I currently don’t have any pets, but I can understand the comfort that they bring to people. Growing up we always had at least two cats and no matter how down or ugly or horrible you were feeling they still wanted to spend time with you…sitting on your lap, sleeping on your pillow by your head, or (obnoxiously) sitting on your text book while you were trying to do your Algebra homework.
In A Three Dog Life, Abigail Thomas describes her life after her husband’s traumatic brain injury and how her dogs brought some comfort into her life. This is Thomas’s second memoir (I haven’t read her first one Safekeeping) and she has published works of fiction as well.
One day, Abigail’s husband, Rich, is struck by a car as he chases after their dog, who has gotten off the leash. Immediately after the accident, doctors pronounce that Rich’s chances of survival are slim. He does survive, but now has a traumatic brain injury which leaves him with short term memory issues and unable to live without 24 hour supervision. Abigail suffers from survivor’s guilt and wonders if she is a bad wife for not taking care of her husband herself at home. Abigail establishes her new life based on the new facts of Richard and her life. She finds comfort from her three dogs, her friends, her hobbies, and a newly found obsession with Outsider Art.
The accident was more than two years ago, and I still can’t get my mind around it. He is there and not there, he is my husband and not my husband. His thoughts seem to break apart and collide with each other, and I try not to think at all. On good days we sit outside. We don’t talk, we just sit very close together and hold hands. It feels like the old days, it feels like being married again. When I get home at night my dogs greet me, Rosie bounding as if on springs, Harry wiggling at my feet. Sometimes, I sit right down on the floor before taking off my coat.
A Three Dog Life is a memoir with a sad topic since it dealt with a man with a brain injury, but Thomas managed to write an uplifting book, about rebuilding her life and discovering an inner peace. The book was not overly sentimental and it is written in a straightforward, conversational style. I was expecting the book to be more focused on Rich’s brain injury and his resultant issues, but it was definitely more about how Abigail rebuilt her life after the tragedy. The book was more a collection of essays than a standard linear narrative. Thomas jumps backwards and forwards through time and hops from subject to subject.
One of my book clubs selected A Three Dog Life for our November discussion book based on it being included on the list of Indiebound Recommended Book Club Picks. Plus, one woman in our group works at a school for kids who’ve suffered from traumatic brain injuries so we thought she might be able to offer some insights for our discussion.
Several months ago I read another memoir by a woman who’s husband suffered a traumatic brain injury in a boating accident. I enjoyed that book, Where is the Mango Princess? as well. It told more of the behavioural and lifestyle changes that the author’s husband experienced after his injury.