I confess I approached this book with some misgivings. I am a dog lover, but having a dog as the subject of a book can sometimes render the account over-sentimental and unrealistic for my taste.
How wrong I was – Dogged Optimism is an accomplished, inspiring piece of writing that had me completely hooked from the first page to the unexpected and gratifying end.
The author relates the highs and lows of her life from the time she acquires an Australian Terrier, Killarney Karinya, a lively bundle of determination that is afraid of nothing. From the word go, Killarney is a magnet for trouble including some scary incidents involving some of Australia’s indigenous wildlife, which appears regularly in the author’s backyard.
Discovering the puppy gleefully eating a (now dead) venomous snake is not an isolated incident as Killarney takes the usual terrier reputation up several notches. Dog training sessions are hilarious and sound horribly familiar to anyone who has owned a tearaway that thinks even basic obedience is a waste of time.
The use of first-person, present tense is absolutely right for this narrative, and the events, which span more than a decade, unfold at a satisfying pace. There is plenty of wit and humour but also candid accounts of times when things don’t turn out too well – jobs, a relationship, serious illness – while this small dog continues to power through life with unswerving optimism. Because of this, and despite Killarney’s outlook on life resulting in some count-to-ten-first moments, the author develops an unexpected and special bond with her.
Dogged Optimism is not just ‘a book about a dog’ but also about attitudes to life. The pace never slows into anything that might be considered ‘preachy’ or sentimental, yet it still has a depth that made me think. This book is exactly what the title and subtitle say it is, and should find a wide and enthusiastic audience even among those who have never owned a dog.