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Dog Years

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,624 ratings  ·  417 reviews
A Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year

Winner of the Israel Fishman-Stonewall Book Award for Nonfiction

"Tender and amusing. . . . Doty brilliantly captures the qualities that make dogs endearing." -- The New Yorker

When Mark Doty decides to adopt a dog as a companion for his dying partner, he brings home Beau, a large, malnourished golden retriever in need of lov
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by Harper
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  2,624 ratings  ·  417 reviews

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Diane Barnes
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit to being a cynic in most matters pertaining to humans and their motives. How can one not be these days? But not when it comes to dogs, because they truly have no agenda other than making their owners happy. I have two old Labrador Retrievers. Their dog hair drives me crazy, it is sometimes not convenient or pleasant to walk them, going out of town becomes difficult and expensive when you deal with dog-sitters, and life would be easier without them. But something would be missing, so I wi ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Koeeoaddi
Beautiful book. Surprising in many ways - the poetry of it; the poetry in it (a lot of Emily Dickinson). Wide-ranging, introspective: from the failure and futility of language as a way to understand another being (leave it to a poet to point out language's short-comings); to the power of love and art to keep us tethered and grounded and here, and to give us the meaning we need to stick around and to rise above grief and despair - the ever-present human condition.

(view spoiler)
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Melancholy dog lovers
This is really a book about endless heartbreaking loss, which sounds pretty depressing, and it is. But you can't have joy and love without loss. Since I have gotten my dog, this basic vulnerability seems more clear and poignant than ever. When you really give your heart to an animal, you know you are setting yourself up for loss in the long run, but the experience of giving and receiving unconditional love is so worth it. I'm a sucker for a great dog memoir, and this one is especially lovely.
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
It would be redundant to say this book is "poetic." Mark Doty illuminates every subject he touches with the duality of hope and despair, love and loss. He resides in a world of metaphor, and for that reason he cuts into the difficult, the unsayable, with a blade of revelation. This is so much more than a dog book. We're given glimpses of a human life that is woven into and around the lifetime of two dogs. The immediacy that demands, the simplicity of love at its most basic and wild.

He describes
Julie Ehlers
One of the best decisions I made this year, in reading and in life, was to get caught up on my Mark Doty. I five-starred three of his poetry collections in 2017, and then there's Dog Years, a memoir that's made its way onto my list of all-time favorites.

As its title might imply, Dog Years is a memoir about Mark Doty's life with his dogs. First there's Arden, a black lab he owns with his partner Wally. When Wally begins to fail from complications related to AIDS, Doty acquires another dog to chee
Peter Derk
Apr 30, 2009 rated it liked it
As someone who is not really a dog person, a dog book is a tough sell for me. I don't want to say that I don't give a shit when someone's dog dies. But to be honest, everyone's dog dies. Either the dog dies or the person dies, right? And unless a dog wrote a book about his owner dying (has anyone done that yet? The owner dying from the dog's perspective? Holy shit: Cha-ching!) it's gonna be the dog.

So what makes this one different?

Well, it's not just about these dogs. Yeah, there are two dogs. S
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ll confess right up front that I’m a great fan of Mark Doty’s poetry and memoirs. This memoir is wrapped around dogs for which Doty displays a deep understanding. Although he tips perilously close to assigning them human thoughts, he never steps over the line. He allows dogs their own particularly canine dignity, without trying to make them human or assign to them mysterious, otherworldly qualities. If you were as disgusted with the novel, Edgar Sawtelle, as I was, this is the book to restore ...more
Connie G
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Mark Doty adopted a second dog from a shelter when his partner, Wally, was dying of AIDS. The companionship of Arden, a black retriever, and Beau, a golden retriever, helped them both get through this difficult time. Later, he and his new partner, Paul, return the favor and give excellent care to the retrievers as they age.

The book is much more than just another dog story. Written in introspective poetic prose, Doty writes about love, relationships with both dogs and people, loss and grieving. T
'Nathan Burgoine
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbt, nonfiction
I rarely step into the world of the memoir unless I've met someone who inspires me to give it a shot. I heard Mark Doty speak at this year's Saints and Sinners in New Orleans, and nabbed this book immediately thereafter.

The book is clever - at first you believe you'll be reading "just" a story about the life of this one particular dog, but it's very quickly obvious that this dog, like all dogs, has woven his way into every part of the lives of his people, and the story widens and narrows in scop
Kristen Freiburger
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is about the dreaded trifecta: grief, loneliness and depression. I believe people who have suffered have a silent stream running through them. I can speak to someone and know immediately if their soul and heart have been scarred by unspeakable grief/loss. It's such a tricky conversation to start but one that needs to happen for the slow process of healing to begin. And important to note: when you come out, you will forever be altered. The author does a good job of ripping open the lid ...more
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007, biography
a beautiful memoir organized around the two retrievers in doty's life. doty is, by the way, one of the great contemporary american poets. this book contains everything that his best poems do: wit, humor, self-awareness, communal-awareness, philosophy, warmth, sorrow. i cannot recommend it highly enough. perhaps the great achievement of dog years is that it is emotional without being sentimental. it examines life and love without pretense or arrogance.
Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it
I didn't particularly enjoy this author's writing style, and he seemed to jump around a lot, but I kept reading because of his love for his dogs. When both of the dogs died, I cried each time, out of love for my dog, and for the he love he had for his dogs.
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
After reading an excerpt from the first chapter and the book's description I was so excited to read this book. I love dogs, I love memoirs, I loved the comparison the author made of telling people about your dreams to telling people about your pets.

I read the first 70 pages, a solid third, and I just couldn't stick with it. While I enjoyed the individual anecdotes, it was so meandering that I just couldn't get hooked. A quick story about his current dog followed by a tidbit about his childhood d
Patrick Santana
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
There's a nice wandering quality to this memoir. Mr Doty meanders over poems, death, Provincetown, animal traits, anything and everything that his path crosses in this meditation upon dogs and their meaning to him (and to us, collectively). His deepest thoughts settle around mortality -- and I found it a good read. There are insights here which come as no great revelation to me, as a fellow dog guardian, but still feel important to read, ponder, and absorb. And some of the chapters are plain fun ...more
Jul 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dog lovers
This book took me on something of an emotional rollercoaster ride. Doty seems to be at his best when he is focusing on the details of the lives of the two dogs he recounts here, and what it is to live with dogs who are getting older. The pace is fairly breezy, until he describes the end of both dogs' lives -- then it becomes so painstakingly detailed that I felt like I was there with Doty and the dog in question. To be read with kleenex nearby.
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the most beautiful memoirs I've ever read. Doty, a wonderful poet, clearly knows his way with words as he navigates grief, death, depression, the afterlife, language, and the illumination that comes from sharing one's life with dogs. Few books have intensified my desire for a dog as much as this one. Doty accomplishes it all without sappiness or excessive eloquence. He writes simply and beautifully and honestly. What more could one ask from a memoir?
This is just okay for me; I would rate it around a 2.5-2.75. As a dog person, I was expecting to enjoy this more. There are some tidbits that I found I could relate and some parts are moving, but sometimes the story is very disjointed. Also, I am listening to this on audio and the author probably should not be narrating the book; it may be more enjoyable in book form.
Dorianne Laux
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: booksread
Beautiful book, darkly lovely.
Feb 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved this...simply radiant from beginning to end. It was like reading one long, breathtakingly beautiful poem.
Jack Tomascak
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Don't judge a book by its cover," indeed. I originally strayed away from this despite having a fierce adoration for Doty's poems and essays. Hearing him in conversation with Eileen Myles at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in 2017 gave me pause to reconsider -- on the heels of Myles' own dog-oriented memoir they spoke about "dog books" as market category, being poets/writers shoehorned into these Marley And Me-esque color schemes and precious narratives about what dogs do for us. Approaching " ...more
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderfully moving story of a man and his love for all of the dogs who have passed through his life. Mr. Doty is a teacher of poetry and a poet by profession and his writing has a beautiful lyrical quality which I loved.

Mr. Doty wrote his very personal story in a way which really resonated with me. He put into words things that I've felt but could never express.He talks about the grief that he felt over the passing of his lifelong partner from AIDS, the death of their dog, Beau, who
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary. I am listening to it a second time. I was already a HUGE fan of Mark Doty's poetry, (and had the distinct pleasure of meeting him at a poetry conference in Florida where he charmed everyone he spoke to). But when I heard about this memoir, I knew I had to read it. It concerns the two dogs he had for sixteen years and their deaths. But do not be misled that this is some ordinary dog book. Mark, who lost his partner to AIDs (and wrote a memoir about it) does not deal with dogs in an ...more
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, favorites
So, I'm only on page 5 but this is beautiful. Mark Doty is a poet but he's written another memoir, Firebird and it's also beautiful. Already though, the dog-human relationship just reminds me of my mother and me - later in her life she was just all love.

Now far more into the book and it just gets more beautiful. Perhaps I can chalk it up to where I'm at in my life, emotionally, but I think this writing is empirically brilliant - Doty just has it down when it comes to naming things and describin
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who love poetry and dogs
This was a gem of a book.

Two dogs, Beau and Arden, form the skeleton of this book, which covers loss, depression, 9/11, poetry, love, drag queens doing Judy Garland, antidepressants, and resilience. Doty never lets go of the dogs, though, and takes a close, thoughtful, and lovely look at the uniqueness of our relationships with our dogs.

It never gets schmaltzy, but Doty can write about emotions without apology or irony. And he pokes at a question that intrigues me: What is it about our dogs th
Marilyn Matheny
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Exquisite. His powers of observation and ability to express them are stunning. He wrestles with grief in the way that one struck deeply by it must do. Why are we so unprepared for it? How does it change us? How do I go on?

He loses his lover after a long illness but is sustained by the presence and physicality of their 2 dogs. The death of these dogs as well leads him to dark psychological places. He is a poet and writes of the illness and the death of these two dogs as carefully and familiarly a
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
A friend told me to wait 3 months after the death of my beloved Chihuahua to read this book. I did and began the reading on the date of Corduroy's would have been 8th birthday.

What I enjoy about this book is that it is profoundly the experience of one man, and yet every person who loves a dog understand the depths of the grief and so it becomes so much more than the grief of one person. This memoir becomes a philosophical reflection on love and loss, the need for desire and despair and how we hu
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is so much more than just a reflection upon the meaning of dogs in our lives, which is a worthy subject in itself. As a poet, Doty is able to express what is most inexpressible about the nature of relationships between 2 beings - in this case man and dog - and he also delves into the deeper realms of what it means to be alive and connected to this world. I know I will return again to this book as there is so much more to absorb. Warning: keep a box of kleenex handy. Doty's willingness ...more
i truly was touched by this book. doty has beautiful passages not only about the beauty of a dog's simplicity, but about the ache of losing a long loved companion. there are so many great quotes from the book that i found myself dog-earing pages to go back and underline the words. i cried more than once and doty's words made me appreciate and look at my six furry companions in a new light. excellent.
Sep 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who love to laugh and cry
this book should only be read by those dog owners who love to cry as much as they love to laugh. it's really well written; even though i might have had to put it down for days at a time (because of the sadness) i could not just not finish it. it's reminded me to enjoy tessy as much as possible NOW, since the time will pass more quickly than humanly imaginable.
Robin Martin
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book and Mark Doty is a talented writer. It is simply a testimony to the importance of dogs in the world. My friend gave me this book after my canine companion died and told me I'd cry and cry when I read it, so I put it off- for 2 years! This is a lovely memoir. It is not sentimental. And only sad at all because it is so touching and truthful.
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Mark Doty is a poet, essayist, and memoirist. He is the author of ten books of poetry, including Deep Lane and Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the National Book Award. He lives in New York, New York.

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