cover image What Is a Dog?: A Memoir

What Is a Dog?: A Memoir

Chloe Shaw. Flatiron, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-250-21074-6

Shaw debuts with a beautiful paean to dogs in this touching memoir recounting the canines who changed her life. When she and her husband Matt put their 15-year-old wolfdog Booker to sleep in 2015, she reckoned with the fact that “I’ve always felt safest, among the soft, oystered muzzles of dogs.” After a year of mourning with her family, she decided to spend a week in what she refers to as the “Dog House”—alone with her two cats and two dogs, “where I can be less human for a while, more beast”—while her husband and kids went on vacation. In heartbreaking, lyrical prose, she meditates on the dogs “that shepherded me into adulthood,” motherhood, and her decade of “hard-earned” marriage. Her first dog, an Afghan hound named Easy, was considered less a pet than a sibling to Shaw, who grew up an only child. When Easy died early of cancer, her family cycled through dogs, including two terriers named Agatha. However, Shaw’s story never strays far from Booker and his “lion-sized heart,” and the ways he taught her bravery and strength in the face of great loss. “He was my baby-dog-nonhuman-person-wolf. We were, every one of us in that house, in love.” Dog lovers, take note and grab some tissues. (July)