James Herriot’s Dog Stories (Magill Book Reviews)
The stories in this collection are twice-told tales, all but three having originally appeared in Herriot’s tetralogy ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1972), ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL (1974), ALL THINGS WISE AND WONDERFUL (1977), and THE LORD GOD MADE THEM ALL (1981); the other three have been published in Britain but not in the United States. To each of these anecdotes, Herriot has added a short afterward, and illustrator Victor Ambrus has supplied a series of attractive sketches. Also new is the introduction, in which Herriot reminisces fondly about the dogs he has owned over the years.
Dogs have played an important role in Herriot’s life. He had originally intended to be a small-animal veterinarian, but, after securing his degree, he found himself working in a farming community where most of the practice involved nothing smaller than a calf. Nevertheless, he demonstrated his competence to his future wife, Helen Alderson, when he reduced her dog’s dislocated hip; then the difficult whelping of Bert Chapman’s Susie provided his first opportunity to be alone with Helen.
The stories reveal the importance of dogs in others’ lives as well. Mrs. Ridge is delighted when her automobile is stolen because as the thieves drive away her dog barks, thus showing that he is recovering from a near-fatal accident. Andrew Vine would have killed himself had he not had Digger to care for. Ten-year-old Wesley Binks abandons his delinquent life when he acquires a dog.
Some of these stories, such as the account of the pampered Tricki Woo, will raise a laugh. Others will draw a tear, for even Herriot’s best efforts do not always save his patients. Herriot tells his stories well, limning his characters--two-footed and four-footed--precisely and lovingly. For those who have not yet encountered the tales, a pleasant treat awaits them here. As a certain prescription for enjoyment, take one story each night before bedtime.