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Dog Years
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"Walking is an affirmation of physical life. We’re in the world, we’re breathing, we’re together. I move in a straight line, more or less, along the paths, and sometimes the dogs are right in front of me or beside me, but more often, they are threading around the path, padding in the woods or thickets or marsh on either side of me. I begin to conceive of us as one extended consciousness, reaching out in different directions, sensing, our bodies making a braided trail but our awareness overlapping. That helps, just now, when a self seems fragile, erasable. With the two of them, I’m joined to something else, perception expanded, not just stuck there in the world in my own bereft, perishable, limited body."

One of the lessons of Doty’s work is that dogs, with their poignantly shorter lives, function as placeholders for our reflections. They make time concrete rather than abstract, serving as “centers around which memory coheres.” It is likely that Beau and Arden will continue to serve this function not only for Doty, but for readers of this engaging and highly recommended book.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 41: Mar/Apr 2007
Andrea Walker is on the editorial staff of the New Yorker.

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