I had another surgery/procedure in January. It was minor but I did have to get it done at the hospital. While there, the nurse saw I was reading The Art of Racing in the Rain.
"I don't like those kinds of books," she said. "The dog always dies."
The dog did die. You knew he would from the beginning of the book. From the first page, in fact. But you kept reading, knowing you would fall for the dog who would die in the end, because the book was just that good.
Not long after I finished The Art of Racing in the Rain, I went into the library book store. I think I was there to find some books I could resell to Ziffit for a profit (check out how you can make money selling books). I saw a copy of the book sitting on a library cart. It had just been donated to the bookstore.
"How much?" I asked.
It was $2. I bought it.
Dogs die. It is terrible. It is horrible. I do not want to think about the day I will lose this cutie.
Yep. That's my dog. Her name is Asha. She's a Mini Goldendoodle and the love of my life.
Just because I hate the fact that dogs die doesn't mean I avoid dog books. I love them because they highlight the joys in life. They remind us that life is short (even shorter for dogs) and we should live every moment to the fullest. We should appreciate everything we have because not everyone has all that.
Most of all. Dog books remind us of one of the greatest gifts God gave mankind (after Jesus's death on the cross): dogs.
The Art of Racing in the Rain tells the story of Enzo from the point of view of Enzo. Enzo is a dog. In the book, he is some sort of lab-terrier cross with brown and white fur (though a retriever is pictured on the cover). The movie changes the breed of dog to a retriever though it changes little else.
Enzo is a racer at heart. I'm not talking about the dogs that race around the backyard or chase their tails. He is a race car drier. He feels he has the spirit of a human and if only he had opposable thumbs, he could have been a racecar driver. How do you know this, the story is written from inside Enzo's head. He tells you.
The author does a masterful job of making you think the dog is telling the story. There is some language in the book which would not make it appropriate for younger children (it is, by no means a middle-grade book). However, the language actually contributes to the characterization of Enzo. The author uses the occasional curse and the dog's description of things like body parts, kissing, and stuffed animals to help the reader feel as though they have entered a dog's mind. Some of these things would have been highly inappropriate was the author to tell the story from a man's perspective (ex. the way the dog describes breasts) but from the POV of the dog, it works really well. I found myself laughing more than once and was completely drawn into the story. I honestly wish I knew my own dog's thoughts the way I was able to read Enzo's thoughts.
The Art of Racing Through the Rain also tackles hard subjects. To avoid spoilers, I won't mention details but Enzo's owner struggles through a number of tough situations that many wouldn't have to go through. Problem after problem is thrown his way and he must find his way through. You see the dog's desire to comfort him and struggle to find a way to help. Both the owner's troubles (not necessarily the particular problems but the way he faces problem after problem), as well as Enzo's struggle to comfort him, are relatable. The author showed a character dealing with difficult times and his dog helping him through and to me, that was beautiful.
There is a movie made from this novel. The movie by the same title actually follows the storyline incredibly closely. While there are details missing as there would be with any book-to-movie transition (a book simply cannot fit into a 90 minute time period on screen), the most important aspects of the story were kept. There were only two significant changes.
Enzo's breed. The directors changed the dog's breed from a lab-terrier (who was definitely mentioned to have some brown in his coat) to a golden retriever. I honestly didn't blame them for this at all. As far as I can tell, the cover of the book has always had the head of a golden retriever or white lab on it. Plus, people love goldens!
SPOILER: There is a moment in the plot where the owner of the dog gets arrested. His wife has died and his parents-in-law are attempting to gain full custody of his daughter so the arrest puts him in a hard spot. In the movie, the arrest comes because he "assaults" the father-in-law. In the book, there is an arrest because he "sexually assaults" an underage cousin of his deceased wife. In reality, neither occurred. The father-in-law fell on his own after attacking the son. The young girl forced herself on him after he drove her home. He refused her. I felt the move the directors made to change this was good for the movie. It made it more appropriate for a wider audience while still keeping the general plot in place. SPOILER END
Overall, the book was excellent. I am glad I picked up my own copy because it is something I feel I would enjoy reading again and again. Heartwarming tales like this teach good lessons and remind us of the people (and animals) that we are blessed to have in our lives. If you need a reminder like that or just want to read a book about a dog (from a dog's point of view, no less), I'd encourage you to try The Art of Racing in the Rain.