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Dog is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship

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Dogs have been our muses, our mentors, and our playful and noble co-pilots. They’ve had a profound influence on us as healers and spiritual guides, and also as co-workers, helping to guide, hunt, herd, search, and rescue. Our bond with dogs is deep and unbreakable, and there’s no better source a reader can turn to for a richer understanding of that complex and wonderful relationship than The Bark.

The Bark began as a newsletter in Berkeley, California, that advocated for an off-leash area where dogs could cavort and play. Within a few years it had become a full-fledged, award-winning glossy magazine that published work by some of the best writers in America today. And as it grew, the magazine embraced a much larger canvas: to cover the emerging phenomenon of “dog culture” that has been developing over the past decade, as dogs have moved out of the backyard and into our homes, communities, and, indeed, the very center of our lives. As editor Claudia Kawczynska writes, “The implications of integrating another species into society’s daily fabric go well beyond how we nurture our dogs. It calls for a revamping of the standard etiquette—respecting the concerns and interests of society at large. This new relationship, along with an appreciation for our rich and unbounded future, comprises what we call dog culture. This is what The Bark set out to chronicle.”

Dog Is My Co-Pilot is an anthology of essays, short stories, and expert commentaries that explores every aspect of our life with dogs. Fifty percent of the material here has never been published before. The book is divided into four sections: Beginnings explores that first meeting, “the initial murmurings when a dog-human relationship is formed.” Pack investigates the theme of “togetherness” and pays tribute to the dynamic of multiple personalities in the canine-human relationship. Lessons examines what dogs teach us, from love to enlightenment. The final section, Passages, reflects on the themes of true friendship, transformation, and loss.

Included are pieces by Lynda Barry, Rick Bass, Maeve Brennan, Margaret Cho, Carolyn Chute, Alice Elliott Dark, Lama Surya Das, Pam Houston, Erica Jong, Tom Junod, Caroline Knapp, Donald McCaig, Nasdijj, Ann Patchett, Michael Paterniti, Charles Siebert, Alexandra Styron, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, and Alice Walker. In selections that are humorous, poignant, truthful, sometimes surprising, and frequently uplifting, Dog Is My Co-Pilot embraces the full experience of the world’s oldest friendship. For people who love great writing and, yes, great dogs, it’s a book to be both shared and treasured.

288 pages, Paperback

First published September 16, 2003

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5 stars
371 (36%)
4 stars
305 (30%)
3 stars
254 (25%)
2 stars
56 (5%)
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23 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Kathryn Parmeter.
32 reviews2 followers
October 31, 2008
Not to be disloyal to my core felinity or anything...I bought this collection for a friend who recently adopted a lab mix he named Sadie. Opened it to an essay by Alice Walker about her girl-dog Marley...and wept.

I am so thrilled to be on a planet that has Alice Walker...when she's on, I have literally never read more luminous prose nor witnessed such brilliance in pattern and rythm.

No idea how the rest will read but the first essay completely knocked me on my ass.

Also beautiful is when literary greats write about the relationships which sustain them...I am reminded of Kyoko Mori (sp?)'s reading at USF last year, the essay I'm anxiously trying to find but as far as I can tell has yet to be published, about her cat Oscar and the journey she took to manage imprinting his face on her neck when he died.

Holy crap! Words can be so shatteringly beautiful!
Profile Image for Rob.
750 reviews4 followers
January 5, 2012
A good collection of short essays on our relationships with dogs. I am a first time dog owner and she has changed my life. It was nice to read that I am not the only one who has such an intense bond with an animal. One or two of the essays were not up to the others but that is to be expected from any collection.
Profile Image for Abby.
1,396 reviews178 followers
September 21, 2014
A charming collection of literary essays about the relationships between dogs and their humans. I was especially taken with it because of its avoidance of the syrupy emotionality that often comes from animal stories. You know that when Maxine Kumin, Alice Walker, and Mark Doty are writing that it's not going to be sappy. These are beautiful stories, but stories that also insist on being taken seriously on their own merit.
Profile Image for Katie Wudel.
9 reviews6 followers
February 22, 2012
I always seem to review the imperfect books, never the no-holds-barred, near-perfect blow-outs. But this is a three due mostly to its being an anthology. 20% of the essays (Or short stories? Weird mix - sometimes I wasn't sure which I was reading, which I admit would've affected my perception of the pieces' strengths and weaknesses) could've easily been cut.

But there is simply so much loveliness to be found here. This is (rarely) a sappy, uber-sentimental bit of fluff. The writing here digs into the complicated nature of love itself, of loss, of disease, of parenthood, of singlehood, of loneliness, of the profound connection that comes without language. Despite its title, "Ten Things My Dog Taught Me That Made It Possible for Me to Get Married" is worth the price of admission alone. It's a rich, humble detailing of the humanity dogs can give us; of living in the moment; of escaping an abusive childhood not through shutting down, but through opening up.

Tom Junod, Lynda Barry (! a happy surprise to find her here !), Rick Bass, and many others provide beautiful contributions. We learn what it's like to be blind and first gaining access to a guide dog. Or being trapped alone in a cramped NYC apartment with just your dog on 9/11. Or how strange it is to make friends with people at a dog gathering spot (here, a cemetery in Portland) - the intense intimacy that can come when you recognize a person's face less easily than you do their dog's.

Plus, we learn that Erica Jong had dogs named Poochkin, Emily Doggerson, and Virginia Woof. What else is there to say? I'd tell you that even if you're not a dog person, you would totally dig this book, but that's probably not true. And honestly, I can hardly remember what it was like to not be a dog person, so you can't trust me anyway.
Profile Image for Kiri.
430 reviews9 followers
January 15, 2009
Holy cow. This book is astounding and incredibly moving. To me, anyway, because I am realizing that dog IS my copilot.

Finished it. As it is a collection of pieces by many different writers, some stood out for me, most notably the one about the Irish Wolfhound and the important rules for living he taught her that allowed her to have a happy marriage. Very moving tale. I skipped through a few of the chapters, laughed at a few of them, lingered here and there and even thought to look up other things by a few of the authors. The final story did make me cry, as the writer described the last minutes of his cane corso, struggling for breath and with the life going out of him.

A book for dog lovers.
466 reviews6 followers
January 5, 2013
There were honestly only a few stories in here that I actually enjoyed and those were by authors that I have read before. They started and ended kind of in the middle of a bigger story. A lot of the authors were really out there and abstract, not my kind of writing usually. Even the stories at the end about saying goodbye didn't evoke much emotional response from me and I am a crier when I read those types of stories. The book was super easy and if I had sat down and read it in decent stretches I could have finished it in 3 days or less. I was actually excited to read this book but was really disappointed by it.
25 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2009
A lovely collection of stories. I liked how balanced it was; there is such a wide range of meanings to loving one's dog, and this anthology ran the gamut of philosophies. While that meant some stories resonated with me far less than others, I also think it means there is something in here that should appeal to any dog lover. Same goes for the variety in writing styles, genres, and moods--some had me smiling for days, or made me rush to hug my own pups, the way they could put into words what I know I feel.
Profile Image for Liz Estrada.
312 reviews2 followers
January 1, 2022
Some stories were better than others but, on the whole, great read about how dogs just make ours lives better, funner and more joyful.
Profile Image for Rena Sherwood.
Author 3 books29 followers
October 22, 2016
The first and (in my opinion) best anthology book put out by The Bark magazine. They actually tracked down the guy first attributed to the expression "God is my co-pilot" and got permission from him to use "Dog is my Co-Pilot" as not only the title for this book but for the magazine's logo/manifesto.


I read this about ten years ago but I do not think there is an actual story about a flying dog. The co-pilot refers to life partner. A dog is seriously considered a guru in one memorable selection. On the other paw, another writer laments how she and her husband somehow became the penniless slaves of six manipulative Miniature Schnauzers. At times sentimental and at times snarky, this is a great read for a dog lover. (Although dogs may prefer to read about something other than dogs.)

123 reviews1 follower
April 21, 2014
I somehow found this book when looking for something to read which might articulate something about dogs, and having them in one's life. This search was prompted by the death of our dog, Rocky.

This book is a collection of essays and articles that were printed in the magazine "Bark".
The collection covers a broad array of subjects all related to dogs.

I found pretty much all of the articles to be informative, entertaining and reflective of some of the experiences my wife and I shared with having Rocky be part of our lives.

Reading this book did not necessarily make me feel better, although I did, and I was glad to have read the book for I have least found, once again, I am not alone in feeling what I feel about my dog and the loss I felt upon his death.

I think most people who have dogs, like dogs, and might be interested in what having a dog entails certainly would find value in this book.
Profile Image for Ellen.
282 reviews
January 18, 2017
I give this book a nice swell C rating. I liked the format, an anthology of stories from dog lovers, writers- so the stories are well written. Some stories were fabulous, and some were so-so. Maybe it is like the dogs we have in our lives. I love all the dogs that I shared time and space and TLC, but they are different, aren't they?

I guess I am sucker for the stories of redemption, like strays and pound pups, those are favorites. A funny one in particular is where a woman thinks the dog that "found them" is a reincarnation of an erstwhile scoundrel to whom she was once engaged. He dies from fall off a hayloft while having a roll in the hay with the town librarian. Ironically, he is such a sweet pup, she thinks he is trying to make it up to her and she has trouble bringing him to the vet to be spayed. Ultimately, though the hankering "Roscoe" has for the Chow down the street gets him hit by a car. Fortunately, he escapes injury but not the Vet. LOL.
Profile Image for David Jay.
565 reviews17 followers
August 11, 2011
I often have problems with short story collections. The quality of the writing can vary wildly from writer to writer, number one. And number two, I have issues with short stories in general. I like to get to know my characters and when I'm reading a short story, I feel like I'm just starting to get to know them and suddenly they're gone and the story is finished. I want more!

But this collection was wonderful. Just a group of almost uniformly wonderful writers, writing about dogs. Some really exceptional pieces, especially Pam Houston's "Ten Things My Dog Taught Me That Made It Possible for Me to Get Married" and Alice Elliott Dark's "Watch the Animals." Thanks for the gift, Penelope!!
Profile Image for Leslie.
523 reviews14 followers
July 5, 2018
Very enjoyable. Perfect summer read. Great for travelling, too.

This book introduced me to many authors and led to a year or more of reading via their connections. One author I particularly loved was Caroline Knapp, who wrote, Drinking: A Love Story and A Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs, both books are still with me. Caroline's best friend, Pulitzer Prize winning book critic Gail Caldwell wrote a book about their relationship, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship. I fell in love with both these women and their dogs and their writing. So many dog lovers in this book, so many good writers.
Profile Image for Ellen.
542 reviews
March 13, 2017
What a wonderful collection of essays, short stories and commentaries on our relationship with dogs. I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through the book, which is divided into four sections: Beginnings explores that first meeting, “the initial murmurings when a dog-human relationship is formed.” Pack investigates the theme of “togetherness” and pays tribute to the dynamic of multiple personalities in the canine-human relationship. Lessons examines what dogs teach us, from love to enlightenment. The final section, Passages, reflects on the themes of true friendship, transformation, and loss. My only complaint is that there weren't many beagles featured :)
Profile Image for Rachel.
18 reviews2 followers
May 30, 2007
Ok, so this book is pretty much just for dog lovers. It is a collection of essays, some really good, some not so good, most fairly good. It is from the editors of "The Bark" which I've read in Barnes and Noble though haven't gotten around to subscribing to. Overall, it's a fun read. If you are nuts about your pooch/es like me then you will enjoy it. If you keep your dog outside in a pen you will think all the essays are written by lunatics. If you don't have a dog or are cat crazy then you might just be sorta bored.
1 review
May 4, 2013
Loved it! Turns out, having a dog in the family creates universal experiences so special that they feel like a gift only you know about. I had to laugh at the nearly page-long description of that writer's list of nicknames for their dog. And I found it interesting that so many of the writers felt they had to admit it silly to have such love and admiration placed on their beloved dogs. I have never felt any embarrassment over my strong feelings towards my two furry loves and think we should rejoice in the connection to be had with this species.
Profile Image for Leigh.
23 reviews
September 8, 2016
I enjoyed this overall - it suffers from the same problem that many anthologies do in that the quality of writing varies greatly from story to story. Some of the pieces are good because of the content, some because of the writing, and some...just aren't good at all. A quick read (I finished it in an afternoon). If you don't love dogs, then this book isn't for you. And for the dog lovers, there are better books in this genre out there. All in all though, not bad. I certainly don't regret reading it at all.
Profile Image for Papalodge.
320 reviews1 follower
August 19, 2014
This anthology - (42 essays) had as you would expect a variety of experiences. Some were very insightful, humorous, sad, and a pleasure to read. I got the feeling, that animals, not being burdened with souls, are a blessing which we humans do not really deserve. You realize just how much, as usual, we take for granted. Co-Pilot is worth your taking time to read, even if you do not particularly care for animals. For the most part they are better company than many humans. Think, you can choose your friends but not your relatives.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
229 reviews6 followers
June 24, 2010
I thought the stories were uneven which is why I gave it 3 stars. Short essays by different writers by definition are uneven. On the whole I would say that the pieces I liked, I loved. Some were tender without being maudlin and some funny with out being snide. I don't have a dog but nonetheless this was an enjoyable read and gave insight into life and the love, comfort and companionship dogs offer to their humans.
15 reviews
May 31, 2011
I thought this anthology was pretty well put together, with its collections of short stories, essays, etc grouped into topics such as "Beginnings, Lessons, and Passages". This book is what it set out to be: a celebration of the "unique bond between humans and canines". It was not a super fast read for me because some of the stories are obviously better than others, but I did laugh, I did cry, and I did relate to much of what was shared in this book.
Profile Image for Greta.
824 reviews4 followers
February 22, 2015
Dogs are more loved in the pages of this book than I thought possible, and I adore our three dogs, all the dogs that came before these three and those that will share our home in the future. My favorite story is by Bonnie Jo Campbell who experiences the reincarnation of a unfaithful old boyfriend in the presence of her mutt Roscoe. "...he had a habit of rolling onto his back and opening his legs in a way that reminded me ... of my old finance."
1 review
Currently reading
November 15, 2009
I'm loving most of the stories in the book. It's about dogs after all, my second favorite beings in the world next to Wolves! It contains a story each by two of my favorite writers: Pam Houston, and Caroliine Knapp, and a slew of other famous writers who write mainly humorous and heart tugging stories of our best friend, family member, and companion
Profile Image for Michelle Winters.
442 reviews12 followers
September 15, 2007
Some GREAT stories. A few I wasn't that keen on but really liked most. Had to say I wasn't happy with the woman who who wrote a story about her dog Sheila...who she got after losing another female of the same breed, ALSO named Sheila!!! That too weird to name the new dog after the dead one!!!
Profile Image for Peppermintlisa.
62 reviews
November 4, 2007
I expected more out of this book, which was compiled by editors of BARK! magazine. I only ended up reading half the essays because they all skewed "emotional reflections on owning a dog" instead of interesting anecdotal stories like one might find on NPR.
Profile Image for Brigette.
82 reviews
November 9, 2007
If you love dogs, you'll enjoy this book. Some of the pieces are less than great, but the good ones are really good. Made me laugh out loud a couple of times, and that was worth the price of the book.
Profile Image for Jan.
1,878 reviews79 followers
April 10, 2008
A nice little collection of short stories all about how much people love/need/cherish their pets. Having had a love affair with several canines over my lifetime, I enjoyed the stories and know that there are people out there who are crazier than I am.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
707 reviews14 followers
January 14, 2009
I love dogs, and so I loved this book. This is a neat collection of short essays written by the famous and not-so-famous, on the subject of their dogs. The short story format makes this extremely readable during busy seasons like the holidays.
Profile Image for Nancy.
116 reviews7 followers
July 15, 2010
Oh...I just loved this book. Heartfelt and well-written, each story was a miracle of love. My favorite story was about the seeing-eye dog. I laughed and cried through these tales. Dog lovers, unite in reading about our beloved best buddies.
Profile Image for Leslie.
95 reviews9 followers
February 5, 2010
A nice view of the world of those of us that call ourselves "dog-people." Some of the short stories were funny, some sad, some well-written, some not so much. But overall, a quick and easy read that will make you smile.
Profile Image for Gypsy Lady.
354 reviews1 follower
Want to read
July 25, 2010
ref Ann Patchett's great Reads

"Dog Is My Co-Pilot embraces the full experience of the world’s oldest friendship. For people who love great writing and, yes, great dogs, it’s a book to be both shared and treasured.
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