A journalist and lifelong dog lover attests to the joy and the emotional fallout behind animal-rescue work.
In the poignant preface, Kotler (West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief, 2006, etc.) movingly describes his psychologically exhaustion after the death of seven dogs in as many weeks at his New Mexico canine sanctuary, Rancho de Chihuahua. The altruistic author, who has battled Lyme disease, recounts his many years of selflessly caring for special-needs dogs (“the very old, the very sick, the really retarded”) with his wife, Joy, a fiercely devoted dog lover who spearheaded the effort. Kotler backtracks to early 2007 when he and Joy (then his girlfriend)—both writers, both broke—were unceremoniously booted out of their tiny Los Angeles home and immediately drove to Chimayo, N.M. Tucked in a dusty valley north of Santa Fe, Chimayo has a 60 percent poverty rate and is a regular target for federal drug raids. The region is also “the black tar heroin overdose capital” of America, a religious hotbed of miracle healings and supreme outlaw territory for “bikers and bandits and beatniks.” Amid isolation, uncertainty and overcrowding, it became home for Kotler, his wife and their amassed pack of rescues. Kotler lovingly describes pups like Gidget, rescued at barely two pounds; Ahab, formerly abused and harboring separation anxiety; Squirt, an obese “dachshund-pug hybrid”; and Salty, a “shell-shocked” three-pound Chihuahua with heartworm. Then there was Leo, a mangy pit bull who became the author’s first rescue in New Mexico, was euthanized before he could become adopted. In the strongest scenes, the book drives home the agony of pet loss. Kotler offers a touching account of Chihuahua adventures alongside interesting blurbs on the history of pet ownership, canine ethology, the semantics of the dog-adoption process, homosexuality in nature and the intricate science behind canine domestication.
A heartfelt example of humanitarianism at work.