OFF THE LEASH by Matthew Gilbert


A Year at the Dog Park
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The love story of a man, his new dog and the freedoms they both discovered through their relationship with each other.

Centered on Boston’s Amory Park, Boston Globe TV critic Gilbert takes readers into the thick of the dog world, where he and his yellow Lab, Toby, interacted with a variety of other dogs and their human handlers on a daily basis. Determined to train Toby to be an obedient dog, Gilbert writes, “[t]here, on the grass, I'd try to hold him back, to sober him up, to delay his play for just a second, and he'd fight my effort with every cell of forward energy in his irrational, hungry, impassioned body." Once released, Toby flew off as if he'd "seen heaven just ahead and would look up at me like I was a fool for not rushing there." More timid than Toby, Gilbert slowly eased into the fellowship of other dog lovers, mingling with women and old men alike, swapping stories and pondering the back stories of newcomers as he gradually fell in love with his dog-filled life. Gilbert explores many aspects of the dog-park environment, including the oftentimes-humiliating yet natural antics of the many varieties of dogs—e.g., humping, a hierarchal power play in action. Young dogs, old dogs, sick dogs, doggy toys, aggressive dogs and their owners, who refused to apologize for any fights, and humans who acted as ventriloquists for their dogs—all played a role in transforming Gilbert from a work-at-home critic, sheltered from the world by a screen, into a man devoted to his dog and his dog-loving friends.

A lightweight, humorous tale of a new dog owner and the friendships he formed at the dog park.

Pub Date: July 29th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-250-01422-1
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2014


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