The first truly personal story from Coren (Psychology/Univ. of British Columbia; The Modern Dog: How Dogs Have Changed People and Society and Improved Our Lives, 2009, etc.), an expert on human-dog interaction.
The author’s previous books have addressed how man’s best friend thinks, behaves, speaks and interprets, and why humans love them so much. This memoir follows suit with charming biographical history of his youth enriched by a variety of pets, all of whom played a large part in his emotional development. Though he’d been bitten by dogs before—and endured the painful rabies treatment required—his affinity for canines continued to prosper. Even as his psychology career began to dominate his free time, Coren remained dedicated to the dogs in his life. His training as a researcher, psychologist and dog enthusiast “unlocked for me a way of looking at canine behavior and human relationships with dogs.” The author’s early history soon yields to life with Joan, a mature, married student from one of his evening university psychology classes in Vancouver. As her abusive marriage dissolved and her romance with the author simmered, Joan, recognizing his love of dogs, purchased an oversized Cairn terrier resembling “a jumbo version of Toto.” As the “canine whirlwind” named Flint began the bonding process, Coren foreshadows an increasingly volatile relationship between Joan and the “effervescent” pet, who became more of an irritant than a companion to her, even after her marriage to the author. Coren notes that Flint’s particular terrier breed is notorious for disobedience, but the dog seemed amenable to the trial-and-error processes of house-training, socialization, obedience, “scent discrimination” and an exuberant stint on the dog-show circuit. Eventually, the author adopted and trained a new spaniel puppy, Wizard, who buffered Joan’s middle-aged angst and soothed the author's grief as Flint succumbed to old age.
A tender, charming portrait of a consummate canine connoisseur.