by Pamela Dickson
Selected for me by random.org, this is another book I probably wouldn't have read for a long time. It's one I picked up a book sale somewhere, just because I liked the looks of it.
Noble Friends is a memoir of sorts, about the life and work of Pamela Dickson, owner of Fursman Kennels. It tells of her childhood on an English farm, her love of all animals particularly horses and dogs. She poured her love into a runt pig she raised by hand, her first childhood pony and the family dogs. When she was sixteen she helped her father run a riding school, then a boarding kennel. Later she moved by herself to America where she made her way across the country working for various stables and got involved for a time in harness racing. She bought a German Shepherd puppy, whom she trained with particular patience and love. The dog learned quickly to perform amazing feats of agility and intelligence, from jumping through hoops and crawling through obstacles to play-acting and identifying colors. Proud of her dog's accomplishments, Mrs. Dickson took him to perform for groups of children and the elderly in nursing homes. She bought some derelict property in Virginia and built her own kennels from the ground up, doing most of the work herself and turning it into a beautiful facility that attracted customers from all over the area. Curiously, at the end of the book there is one chapter told in a more storylike format, form the viewpoint of a dog who stays at the kennel. He describes his anxiety, the care and friendliness of the staff, how everything is kept spotlessly clean, how he watches the comings and goings of different dogs and their owners (mostly wealthy clientele; some dogs were delivered to the kennel by their master's maids chauffeured in a limo!)
It was unclear at first, to me, why the dog Rocky was so famous and admired, in spite of his incredible obedience skills I didn't quite see what all the fuss was about him. It wasn't until I visited the kennel site and read more about him (and his successors) that I learned Dickson was "a pioneer in the field of pet therapy." The idea of pet therapy is so familiar nowadays it was hard for me to remember I was reading the account of someone using it for the first time. I was also surprised to learn near the end of the book that the setting in Virginia was very close to where I live now, out in the beautiful countryside only a half-hour away. I was curious them, to read more because it was so local. Despite all this, the book left me rather unmoved. It's a nice memoir, well-enough written, and all the photos are stunning. The book is beautifully bound, with heavy, glossy pages. But I can't help feeling it won't appeal to many readers unless you know the author personally or have used her kennels. Then I'm sure you'll find it a treasure.
Rating: 2/5 ........ 215 pages, 1996