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At the age of 36, Caroline Knapp, author of the acclaimed bestseller Drinking:A Love Story, found herself confronted with a monumental task: redefining her world. She had faced the loss of both her parents, given up a twenty-year relationship with alcohol, and, as she writes, "I was wandering around in a haze of uncertainty, blinking up at the biggest questions: Who am I without parents and without alcohol? How to form attachments, and where to find comfort, in the face of such daunting vulnerability?" An answer materialized in the most unlikely form: that of a dog. Eighteen months to the day after she quit drinking, Knapp stumbled upon an eight-week-old puppy at a local animal shelter, took her home, and named her Lucille. Now two years old, Lucille has become a central force in Knapp's life: "In her," she writes, "I have found solace, joy, a bridge to the world."
Caroline Knapp has been celebrated as much for her fresh insight into emotional and psychological issues as she has been for her gifts as a writer. In Pack of Two, she brings the same perception and talent to bear on the rich, complicated terrain of human-animal relationships. In addition to mining her own experience with Lucille, Knapp speaks to a wide variety of dog people--from animal behaviorists and psychologists to other owners whose dogs have deeply affected their lives--about this emotionally complex, sometimes daunting, often profoundly healing alliance. Throughout, she explores the shift in canine roles from working partners to intimate companions and looks, too, at how this new kinship, this wordless bond, becomes a template for what we most desire ourselves.
Following her bestselling memoir, Drinking: A Love Story, Knapp's account of her "mutual and unambiguous and exceptionally private" relationship with Lucille, a small German shepherd mix, illuminates beautifully how the dog's unconditional love filled the gaping hole in Knapp's emotional life after her parents died and she quit drinking. Drawing on charming but alpha-tough anecdotes from her own experience and those of her dog-loving friends (primarily single and female), Knapp describes with affectionate amusement the great, often expensive lengths to which owners go to insure that their pets are well trained and well balanced. As a pup, Lucille goes with Knapp to obedience school for education, to day care for baby-sitting and to play dates with other dogs for recreation. They visit dog psychics and therapists to explain mysterious, troubled behavior, and a canine behaviorist for a few weeks of discipline. Throughout, Knapp has a canny nose for emotional detail: "Living with a dog is like being followed around 24 hours a day by a mute psychoanalyst," Knapp writes. "Feelings float up from inside and attach themselves to the dog, who will not question their validity, or hold up your behavior to scrutiny, or challenge your perceptions." Lucille's arrival is followed by boyfriend Michael's departure, and Knapp intelligently plumbs criticism from outside the dog world that she and others "use their pets as surrogates, to retreat into the world of animals in order to bypass more problematic and complex human relationships." Anyone who loves dogs, and particularly prospective first-time owners, will delight in this exploration of man's (or in this case, woman's) best friend and of the "significant other" role a dog often plays in a one-person household. First serial to Glamour.