Wolf and Wildlife Studies

Timber - A Perfect Life

Book Review, by Bruce Johanson, July 16, 2008
The story of Timber will appeal to all animal lovers among our readers. Written by Jay S. Mallonee, a research biologist who is engaged in the study of wolves, Mr. Mallonee has taken great pains to discuss, in quite some detail, his time spent with a dog who came to him as an abused pup and was with him for 16 years.

The story of Timber, the name given to his pet by Mallonee, describes the dog's propensity to eat rocks, a self-destructive activity that required the surgical intervention of a veterinarian several times in the first seven years of Timber's life.

Mallonee describes the abnormal behavior of his pet but comes across as a true believer in addressing specific problems. Too often we see folks take on an animal and when faced with a challenge or what they see as misbehavior, they will discard or abandon the pet rather than working things out. Mallonee makes it clear that pets, especially dogs, are individuals with individual hang-ups and problems that can be coped and solved by a little sensitivity and understanding.

Timber, a part Australian shepherd-greyhound mix, is a part of Mallonee's life outlasting several human relationships and girlfriends, and is his constant companion, even when he is teaching, not only in the field, but in the classroom.

Quoting from the rear cover of this paperback book itself, "Timber - A Perfect Life is a powerful and emotionally-gripping account of the sixteen year relationship of author Jay S. Mallonee and his dog Timber. As they found out together, the affects of abuse can last a lifetime. After only nine weeks of life, Mallonee became her third owner. Previous owners had tied her to trees and beat her which resulted in emotional problems, such as consuming rocks to relieve her constant anxiety."

Through its 236 pages, Mallonee's account of his time working out his pet's problems leads them into a closeness that is seldom experienced between owners and their pets. The story becomes especially wrenching in the last chapters when Mallonee describes the last months of Timber's life. Age as well as bone cancer finally brings an end to the relationship. Mallonee, working with a veterinarian, euthanizes his dog-companion himself.

For those who have lost a pet to whom they were strongly attached, Timber - A Perfect Life will provide a good reading experience and some comfort. As Mallonee writes in a memo to his departed dog, "Death has not severed our bond, and instead has served to transform our previous existence into the metaphysics of memory, where we can do as we wish." These are strong words of comfort for anyone who has lost a loved pet from a person who has gone through the agony of having to make the decision to put one down.


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