SHAWNO by George Dennison


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Vignettes--some sharp or poetic, some just sentimental--from the middle-aged narrator's relationship with beloved dog Shawno, ""the handsomest of dogs, muscular and large, with tufted, golden fur."" The opening sequence of this small book is its best--as the narrator walks at dawn from a friend's house to his own rural home, passing through a four-mile ""corridor of dogs"": chained to trees or porches, barking in raucous chorus. . . in contrast to the free-running Shawno, who welcomes the narrator home ecstatically. (""And as sometimes happens in such early morning solitudes. . . I almost spoke aloud to my dog: how much it matters to be alive together! how marvelous and brief our lives are! and how good it is, dear one that you are, to have the wonderful strange passion of your spirit in my life!"") The narrator then recalls early days in the city with Shawno as a pup--""smitten with the human race,"" especially devoted to the narrator's little daughter Ida (from a third marriage). He remembers the move to the country, where Shawno proved himself a survival-of-the-fittest fighter. (""It was as if I had been made larger and stronger by his power. . . ."") And, after a few neighborhood anecdotes involving the limitations of human nature, Shawno is felled. . . by a careless hunter's bullet. Familiar, ideal-dog sentiments, then--but Dennison (The Lives of Children, Oilers and Sweepers) textures the romanticized joy and woe with evocative nature-writing and an occasional haunting image.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Schocken