Mystical Dogs – Jean Houston – December BBBR

Mystical Dogs: Animals as Guides to Our Inner Life
Jean Houston
Inner Ocean: 2002
208 pages

Well, it’s December again, and just about a year since the very first Bargain Bin Book Review. This month I decided to go a little easier on myself since I just plowed through Eliade’s Shamanism. This was a good choice, a pleasant book of mysticism and spirituality coupled with a variety of stories about dogs the author has shared her life with.

Houston has the usual Western/New Age view of enlightenment–not as a result of years of rigorous meditation, but as a series of realizations during everyday life. I’m not sure I really agree that what the New Age terms “enlightenment” is the same as the Eastern concept, but I do agree with her that dogs can indeed be excellent teachers through example. And in fact her stories are the highlight of this book. I read with joy each tale and anecdote surrounding an array of Airedales, a couple of mastiffs, an Akita and a German shepherd dog, among others. There were occasional moments of sadness in the stories, but for the most part this was an uplifting book.

After each story, the author elaborates on the mystical significance and lessons learned with each dog. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t find these sections to be quite so interesting as the stories. She tends to ramble some, and I found myself losing interest a number of times. However, it’s also entirely possible that I simply don’t mesh well with her ideas or her writing style; she’s a lot more concise when she’s telling a story.

Still, I do recommend this book as a heartwarming bit of light writing that may very well bring you to your own sense of peace. Whether you own a dog or simply the company of your friends’ furry companions, this book is a nice way of looking at the more positive aspects of dog ownership (as opposed to filling in holes in the yard, hiding claw marks on the door, and rescuing small creatures from overexuberant attempts to play).

Four pawprints (how appropriate) out of five.

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