Woman’s And Man’s Best Friend

Some may say that I never really had a pet, but that isn’t true. I mean, when I was a lad, many decades ago, I owned small turtles and fish. They’re pets, right? I liked them and took care of them. And maybe they liked me, though that of course is something I wasn’t able to determine. Still, despite my diligent efforts to make their lives healthy and comfortable, the wee f*ckers bit the dust left and right. It was disappointing to know that the turtles preferred riding the train bound for reptile heaven more than hanging out in a shoe box in my bedroom, but what can you do? In regard to the fish, all I can say is that their main talent was jumping out of their tank and landing on the floor when nobody was around. I guess you’ve heard that fish don’t do well when not in water.

As for significant pets — cats and dogs — well, I’ve never lived with one, not when growing up nor during the many years since I left my parents’ home. I believe that this places me in a tiny minority. And I doubt if I’ll ever join the majority. At this point I’m way too old, most likely, ever to take the plunge.

Here’s the thing, however: Though cats aren’t my favorite creatures, I dig dogs. Certain dogs anyway — those that are smart, playful and able to size up situations. When you look deep into the eyes of the ones that meet said description, you realize that their essence isn’t much more than a stone’s or a stick’s throw away from yours. Yeah, dogs without a doubt can be cool.

That fact was driven home to me last month when I read a book that I think would hit the sweet spots of anyone who owns or otherwise admires woman’s and man’s best friend. Its title is A Dog’s Life. Supposedly written by the late Peter Mayle, I adored it. (Mayle was a Brit who, when middle-aged, moved to a small town in France. There he penned A Year In Provence, a best-selling memoir released in 1989. It made him famous. You can read more about him by clicking here.)

A Dog’s Life, which entered the marketplace in 1995, was my first encounter with Mayle. To create this book, he placed a pen and pad before his treasured dog Boy, instructing Boy to tell it like it is and was. Somehow Boy was able to manipulate the writing implement, producing an autobiography that goes down as easily as a glass of iced tea on a sweltering summer day. Man, it ain’t right that Mayle took credit for Boy’s work!

Boy, whose high opinion of himself permeates A Dog’s Life, is a fount of slippery wisdom and of cutting remarks. Here is a paragraph, one of dozens I could cite, that displays his self-assurance and brain power. And, yes, his coolness.

If, like me, you have a logical turn of mind, a self-indulgent nature, and a frequently dormant conscience, there is a certain aspect of human behavior that can put an immense strain on the patience. It’s spoken of, always in sanctimonious tones, as moderation — not too much of this, not too much of that, diet and abstinence and restraint, colonic irrigation, cold baths before breakfast, and regular readings of morally uplifting tracts. You must have come across all this and worse if you have any friends from California. Personally, I’m a great believer in the philosophy of live and let live, as long as you keep your proclivities to yourself. Follow the road of denial if that’s what you want, and all I’ll say is more fool you and spare me the details.

Boy and I, had we known one another, would have become pals. Of that I’m certain. In any case, I thank him for writing one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in recent years.

Girls and boys, it’s time for me to go. Somewhat fittingly, I shall leave you with two musical numbers of the canine variety. The first, a song called Dog, played on the radio, totally appropriately, on a day during which I was reading A Dog’s Life. Damn good, it was written and recorded a few years ago by Charlie Parr, a not-at-all-famous singer-songwriter and guitar picker. Another singer-songwriter and guitar picker, the mega-famous Neil Young, also composed an ode to a dog. Dating from 1992, his Old King is an excellent companion to Parr’s work. Here they are. Thanks for your attention. Goodbye till next time!

137 thoughts on “Woman’s And Man’s Best Friend

  1. Janakay | YouMightAsWellRead December 13, 2021 / 7:23 pm

    How dare Mayle take credit for Boy’s work! Boy should sue.
    The fate of your childhood pets reminds me of my husband’s salt water aquarium. Poor sad little fish, swimming around today and belly-up tomorrow!
    Loved the music! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 13, 2021 / 10:17 pm

      Do you know if it’s even possible these days to buy fish for an aquarium? I can’t think of a single place that sells them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Janakay | YouMightAsWellRead December 13, 2021 / 10:27 pm

        It’s been awhile since Mr. Janakay’s ill-fated venture into fish world, so I don’t know if his sources are still around. Also, he was doing a salt water/reef tank thing, which was unbelievalby complicated, messy, expensive & futie — think tearing up large sums of money and throwing the fragments into the ocean!
        There was a huge and well known exotic fish/aquarium story in Randalstown Maryland (really a Baltimore suburb). He also did mail order, believe it or not, from a supplier in Knoxville, Tennessee, who paid some attention to enviromental concerns & sustainability.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Americaoncoffee December 19, 2021 / 7:30 am

    Hi Neil I love the little four-legged creatures but have never found time to read a book about them. I loved your captivating intro, and allude to the dog story. That was an awesome book review. I like your selected book. I believe that we can get along better with our pets if we read more books about them and, -watch movies about them too-. Best festive wishes to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 19, 2021 / 10:24 am

      Hi, AOC. I never expected to enjoy that book as much as I did. It’s a charmer. Best wishes and Happy New Year to you and yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ParentingIsFunny December 19, 2021 / 12:39 pm

    Looks like there are a couple of books I’ll have to add to my TBR. I feel like I’ve heard of both of these by this author, but I haven’t yet had the pleasure. I’m remedy that.
    Neil, I love your writing style. Bloody brilliant. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Debra December 21, 2021 / 10:15 am

    A fun read is Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs, by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Boylan is a transgendered woman who gives you insight into her life without ever being preachy or self-pitying. She’s just a funny, excellent writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 21, 2021 / 2:36 pm

      Hi Debra. Thanks for the recommendation. I never heard of her or the book before, I’m pretty sure.


  5. myeclecticcafe December 22, 2021 / 2:59 pm

    You might also enjoy The Boss Dog: A Story of Provence by food writer, MFK Fisher, or the dog stories in Sy Montgomery’s How to Be a Good Creature.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. alisendopf December 28, 2021 / 3:36 pm

    I am a lover of other people’s dogs. When I go for a walk, my main aim is to find that ONE DOG who is on a mission to be pet. Most of the dogs just want to get their exercise, smell stuff and pee every 50 feet. When I find that dog looking to be loved? It’s a thing of beauty. And their owner? They can just bloody well suck it up and wait for me and the dog to be done 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. stargazer December 29, 2021 / 3:28 pm

    It sounds like a lovely book! Personally, I am more of a cat person, but I think it’s because I grew up with a cat. In my adult life, I haven’t owned any pets. Too much of a commitment, when you travel a lot and work long hours. Surely, it’s never too late to get a dog though?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Silver Screenings January 9, 2022 / 9:54 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed Peter Mayle’s writing, and I didn’t realize he (er, his dog) had written this book. I’ll have to look for it at the library. Thanks for the heads up!

    Liked by 1 person

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