Book Review: Downward Dog

Downward Dog:  Series Haiku From A Very Serious Dog, by Samm Hodges & Phineas Hodges

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Net Gallery/Animal Media Group.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

As a deeply melancholy person myself, there is something deeply appealing about the melancholy dog at the center of this book [1].  What this book does, and does particularly well, is to try to crawl within a particular dog, who happens to be the dog that the author(s) got from an animal shelter, and to attempt to view life from the point of view of a reflective and loving if somewhat downbeat animal.  The result is a view of a dog’s life in all of its complexity from a dog that is full of angst in a way that draws considerable insight about the life of human beings whose suffering from loneliness and monotony may not be so different from that of the animal whose reflections are turned into lovely and gloomy haiku here.  As it is easy to think of many people who love dogs and who want to imagine life from the point of view of a dog, it is unsurprising that this book likely has a large and appreciative audience.

The book itself is simple, being divided into a series of cute illustrations along with touching haiku from the point of view of a dog.  We see a dog feeling ashamed about having torn some shoes to shreds and having peed in the house out of anxiety and fear about being left alone for so long, about the way that dogs are sensitive to the moods of their owners, the way that a cat torments a dog with taunts about being unloved with an owner who never comes home, a dog’s yearning for a family he will never have, and the endless monotony of eating the same dog food over and over again.  Beyond these reflections, there are thoughts about the growl that results from the dog’s sensitivity to a man who comes too close, and the concern about how a dog ages far faster than a person, and the way that love feels like a welling in the heart.  The drawings of the book are particularly cute and the haiku range from the adorably mopey to the deeply profound and touching, as when the dog wonders what a cancer scare means for his owner and struggles with intense loneliness.

Sometimes it is easiest to understand ourselves by putting ourselves in the place of someone else.  We live in an age that celebrates sterility, and yet a stray dog with a fear of being unloved can have a vision of unborn children that he will never get to have because of being neutered.  Likewise, people are often lonely and that is what leads people to get pets, only often because of our busy lives those pets can go many hours in the course of a day without human interaction, which one could easily see making them anxious about whether they are loved themselves, just as children and adults can easily feel the same way.  Likewise, much that humans take for granted in life is a mystery for dogs, such as the way that the doors close when people want to be with their “friends” or that a dog might feel neglected when some other animal is given too much attention or the way that a dog might want to show its friendliness only to feel ashamed at disapproval because of an inability to understand what it is like to be too friendly.  Haiku are often written in praise of nature, and in this book it happens to a form of poetry that is well-suited to describing life from the perspective of a lovable dog.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: Downward Dog

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