.

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