Peter Mayle surveys his territory from a new vantage point: the all-fours perspective of his dog Boy – a dog whose personality is made up of equal parts Boswell and Dr Johnson, Mencken and A. A. Milne.
Meet Boy, the dog – keen observer of human behaviour and witty chronicler of the joys and contradictions of modern life.
In 'A Dog's Life', Boy tells us his own story - that of a dog in Provence, who progresses from a puppyhood of abuse and abandonment to the good life with a writer and his wife. Witty and urbane, Boy engages us with his opinions and observations on the foibles and quirks of life with his two-footed companions.
On being forcibly groomed for the first time:
Traumatic is the only word to describe what happened next: drenched with water, smeared with soap, rinsed and soaped and rinsed again, and that was just the overture. There followed an interminable session with a miniature lawn mower, and then an attack by scissors, snipping away at ears, moustache, tail, and other sensitive regions. The final indignity was a dusting with powder that smelled like a mixture of Evening in Paris and weed killer... So that was toilettage, and as far as I'm concerned, it ranks with kennels, obedience classes, rectal thermometers, and supervised celibacy as one of man's great mistakes.
On crime and punishment, for which he later outlines the "seven gestures of appeasement" for offenders:
One lesson I've learned in life is that everything is negotiable. No crime, however foul, is beyond redemption. You can steal the Sunday lunch, shred books, bite off the heads of live chickens, and pretty much despoil to your heart's content as long as your conciliation technique is sound. It's known as plea bargaining, and it has allowed far worse villains than I to walk away unpunished, with scarcely a blot on their escutcheon. If you don't believe me, read the newspapers.
On the apparent cleanliness of cats:
There's a popular misconception - shamelessly encouraged, of course, by ostentatious displays of washing and licking and paws behind the ears - that the cat is one of nature's cleaner creations, odour-free and community-minded when it comes to waste disposal. This is bunk. Put a ripe old tomcat in an enclosed space, such as the garage, and you'll need to hold your breath. It's that bad.
On the aerobic benefit of playing with tennis balls:
I mentioned stairs earlier. These have the double attraction of noise and healthy physical exertion, in contrast to the visitors' usual program of elbow bending and free-weight training with knife and fork. The falling ball provides multiple bouncing sounds, and the retriever has to climb up the stairs to give it back to me. As any doctor will tell you, this is very beneficial for the legs and lungs.
In a house where dinner parties are frequent, guests include non-practicing painters and salesmen of wine, antique dealers and touring Americans, Boy tartly assesses them all. Mayle has uncovered here a lovable, unforgettable character in a wickedly funny book.
Edward Koren doubles the fun with 59 whimsical drawings.
You don't have to be a dog lover or Francophile to enjoy 'A Dog's Life', but it might help to be at least one of the two.
Read and enjoy!