This is the story of a family and their animal companions for thirty years. It is at one level about the Jack Russell terriers Ifrit, Bungee, and their own friends as well as the people who nominally owned them and other dogs as well. Alston Chase tells of his search for the immortality of dogs, what makes them special, and why we willingly give them our hearts knowing that someday they'll die and leave us bereft. The answer he finds, does not come through attempting to produce exact replicas of them through inbreeding, as professional breeders often do and which he sees as a form of genetic death, but in their embodiment of spirit over mortality. It is through the window of their brief lives that we glimpse eternity.
To speak of the spirit of the eternal for Chase is not to ignore the matter of the Earth itself, of land and the bonds forged between man and dog over thousands of years. Chase sees the threat to dogs and people in terms of the decline and in some cases the utter defeat of rural life as such. The rise of social forces supporting unbridled urbanization, and of dog breeders who see dogs as creatures to be judged by conformation rather than ability are dealt with frankly. At a time when dog "breeding" increasingly follows the whims of fashion, with attendant threats to the future of dogs, the work of Alston Chase is of major concern.
This book is an eloquent tribute to the dogs we love, and a reflection on mortality, the limitations of life, and the final triumph of the spirit. Rich in poetic citations, it can be read as an environmental cri de coeur, as a naturalistic appreciation of a world slowly dissolving, or as a deeply religious reminder that even if individual peoples and dogs perish, the idea of immortality does not. And that lesson, which dogs teach us daily, makes this book special to read and moving to feel.