Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: The Last Dog on the Hill, by Steve Duno

Ever have a single event change your life in a really profound way?  Steve Duno did.

He and his girlfriend were driving...well, from Point A to Point B.  They pulled over when they saw puppies in the "wilderness" on the side of the road, slightly marshalled over by a Rottweiler crunching down a deer that may or may not have been roadkill.  All of the puppies ran off up the hill, but Steve, on a whim, whistled.  And the last dog stopped and looked back.

Lou, the puppy, was a Rottweiler-German Shepherd mix.  Lou was a fantastic friggin' dog, the dog that you yearn for when you decide, "Hey, I'm going to get a dog."  He was smart, and intuitive, and taught Steve a whole lot.  

Steve, by the same toke, learned a whole lot about dogs really fast.  I really identify with him "as a character" (yes, he's a real person, but I don't know him, so he might as well be fictional).  Prior to getting Elka, I researched.  A lot.  I read a lot of books, and even as a kid, walked other peoples' dogs, whether they wanted to go or not. I've made great (I think) use of the Internet as an informational resource, a luxury Steve didn't have available to him in 1989, when Lou came into his life.  Still and all, he trained the heck out of Lou, both voice commands and hand signals, both "utilitarian" commands and "fun" ones.  

Eventually he got a job at a dog training facility, as a dog trainer, and he and Lou made a great team there.  I think Steve is also, at this point, certified as a behaviorist.  Reading his trials and tribulations with Lou (who had spectacularly destructive Separation Anxiety for a bit there) sounded rather familiar.  I sure would like to be a dog trainer, and perhaps get certified as a behaviorist.  It's one of those logical next step sort of things, in my head or not.  

Steve is a really good writer, and the narration of the book was fantastic.  Lou was a "real character", not just a dog who occasionally got somebody a beer to demonstrate that he was trained in...something (Stuart Woods, I'm looking at you).  And Lou was also just more than a dog Steve owned; they were partners, they were brothers, they worked together.  So, overall, a really neat and fresh read; no training advice, per se, as it really is a memoir, but you get a notion of Steve's training technique anyway.  A lot of the anecdotes are really funny, and the ending (as you  may have guessed by my use of past tense when discussing Lou) has the potential to make you bawl.  It certainly made me hug Elka (who was asleep on me at the time and exceedingly confused). 

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