At first glance, a book about walking the dog might not sound very exciting. But, as a person who has written about dogs extensively and who has blogged about dog walking, I was intrigued. I picked up a copy, started reading, and was entranced.
Dog Walks Man: A Six-Legged Odyssey, by John Zeaman, is delightful! A collection of essays that is part memoir, part philosophy, and part social commentary, it has something to appeal to everyone. Zeaman, an art critic, has a warm writing style and a wry humor that makes a topic as ordinary as dog-walking almost poetic. I found myself nodding in agreement frequently and laughing out loud more than once.
Though he initially regarded the daily walks with his young standard poodle, Pete, as a chore, Zeaman describes the evolution of his attitude toward their nightly outings. I am sure that many dog owners can identify with his descriptions, and, I hope, with his ultimate realization that dog-walking provides access to pleasures that the dog-deprived miss. While there are certainly times that “having to” walk the dog feels burdensome, I find Jana’s and my morning walk-and-greet (I live in a neighborhood with many regular morning walkers, some accompanied by dogs, others there to admire my dog — that’s her take on it, anyhow) a genuine pleasure.
The fact that I agree with Zeaman’s view that dog-walkers should be in the moment, focused on the dog and the walk — not talking on their cell phones, shepherding children, and doing their errands at the same time — naturally added to my enjoyment of the book. But Zeaman’s philosophizing extends beyond a description of the ways that a daily walk enhances his relationship with his dog — he touches on people’s connections with nature, community relations, solitude and friendship, family dynamics, and the joys and responsibilities of dog ownership.
Anyone who has ever walked a dog will find something in this book that evokes a smile and a warm memory. And for readers who don’t have dogs? You’ll find out what you’re missing!