I Have Heard You Calling In The Night by Thomas Healy

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I Have Heard You Calling In The Night by Thomas Healy

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Thomas Healy bought Martin the Dobermann pup on impulse but the dog was to change his life in more ways than one. It's the story of the redemptive power of love bettween man and animal. Recommended by The Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Granta Books
ISBN: 978-1862079106

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Thomas Healy grew up in Glasgow, back in the times when everyone knew of the Gorbals and what it stood for. He'd never been drawn to violence until one night in a pub he felt obliged to stand up to the local bully. With stark honesty he tells of how he became a drunk, a fighter known to the police and to the courts, a sometime writer and frequently unemployed. He was standing on the steep and slippery slope to nowhere when he bought a dog on impulse. This wasn't just any dog, but a Dobermann - a big, strong dog of the type which is normally only recommended for 'experienced owners'. This was Martin and he saved Thomas Healy's life.

Many people own dogs but only a small percentage will experience an absolute bond between a human and their dog. Despite having owned many dogs it has only happened to me once - with a German Shepherd cross rescue dog - but the bond is magical and all-consuming. Both dog and human know that they will do anything and everything for each other and it's the growth of this bond that Thomas Healy describes. It's not a book about owning a dog or about this particular dog but about the changes brought about within the man by Martin the Dobermann.

Before Martin, Healy had no sense of responsibility - or even anything or anyone to be responsible for. He was a bachelor living with his family and sometimes making enough money to spend in the local pubs, but when he wasn't it was no great problem. But Martin needed to be fed, walked and trained - it's to Healy's credit that he rose to the challenge and made himself responsible for Martin's wellbeing, although there were times when Martin looked after his owner.

If you're looking for a story about a dog or about Dobermanns then this isn't the book for you. If you're considering whether or not to get a dog then this might persuade you one way or the other, but what this book is really about is the redeeming power of the love between man and animal. It's about the strength that love gave which enabled the man to move on - even after Martin - and become something different - better, stronger. Martin was but an interlude, but he made the difference between life and death for Thomas Healy. Through Martin, Healy understood what was important.

I started reading the book one evening and I finished it in the early hours of the morning, with one of our Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs resting on my knee and the other across my feet. The style of writing is deceptively simple and makes for very easy reading, but it would be a hard person who wasn't moved by this memoir. I thought that my main interest would be in Martin the Dobermann but I was cheering Healy on as he came to terms with his drinking, as he looked after his dying mother and as he found some meaning in his life. When I started reading I thought that Healy's life was bleak: when I finished I knew that it was anything but.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending me this book.

If you like this book then you might also enjoy Hellfire and Herring by Christopher Rush which tells of his Scottish childhood, or Red Dog, a fictional account of a dog in Western Australia by Louis de Bernieres. You might also appreciate Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself by Julie Barton.

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Buy I Have Heard You Calling In The Night by Thomas Healy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Have Heard You Calling In The Night by Thomas Healy at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy I Have Heard You Calling In The Night by Thomas Healy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Have Heard You Calling In The Night by Thomas Healy at Amazon.com.


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Magda said:

I think I have some kind of defect here, but I find the sheer idea of this kind of bond - of love - between a human and an animal somehow blasphemous, disturbing, maybe even frightening. It's probably because it's so alien to me as I never even had a pet, never mind an animal friend.

Sue said:

I think you're missing a great deal, Magda. On those few occasions in my life when I've had to live without contact with animals I've found it most unsatisfying. Some of the most treasured relationships in my life have been with animals. I don't have that absolute bond with our Ridgebacks (my husband is their human) but their friendship is very precious.

darwing said:

I agree completely with the review above. Martin was the quiet, consistent presence in a turbulent life. He provided the grounding that the author needed in daily life to rise above his drinking and fighting. But this is a memoir in the truest sense, rather than a dog story. And the writing is rough, but eloquent in its roughness. I had just come off skimming "Marley and Me" which disappointed me in its cliched approach to the role that pets play in our lives (and in the writing). Thomas Healy's bare, brutal prose -- the passage on his meeting with the rabbi could be a short story in itself -- was just what I needed. As the owner of a shepherd-Doberman mix, I was especially interested in Martin's behavior but I wasn't let down that the book offered far more than that. This book is a gem.