what i read, what i thought

I have seen this book on the shelves for quite some time. Yet, I never reached for it. Not even to read through its little synopsis on the back. I have this thing against reading a book whenever everyone else is reading it and raving about it. There is no real justification for this behavior, it is just a part of my reading practice. But I am so glad I finally made my way to it. It was the best way to end my summer of non-school related reading. And, it truly warmed my heart.

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As a puppy mom, I admit to believing that my dogs, Buster and Bella, are special and unique. I admit that I have at times felt like they were humans reincarnated. That their eyes reflected a wise soul within and that they not only understood everything I was saying to them but that they also had the capacity to respond. Obviously not vocally, although sometimes they do bark, but through their gestures, touch, and cuddles. If I was not married to David, I would absolutely be a dog lady and I would take pride in it. Buster and Bella are members of my family not just family pets.  For this reason, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein truly resonated.

From the very first paragraph I was completely hooked. I devoured the novel and its story of Enzo and his family. It beautifully wove the life cycle of the dog, Enzo, into the fabric of the family.  Told from Enzo’s perspective, it created hilarious moments as Enzo explained what a dog does each day when owners leave, how dogs see their place in the family, and how this particular dog soaked up each life experience as a part of his education for the future when he would one day be reborn a human (as he saw on a TV documentary about ancient dogs in Mongolia). Dogs are observant, clever, and loyal. These beautiful qualities were reflected in Enzo. He was often present when no other human was for his owners. He watched Denny, his owner, go through life from a bachelor, to a married man, to a family man, to a man seeking solace and redemption after a series of heartbreaking events. But, Enzo is always there providing touching commentary, reflection, presence, and tons of comic relief.

One of my favorite moments from the novel is when Enzo is going to stay over night at a friend’s house as Denny will be away.  Denny tells Mike, the friend, to bring Enzo to the house to collect his things, in particular to get Enzo’s toy stuffed dog by asking Enzo, “Where is your dog?”  You see Enzo loves this stuffed dog, it is his best friend and he hides it during the day so that the little girl in the house, Zoe, doesn’t acclimate it into her own stuffed animal collection. It is a reflection that you could only hear from Enzo. From the human’s perspective, Enzo hiding the dog is a quirk but to Enzo it is a strategic tactic! Enzo’s narrative throughout the novel demonstrates love, fear, danger, redemption, courage, and, for me, he explained exactly what Buster and Bella must be thinking each and every day!

The end of the novel is inevitable. I read the last pages out loud while lying in bed with David. Our puppies slept quietly on the sheets between us as Enzo’s story concluded. Despite the tears I shed, I truly enjoyed the novel. It made me laugh and cry and it was a fantastic ride which in the end is exactly what racing in the rain is all about…

“He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave.”

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