This is a good dog lover’s read, which may require the grabbing of a box of tissues before one reads to the inevitable end.
One of the strongest features of this book is that it is undoubtedly one hundred percent true. One knows that every incident happened just like that, without Stoffel being drawn into even plumping up the truth. We get a feel for exactly what it is like, not just living with a headstrong dog but one that has been severely damaged by past treatment. We can’t help but appreciate what a commitment any dog, let alone a Lance was. The sad thing is that, it is those that don’t appreciate animals that would most benefit from reading this book. In reality, most readers are going to be committed dog lovers who understand the sentient nature of the creatures. This is the sort of book that should be required reading for those planning on having a dog as a pet. Many of the manifest problems in Lance are extreme, but they are common to all dogs by degree. Collies, especially pure bred/inbred ones, quite plausibly because they are particularly intelligent dogs, are prone to psychotic behaviour.
I was drawn to remember the intelligently calm behaviour of George the sheepdog, in the closing years of a tough life, in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, as contrasted with George’s son, the over-excitable and scatty younger dog that may have been born with a touch of madness. In human terms, I believe we might say that the first ten years of Lance’s tough life left him with a containable but incurable schizophrenia, even if he was as potentially well-adjusted as George when he was born. Humans are no different. Once driven to madness there is often no road that leads to a full recovery. The author and his wife did all they could to give Lance a stable and loving home. I draw attention to this classic 19th Century book to demonstrate that
Chapter by chapter, this read is very entertaining. I am though critical of the quantity of repetition and back-peddling. There were too many times when the author seemed to be say, ‘Oh, that reminds me of something earlier’, and then proceeds to run back to an earlier point in the chronology. In the end, that is a minor criticism though temporarily distracting.
Stoffel’s writing style makes for easy reading. My overall thoughts on reaching the end were of pleasure in having been so well entertained. Of course, the story contains a lot of sadness when inevitably the end of the book was also the end of the line for Lance. I have little doubt that the author was changed more by their tight companionship than was ever the dog.