Canine Metaphysics: Man’s Best Muse

Serendipity strikes again.  I stopped into my favorite small bookstore, Booktowne on Main Street in Manasquan, not realizing that there was an intimate book signing with the author, John Zeaman.  I had never met John before and, as there were no other patrons chatting with him at the time (it was shortly before he was planning on taking off)  I asked him if he minded if I browsed his book.

It was a polite query, the kind designed to be sensitive to the probability that I wasn’t going to buy the book, yet alone ask him to inscribe it.  After all, I’m not that partial to dogs in general stemming from a childhood experience during which I was mistaken by a dog for a tree, as she unceremoniously deposited a liquid tracer on my leg.  No matter, I’ve long since moved on to accepting that dogs can be wonderful companions, dating to biblical antiquity.  I lightened up enough to have a go at being a dog owner periodically though our track record wasn’t particularly good.  We did have one solid dog, Rusty, to whom our younger son Dan became quite attached.

Our older son Elliot was living in Richmond Hills, GA outside of Fort Stewart following his graduation from West Point, when he was deployed to Iraq.  His German Shepard Ajax was a great comfort dog to our daughter-in-law Heather and grandson Carson.  For a period of time when they moved in with us after welcoming Elliot back to US soil and re-locating to NJ, I learned to appreciate the dog’s warmth, loyalty and companionship.

It is these types of bonds that John Zeaman celebrates in his book, Dog Walks Man: A Six Legged Odyssey.  Using my old Evelyn Wood skills, I skimmed the book and was quickly drawn in.  John reviews art for the The Record newspaper in Bergen County, where I spend weekdays as an interlude from nature.  I’m savoring John’s prose like fine wine, but it is already living up to the full billing of my skim and of its liner notes.  The back jacket touts it as a humorous, thoughtful, absorbing narrative about the metaphysical joys of a simple daily task.  Which it is.  The inside jacket cover proclaims that ultimately Dog Walks Man is about a search for wholeness in an increasingly artificial world.  It is that, and more.

A pleasant surprise that I hadn’t noticed in the store was the lush line drawings adorning the inside of the front and back covers by John’s daughter, Claire.  As John and I chatted amiably, I decided to buy three copies, keeping one for myself and having him inscribe one of the the other copies to Elliot, Heather and Ajax, and the other to Dan, Sara and Jackson.  Though I haven’t walked Ajax or Jackson, I still have memories about being dragged around town by Rusty about which John’s book does a wonderful of conjuring.  As he packed up and said goodbye to the store owner, Rita, John inscribed a few more personalized copies for her.  He bid farewell, heading to the Manasquan Fisherman’s Conservation area for a visit to the Dog Beach.  I put that on my list of “to do”s when the boys and their families visit next summer.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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10 Responses to Canine Metaphysics: Man’s Best Muse

  1. Jay Press says:

    maybe you rnew friend John can tell me how I get those very annoying dogs around my block from barking all the time.
    drives me crazy when Im trying to fall asleep and many time in the early am b-fore Im ready to wake up……..
    so no… I wouldnt buy the book!

  2. Ruth Villeneuve says:

    I am a huge dog lover and love walking my dog as well. Thanks for this post and I will check out the book!

  3. Dr. Irwin B. Suchoff says:

    I too had a bad experience; during my early years we always had a dog. But on two occassions, while walking our dog, a stray decided to pick a fight. When I intervened, the stray though I was a dog and bit me on the wrist and leg. I had to have the bites cauterized, which was not pleasant. Consequently dogs have not been my best friends since. And here in suburban Atlanta we are one of the few families who do not have one.
    Interestingly, our daughter brought home a stray black cat, Jeter a few years ago. The thing is that he acts like a dog. When anyone comes into their home he meows, but more dog than cat like. The neat thing is that Jeter is a house animal so that he is not high maintenance.
    Len, I envy you because of your bookstore. In this area of the world the only book stores are the chains and not as charming as the little independent ones. I do miss them. Of course my Kindle further distances the old concept of book even further. But its a new world.
    Have a great Thanksgiving.

    • Yep, sometimes those dogs just act like animals! We too once had a cat who thought he was a dog to the point that when we took him for a walk we had to put him on a leash! Well, at least the world has one Jeter who’s not high maintenance (just kidding, Yankee fans). Yes, the small bookstore is a real luxury and a throwback – again, like Jeter. And this time I’m not kidding, Yankee fans. I actually bumped into a new, small non-chain bookstore Richmond Hill, GA, when my son lived there, in a new strip mall. I realize they’re going the way of the dinosaur, but perhaps they’ll make a comeback. Happy Thanksgiving to you and the family as well!

  4. Carol Scott says:

    Good idea for a Christmas present for my best friend who adopted a shelter dog who is now her constant companion. She looks forward to their daily walks. I always had a dog growing up-starting at the age of two, but once I got into OD school, I quickly realized that I wasn’t home enough to give my dog the attention she deserved (after finding she had chewed a hole in the armpit of my new down coat while I was at school). So-I found her a home with a family who had a farm and moved on to cats. I have had great cats ever since who don’t need to be walked and are fine being alone. Oh-they miss me and greet me and are very friendly to everyone they see (even those who don’t like cats-especially). Maybe if I ever retire-I’ll go get another dog and have dogs and cats! They do make life better!

    Carol

  5. Hey Len: It just so happens that a little Havanese named Simba has recently joined the family. It certainly was not my idea as I never had a dog growing up and was totally not into “Dog Maintainance” (if you get my drift). Well, as things usually go, Kim and my step son, Ryan, surprised me last July with this little Havanese puppy. At first I was sporting a fake smile but I really wanted to scream “Take the thing back!” I also had the huge question “Who is going to pick up the dog s@#$%^t?” repeatedly flashing through my head.
    Well, I had no choice in the matter as Kim kept telling me she needed an evening companion while I was at work. So now after picking up we we pads, teething on our family room furniture and walls, a zillion dollars in vet bills, dog toys, dog treats and all the other dog gadgets, I have grown to love this little thing. I must say, this little dog is always happy to see me and just wants to be around. It can be as simple as him laying on the couch while I read the newspaper. I truly understand why nursing homes often bring dogs in for the elderly to pet as they are so comforting to the soul.
    What can I say but I am a changed man!
    Of course, Kim has mentioned that Simba could use a companion with which I accompany that with “NO !@#$$%^ WAY!”

    Nothing but the best holidays to you and your family, Len.

    Jim

  6. Very well said, Jim. Thanks for sharing that, and the best to you and yours as well!

  7. sennayaswamy says:

    Thats really a good experience you have shared. Thank you for the post

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