I love to read. Always have. I inhale books like they're sustenance, and to me, they kind of are. I read memoirs, chick lit, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, research-based nonfiction, humor, and the list goes on. But one of my favorite genres is literature about animals. I try to keep track of and rate the books I read on Goodreads, and a 5-star rating is pretty rare from me - except when it comes to books about dogs. This includes Jon Katz's story collection called Dancing Dogs, a book I had the pleasure of tearing through this weekend. I laughed at some stories, cried at others, sniffling so loudly that my husband looked over at me and asked, "What the hell are you reading that's making you cry like that?!" All I had to do was tip the cover over and show him the dog on the front, and he nodded understandingly. He gets it. :)
(photo from here)
Generally, I stay away from short story collections, just because there tends to be one or two stories I love, while the rest I don't really care for. That was not the case with this collection. I loved and related to each and every story. In one story, a young girl bonds with a beagle puppy at a shelter and will stop at nothing to adopt him. In another, a pug rescues his elderly owner, in a way, after his wife passes away. My favorite story was called "Laura Passerby", and in it, the title character must decide if taking an unhealthy, chained-up German Shepherd from a neglectful farmer's yard would be the right thing to do.
A few of the stories were pretty heart-wrenching; many of the stories dealt with death in different ways. Some stories were funny: a dog makes observations of the world outside while his owners are away; a husband who doesn't want a dog is won over by a Yankees-loving hound. There's a little something for every dog lover in this collection. After checking this out from the library, it is now on my list of books to buy.
One of the things I appreciated most about this book was how many times shelter dogs or rescue was mentioned. Many of the dogs were described as being rescued, and one of the stories even takes place inside a shelter - a woman comforts the dogs who are on death row the day before they are scheduled to be euthanized. (That one hit a little too close to home for me - oh, the feelings!!!) The importance of helping neglected or abused animals is also mentioned in these stories, specifically in the aforementioned "Laura Passerby." I loved that, and I think it's very important for more books about animals to educate people about the importance of adoption. Since Jon Katz has many more books (both fiction and non) about animals, he is definitely on my list of authors to watch! (Buy this great book of short stories for under $12!)