Six Word Summary: Dogs are proof that god exists
I rate it:9/10
James Herriot was a veterinary surgeon who treated farm animals and pets in the England countryside for more than four decades, from the 40′s to the early 80′s. He is also one of the best known vets in the world of book lovers, having written a series of extremely popular books about his exploits with all sorts of animals. This book is a collection of fifty of his stories about dogs and dog owners.
This book was a gift from my best friend and fellow dog lover Dr. Sweta Singh, who sent me her own copy, along with a box of home-made chocolates and various knick-knacks that only BFFs know one needs. The pages are yellow, the cover dog-eared, and the spine soft, telling marks of books that have been well thumbed and loved, and it is now one of my prized possessions. I read most of it in bed, with my dog Posto (whose puppy pic you can see in this post I wrote when he first adopted us) resting his chin on my belly, eyes closed in bliss as I scratched the back of his ears non-stop. only a low whine while I stopped to turn a page.
This book is soul food for dog owners and dog lovers, reaffirming your faith that dogs were created to make the world a less terrible place. It is guaranteed to make any day a little more magical, a little more hopeful. Herriot documents his canine patients with a tender fondness, shrewd observation, and unfailable good humour. The book has its share of doggy illnesses and doggy deaths that break your heart, but it also has funny dogs, naughty dogs, kind, faithful dogs, brave dogs, dogs so friendly they are in perpetual danger of wagging their butts off, a few unfriendly and mean dogs, and one farty dog who made my husband and me bray with laughter in a public train (yea, we’re really mature that way).
The stories are so adorable that they would probably have been amazing if they were written by a fifth grader, but it happens that James Herriot was a fine writer. He had an eye for absurd, delightful details, an amazing sense of comic timing, and the ability to poke gentle fun at himself. In the backdrop of his doggy tales, he provides a delicious picture of English farming life back then, peopled by simple, interesting folk. The stories also include his colleagues, the formidable Seigfreid and the prodigal Tristan, his larger than life friend Granville Bennet who always got him woefully drunk, and his bumbling wooing of the woman who later married him.
My favourite dogs in the collection were:
- Cedric the giant, playful Boxer who unembarrassedly farted all the time and tried to investigate the source of the sound with deadpan seriousness. When introduced to a bitch for mating, dopey Cedric had no idea what to do and tried to give it to her in the ear. Am pretty sure Posto will mortify us like this too on his first date.
- Shep the huge collie who wouldn’t harm a fly but whose only source of entertainment was stalking unsuspecting guests on his farm, startling the daylights out of them by barking loudly full into their faces, and then walking nonchalantly away, leaving a wrecked, gibbering human being behind.
Brandy who was a yellow Lab like our Posto, and who had a penchant for rooting in dustbins and getting his face stuck in cans, diving full body into the river for a swim, getting in line with other kids to go up the slide in the playground and come gracefully down, and sneaking into his mistress’s lap with a hilarious manoeuvre. Brandy nearly died of pneumonia, but Herriot was able to save him, thankfully.
James Herriot was the pseudonym of British vet James Alfred Wight. The names of the characters and geographies of the stories have been changed, and it is possible that the stories have been embellished a bit, but that detracts in no way from this beautiful book. I would recommend Dog Stories to all dog people, and before cat loving friends like Saikat feel left out, there is a book of Cat Stories by him too.
Finally, all the love in the world to Sweta ‘Mushroom’ Singh, her husband Nikhil Thakur, and their adopted mixed breed Maya Singh-Thakur.
-From Amritorupa, Anik, and Posto Kanjilal-Dasgupta
If you are an animal lover, you might also love My Family and other Animals by Gerald Durrell