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A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,573 ratings  ·  220 reviews
Steven Kotler was forty years old and facing an existential crisis—which made him not too different from just about every other middle-aged guy in Los Angeles. Then he met Joy, a woman devoted to the cause of canine rescue. "Love me, love my dogs," was her rule, and not having any better ideas, Steven took it to heart. Together with their pack of eight dogs—then fifteen do ...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2010)
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Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There are very few books that I finish actually speechless. Most of the time, in the course of reading, I make a few notes of things I want to be sure to include in the review. Not this one. This one swept me away so completely I could only read, I couldn't even think about the experience of reading, and reviewing was entirely out of the question.

Starkly, this book is the story of what happens to one man's life when, in his 40s, he realizes that his high-flying journalist life in LA just isn't c
Nov 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Actual rating: 3.5 stars.

A Goodreads friend recommended I read this book, and I must say I'm glad I did. Written by a professional writer and dog-lover, A Small Furry Prayer recounts the work of a husband and wife team of dog rescuers, a couple who adopt dogs slated for death at animal shelters in order to give them a last chance at rehabilitation and adoption, or at the very minimum a happy and loving home during their last months of life.

Interestingly, I recently finished The Evolution of Brun
Wow -- I've got a lot to say in this review, and it's hard to know where to start . . . I guess I should say first that I won this in a First Reads giveaway. Thanks!

I signed up for this giveaway on a whim -- I like animals (although I prefer horses to dogs), but a memoir about animal rescue wouldn't necessarily be my first choice. But the idea intrigued me, and I figured I'd just pass the book along to my sister when I'd finished it. Well, sorry, Q, you're going to have to pick up your own copy
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
I was recommended this book on Amazon when I was buying the book about what happened to the dogs in Michael Vick's horrible case. I had put both books on my shelf until I knew there would be a day where I could cry myself senseless and not have to worry about anyone seeing my puffy eyes. I pulled this book off of the shelf on a whim and decided to give it a go.

The stories that Steven Kotler tells about the actual dog rescue and how it started was great. I volunteer at a no-kill shelter, so I cou
Larry Strattner
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love dog books. I read all dog books. I read dog books from training books, to breed tomes, to stuff like Marley and Dog On It,(a good detective story by the way).

If you read dog books too this book is a must. It is the best mixture of story and science about, or related to, dogs I have read in a long time.

The author is a rescuer. He gets a lot of chiuauas at his rescue operation. If I never saw another chiuaua it would be too soon. In spite of this bias I loved the book and the dogs who dropp
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: real-life
I listened to A Small Furry Prayer on my commute back and forth to work. I'd find myself so engrossed in what was being said, that I'd realize 10 minutes had passed, and I had reached my destination!

Not only is this a story about dog rescue, but it's also the philosophy and scientific research behind animals, dogs in particular. I learned that the panting noise my Chihuahua Zuzu makes when she's playing with me, and that she joins in with me when I make the noise, is actually doggie laughter. I
Darcia Helle
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I laughed and cried. I didn't want it to end.

Kotler didn't set out to be a hero to unwanted dogs. That role came to him, first with a dog named Ahab, then with a woman who said that to love her meant loving her dogs. But this is more than a story about dogs. It's about a man finding his purpose through and with these dogs, about what it means to be human, about compassion and love and what's truly important in life. This book touched me all
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tear-stained the library copy. Having lost a dog this year ensured I'd cry reading this. Igor's story...I lost it. Lots of good sociology and biology and philosophy included.

Quote near the end: Hallucinogens then do the same job as religion - they provide proof of unity, which is still the only known cure for fear of death.
Ray Campbell
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
This is a beautiful book! Kotler is a writer who retires from modern life in order to rescue dogs with his wife. The book begins with the sort of sentimental reflections one would expect given the book title, but he quickly goes beyond into an unexpected spiritual journey.

Kotler is well read and writes well. He has done a ton of research on life, the universe and dogs. As he descends into the world of rescuing dogs, he ties his experiences to philosophy, psychology and spirituality. Kotler quot
Michelle Jones Urfer
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: animals
Okay, this book was just a little weird..... I wanted to hear more stories about the dogs, and instead had to read through a lot of the author's bizarre "meaning of life" thoughts......many of which were beyond strange..... "shape-shifting"? Really? I loved hearing about how he acquired many of the dogs - and I loved hearing about how they overcame of lot of fear issues w/ some of the dogs - and I cried when I read about those who didn't live to see their forever homes....but it was tough for me ...more
Laura Koerber
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually like dog rescue stories because they are all allike: sad dog in dire circumstances, sad human, human saves dog and thus saves him/her self. Read one, read them all.

This one is different. For one thing, it's funny. Also the suthor is a professional writer and it shows: very smooth, evocative. And he has lots to say on lots of subjects besides dogs: donkeys, trickster figures, the drug raid on the neighbor's house...

And he likes dogs, but likes them without sentimetality, as indivi
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Starts off as a great book about dog rescue and the "magic" that is the relationship between dogs and humans. Then becomes a book about the magic of shamanism and talking animals. (No, I'm not kidding.) When it's about dogs it's great; when pontificating about the connection between souls and the universe (or whatever) it's insufferable.
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Simply amazing. So much more than a dog book, this book is so well written and covers so many areas and topics, but all ties back into the dogs. Absolutely wonderful.
Aug 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
I expected this book to be more about dogs & rescue than all the weird ramblings it ended up being. I rarely don't finish a book but I gave up on this one. ...more
Shannon Rochester
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a book I chose because I am somewhat involved in dog rescue myself and if everything goes according to plan, I will one day have my own rescue here in Alabama. While we do have some great rescues, there are not nearly enough. I have only been volunteering for a year but what I have seen in that year has changed who I am to my very core. I guess I should start with MY dog I got from a shelter out here which brought me to the shelter I volunteer with. Hopefully she will be the face of our ...more
May 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
While the story itself was one that was entertaining and enlightening, most of the book wasn't necessarily about the story.

I suppose the title really gives away what the book will be about, but more emphasis should be placed on the "meaning of life" part, since that is what Steven Kotler focused on more.

The basic plot behind this book is that Steven and his girlfriend, Joy find themselves struggling financially when their landlord in LA decides to sell the property and evict them. The problem
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic. Probably one of the best books I've read in quite a while.

First off, it was not at all what I expected it to be. I was expecting, admittedly, without doing much research on the book first as I received it for free, a sappy story about a dog rescue, compiled mostly of stories of individual dogs. Although there is a component of that in this book, the larger part is comprised of an exploration into the science and philosophy of animal psychology and the human/animal bond.
Sep 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
I won this book in a First Reads giveaway, and I tried really hard to get into it, but I eventually gave up. I really wanted to read this book as I love reading books about how dogs and pets can change a person's life. But, after getting about 1/4 of the way through the book, I had had enough.

I loved the fact that the author and Joy take in so many dogs, but I just could not relate to either person/character. I couldn't get past the narrator's/author's arrogance and selfishness. He constantly co
Oct 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
I won this book on First Reads and, probably with this review, will never win another one! I must say I had a very difficult time with this book. I thought it was going to be different than it was. It ended up going on very diffent tangents, from rescue, gay animals to animal psychology, with very little focused in the nuances of animal rescue. It was simply all over the place. I thought it was poorly formed and written from someone who is a professional writer. Sorry.
Jane Petermeier
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you have always felt that humans have a deep connection to animals, and animals are connected to us and other animals, a connection that cannot be explained... read this book. Full of amazing facts, great theories and heartwarming stories. It's spiritual, educational and philosophical. There are Chapters that will leave you with a feeling of "Huh, really??" or perhaps..."how cool is that?"
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great collection of anecdotes about dogs interspersed with deep inquiry into big spiritual questions. It could well have been called "Zen And The Art of Dog Rescue Maintenance". I loved every moment of it, and I don't think I'll ever look at a dog in quite the same way ever again,
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
what a lovely book! if you love dogs, you should read this. if you know someone who loves dogs, you should read this. if you've ever wondered why people love dogs - read this! excellent!
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This writer is funny, informative and easy to read. He shared so much about himself as well as giving some great science references. It was the right mix of humor and serious information.
Gina Whitlock
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, at times, laughing at loud. I think Kotler is a great writer bringing you to his world filled with dogs, love, joy and pain.
Christy Cole
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, dog-cat-bird
I have been turning over and over again about how to write this review. To me, there were two books in one. One book is about the personal experiences of the couple with the dog rescue in northern Arizona and the other is related or not sometimes not of philosophy of religion and animal research.

The part that I enjoyed was the telling of Joy, Steven Kotler’s almost saint like wife and his relationship to her and the dogs. Both of them had chronic illnesses. She has Lupus and he has Lyme disease.
Michelle (In Libris Veritas)
As with the other ARCs I have reviewed please keep in mind that the page count and a few details I may mention may or may not be the same as the actual text. Now on to the review. I personally did not enjoy this book the way I had hoped. The author does have a talent for writing and his style is fluid, precise, and quick paced. However, I can't stand when people interrupt stories...especially if it's their own story. There were a lot of very interesting, cute, sad, and touching stories about the ...more
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Initially, even before receiving the book, I didn't think this was the type of book I'd normally read. I actually have allergies to animals and a phobia, I must admit. Also, I haven't grown up in a family that considered pets a priority in life. However, I choose to remain open and want to be able to gain new experiences in life, so I opted to choose this book and was fortunate enough to win a copy.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised! This author is certainly deep, creative, honest, and funny all i
Oct 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: dogs
At first the author's writing style annoyed me - it seemed glib, rushed, overly self-conscious. He kept brushing by intriguing ideas and leaving them after just a few paragraphs. After a while, however, I grew to appreciate his exploration of a wide variety of ideas. The section about biotic egalitarianism was especially interesting. And the portraits of individual dog personalities were vivid and winning. (The descriptions of local animal cruelty were difficult to read, though.)

I'm still annoye
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was a lovely surprise. Often times a book about dogs may veer, sometimes just slightly, into cheesy territory with no substance. I didn't know what to expect from this one and to be fair you rarely do know until you start reading such a book. I expected the memoir part of this book, of course, and found that thread to be interesting, honest, and insightful. What I didn't expect was to see the author's experiences alongside different insights, usually of a scientific nature. There I fou ...more
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All About Animals: A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life 12 25 Apr 19, 2015 12:12AM  

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Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and co-founder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include the non-fiction works "The Rise of Superman," "Abundance," "A Small Furry Prayer" "West of Jesus," and the novel "The Angle Quickest for Flight." His work has been translated into more than 30 languages. His articles have appeared in ...more

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“When people say that animal rescuers are crazy, what they really mean is that animal rescuers share a number of fundamental beliefs that makes them easy to marginalize. Among those is the belief that Rene Descartes was a jackass.” 34 likes
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