Can wearing the family dog in a baby sling save a troubled marriage?
“Wearing the dog is ridiculous. An act of desperation. I know this….But there is the loneliness. How I startle awake in the dark, panicked, full of dread, floating on the night sea on a tiny raft surrounded by all that vast blackness.” Once-successful author Judy Vogel is beset by problems. Her writing’s dried up, her 13-year-old son is pulling away from her, her best friend is dying of cancer, her marriage is falling apart due to her husband’s extreme anxiety issues, and hers don’t seem much less serious. As the book opens, Judy and Gary are technically separated but still living in the same house. He addresses his condition with a low-stress job and weed; she finds her solace in a never-used BabyBjörn that turns up in the basement. In goes the family sheltie!—and suddenly, somehow it all doesn’t seem so bad. Zigman (Piece of Work, 2006, etc.) is adept at Where’d You Go Bernadette–style snarkery about her son’s progressive Montessori school, her own job writing posts for a health and happiness website—“Are dogs the ultimate antidepressant?”; “If just seeing the word cannabis makes you anxious, keep reading”—and a New Age creativity retreat the couple attend. But the central premise of the novel is a bit unsettling. When Judy first puts the dog in the sling, she’s aware that it wants to get out. Soon she convinces herself it’s nice in there. From that point on she pays so little attention to the actual dog that it could be a stuffed animal. She almost doesn’t seem to care about it as a pet or as a sentient being with needs. When she’s attacked by a group of people at the dog park who charge her with animal abuse, you wonder whose side you're on.
The author gamely combines characters and caricatures, real pain and farce.