The Way of the Dog
Eros the metaphysical dog is at the center of what Eva Ann MacDonnell’s fictional memoir The Way of the Dog, giving us a tale of man’s best friend told through the eyes of the creature itself. It’s a bold choice by MacDonnell, as maintaining not just point of view but also a tone that steers clear of silliness is difficult. MacDonnell’s story may, at first, appear meant for children in its similarities to films such as Babe, but it is only superficially so. As the pup Eros grows, readers experience spiritual, intellectual, and emotional development rather like a bildungsroman. The novel mixes allegory with a light satire many readers will find intriguing (for example, a barnyard filled with pigs embodying the Greek pantheon) and conveys not only nurturing but intellectual empathy. In this way, MacDonnell’s prose moves beyond her subject and its story to become an experience for the reader.
The novel revels in the bonds made across species, and, in so reveling, the author inserts a deep ethical awareness. The “way of the dog” of the title is a path of forgiveness, specifically of humans, dogs must learn and follow to best allow themselves and their human companions to advance toward paradise. While forgiveness of humanity is a means of survival, the “way of the dog” also involves the search for happiness. Eros’s mentor and mother, Skylark, explains, “You cannot be happy if you are not joyful about something. When you find this joy, happiness, grace, and virtue will follow. The way of the dog is to find this joy everyday and to never give up this search.” In this way, MacDonnell creates a fascinating canine cosmology possessed of arguably the kindest and most selfless tenets from every major religion. Her novel joins a tradition of spiritual literature in which animals are used to express, play out, and explore metaphysical concepts.
Dog lovers will certainly find the story of Eros growing up and experiencing the world an excellent tale to tell children because it encourages them to have equal and empathetic relationships with not just dogs but all animals. Yet The Way of the Dog is more than this, as adults will find numerous scenes in which their received knowledge is challenged. The strength of MacDonnell’s prose is in how it challenges prejudices and presuppositions—quietly and patiently—through her animal characters without giving itself over to vagaries or preachiness. Such an allegory serves as spiritually uplifting as well as comforting literature.
|Author||Eva A. MacDonnell|
|Page Count||212 pages|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|