Sight Hound
Pam Houston
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Sight Hound

Pam Houston
W.W. Norton
342 pages
January 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Dante is an Irish wolfhound with a remarkable spirit, a spiritual friend to his owner, Rae. When Dante loses a leg to cancer, he exhibits an almost Ghandi-like tolerance for pain, exquisitely sensitive to the emotions of his human. Dante has much work to do before he dies; his human must have someone to comfort her after he is gone. So Dante adapts, moving splendidly on the three remaining legs, but Rae watches his every move, eyes darkened by the anticipation of loss.

Each chapter of Sight Hound is written in the first-person voice of those who know Rae - lovers, confidants and friends who offer their own particular perspectives on the motivations of an ambitious, sensitive and talented young woman, her history complicated by fears and personal failings, the comfort of Eastern religions and an innate willingness to accept life‘s challenges with her best friend, the noble Dante, at her side. Even the pets, Dante, Rose and a cat, Stanley, have a few things to say.

Every time Rae falls in love, she believes this is the one, the man who will be her lifemate, only to see him leave. The faithful wolfhound is always there to soothe her broken heart and fill the empty spaces, his soulful eyes brimming with wisdom. Besides the men in her life, Rae enjoys a variety of friendships, an excellent income from her work as a playwright and a ranch in Denver, Colorado, where she can hide from the world and revitalize, enjoying her animals in God's country. Rae makes a career of her writing, traveling the world, exploring the vagaries of human behavior: “History is a starfish that grows an extra arm no matter how many times the original limb is severed.”

Through the passage of time and natural disasters, the wildfires that rage through Colorado threatening to decimate the landscape, the devastation of 9/11 and life’s inevitable ups and downs, Rae and her eclectic assortment of friends and pets move from one year to the next, all watching Dante, waiting for the inevitable. Life's lesson is on the ranch, where everything speaks to nature’s cycles of birth, death, rebirth. It is a land of many lessons, perhaps why Rae is so drawn to this country.

Dante’s unspoken mission is to help Rae through the paralyzing fear of his death, to accept love in all its forms and live each day in gratitude for the bounty she enjoys. Quite a task. But if any dog is up to it, Dante can pull off this assignment. When Rae inadvertently meets Howard, falls in love and marries him, Dante instinctively understands that they are finally on the right track.

Animals bring out the best in most people, fostering a capacity for affection and tenderness. Such is the case with Dante, for this is a love story, after all. The love of a woman for her dog and that dog for his owner, a love that sustains them through painful operations, transcending time and place to teach Rae and the other humans a vital lesson: love conquers fear. No question.

Click here for Luan Gaines' interview with Sight Hound author Pam Houston

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2005

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