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A Shared Life

by Rhoda Lerman

Pub Date: June 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8050-3746-2
Publisher: Henry Holt

 A highly romanticized account of life with six jumbo-size Newfoundland dogs and a litter of newborn Newfie pups, as told by longtime novelist Lerman (Animal Acts, 1994; God's Ear, 1989; etc.). ``This is a book about the dogs who look steadfastly into my eyes and move their lips in vowel shapes, speaking to me as I speak to them, because they want to be like me, because their life's work is not to be dog, but to be human,'' says Lerman on the opening page. And from this ardent perspective, she proceeds to recount the many details of her canine-oriented life of recent years. When one of her females, Molly, gives birth to six pups by a difficult cesarean section, Lerman and her husband take turns staying by her side night and day. The sights and smells of the whelping box are vividly recounted, as are Lerman's philosophical views--especially when she searches for meaning after one of the tiny pups dies. Other recurrent themes include Lerman's urgent desire to communicate with her dogs and to show them that she understands what they're thinking, as well as her wish to connect ``with the wonders of the natural world'' through her animals. Lerman's first and most beloved dog, Ben, the pack leader of the household, is struggling with cancer and, sadly, loses the battle by the end of the book. Lerman is extremely sensitive to his condition, and with good reason: Both she and her husband had been (successfully) treated for cancer. In addition to the day-to-day details of Newfie life, we learn of the efforts involved in teaching these dogs water-rescue work and preparing them for national competition. Though much of the book is overly subjective and intensely speculative, it should be of interest to Newfie lovers and devoted breeders; otherwise of limited appeal.