Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "Winterdance"

"Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod"
By Gary Paulsen
Copyright 1994
Harvest Books

I have a secret.  Truth be told, I'm kind of embarrassed to share it.  Frankly, some people will find it shocking, especially considering the fact that I live in what seems to be the dog ownership capital of the nation, but......I don't like dogs.  There.  I said it.  Let the hate mail begin. 

There are a myriad reasons for my discomfort around Fido.  Number one is the memory of when a cousin was severely mauled by a dog.  I was not there, but heard about it in horrifying detail from a third party (grateful that after much medical intervention she was okay). 

Number two would have to be the dog at the house by the Little Butte.  As a kid, I would sometimes ride by this house on the way to my friend's place and the dog would rush at me, barking like a crazed lunatic and nip at my heels as I would peddle and peddle as fast as I could to get away (growing up in the country has its drawbacks.  The fact that no one keeps their dog behind a fence is one of them).  My heart still starts racing as an adult when I go by that house.  In a car.  With the windows rolled up.

Number three is probably the time a client allowed his dog to bite me (it was obvious the dog was extremely agitated and the owner didn't make any effort to restrain it).  Very difficult position to be in, trying to be professional while screaming inside because of the gash ripped in my foot.

Other than that, it's just the normal stuff.  Don't like dogs pooping in my yard.  Don't like dog hair on my clothes.  Don't like dogs jumping all over me.  Don't like dogs drooling and schnozing all over me.  Yes, I am a coldhearted bee-otch for not liking dogs. 

That being said, someone who obviously doesn't know me well enough to know this little "secret" of mine, recommended a book to me: Winterdance by Gary Paulsen. 

This story of a man who likes to "run dogs" so decides to run the Iditarod in Alaska was definitely not in my normal genre of book, but it came so highly recommended I thought I'd give it a try.  And in fact, the entire concept of the story was so foreign to me it was difficult to grasp that it was autobiographical (yes, this ACTUALLY happened!) 

The author puts together a team of dogs that are constantly attacking him, biting him, and attacking each other all the while training to run the race.  They are not nice dogs.  The situations this guy finds himself in are utterly miserable.  And yet, he is somehow thrilled to be with the dogs and waxes eloquent for page after page about how wonderful an experience this is. 

So this guy is dragged by the dogs, skunked because of the dogs, sleep-deprived, starved, poverty-stricken......and the race hasn't even started.  And yet, none of it matters because of his obsession with the dogs.  It was a bizarre concept that I truly believe only a dog-lover can understand.  The guy gets enough donations together to get up to the race.  Once the author gets to the part describing the race, I was sort of numb to the graphic descriptions of dog bites, dog crap and the other unpleasantries he was faced with on a daily basis.  The race itself was a little more interesting, but the poor guy just keeps getting hit with one catastrophe after another (frostbite, hallucinations, chunks of ice floating away with people on them).  It's enough to make me wonder why anyone in the world would ever have any desire to run such a race.  But it takes all kinds, I suppose.

That being said, the story was somewhat well-written, straight-forward and detailed.  It kept my interest, but most of the time while reading it I felt a deep-seated horror that someone would actually put themselves through this experience on purpose.

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