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UVA Press 50th, 1963-2013

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Mr. and Mrs. Dog

Our Travels, Trials, Adventures, and Epiphanies

Donald McCaig

Cloth · 208 pp. · 6 x 9 · ISBN 9780813934501 · $22.95 · Apr 2013
Ebook · 208 pp. · ISBN 9780813934518 · $14.95 · Apr 2013
Paper · 208 pp. · 6 x 9 · ISBN 9780813935751 · $14.95 · Jan 2014

The New York Times–bestselling author Donald McCaig has established an expansive literary career, founded equally on books about working sheepdogs and the Civil War novels Jacob’s Ladder and Rhett Butler’s People, the official sequel to Gone with the Wind.

In his new book, Mr. and Mrs. Dog, McCaig draws on twenty-five years of experience raising sheepdogs to vividly describe his—and his dogs June and Luke’s—unlikely progress toward and participation in the World Sheepdog Trials in Wales.

McCaig engagingly chronicles the often grueling experience—through rain, snow, ice storms, and brain-numbing heat—of preparing and trialing Mrs. Dog, June, "a foxy lady in a slinky black-and-white peignoir," and Mr. Dog, Luke, "a plain worker—no flash to him." Along the way, he relays sage advice from his decades spent talking with America’s most renowned dog experts, from police-dog trainers to positive-training gurus.

As readers of McCaig’s novels will expect, Mr. and Mrs. Dog delivers far more than straightforward dog-training tips. Revealing an abiding love and respect for his dogs, McCaig unveils the life experiences that set him on the long road to the Welsh trial fields. Starting with memories of his first dog, Rascal, and their Montana roadtrip in a ’48 Dodge, McCaig leads us into his thirties, when he abandons his New York advertising career to move to a run-down Appalachian sheep farm in the least populous county in Virginia. This 1960s agrarian adventure ultimately brings McCaig, Luke, and June to the Olympics of sheepdog trials. In his narration of one man’s love for his dogs, McCaig offers a powerful portrayal of the connection between humans and their animal companions.

Reviews
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Donald McCaig is quite simply a great writer in this field, and his insight into animal and human nature is masterly.

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—James Herriot
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Donald McCaig is the Mark Twain of dog writers.

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—Patricia B. McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog
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Funny, instructive, and delightful to read! A combination of eloquent, touching, telling, and sometimes quirky observations. I read the book in a single day, unable to stop except when my dog needed to go for a walk.

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—Carol Lea Benjamin, author of Do Border Collies Dream of Sheep? and Mother Knows Best
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McCaig talks about his dogs in an amusing and affectionate way. While the author mentions that Luke is not the best sheepdog, his other attributes, such as being a good companion, make up for his lack of skills. The author provides plenty of information about dog habits and breeds, sheepdog competitions and coaching for them, as well as tidbits regarding the joys of having a dog (or multiple).

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—Kirkus
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McCaig's wry, down-to-earth tone expresses a kind of clear-eyed devotion. While he loves his dogs, readers will not find any cloying or precious sentiments here, but rather an interesting primer on dog training and sheepdog trials studded with shrewd philosophical insights into humankind's relationship with our oldest friend.

An informative and thought-provoking memoir about a trainer and his two border collies making their way to the world's championship for sheepdogs.

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—Shelf Awareness
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Happily, Mr. and Mrs. Dog is an exception to the ‘heartbreak rule’ about animal books.... By my count, this former advertising executive-turned-farmer has managed to bring out at least fifteen books while somehow keeping sheep in western Virginia, training dogs, and competing in far-flung sheepdog competitions.... Still, there’s more to Mr. and Mrs. Dog than just a series of qualifying competitions in the United States, followed by our human-canine trio’s adventures in Wales. Throughout, McCaig intersperses chapters on dog-training and on current, and competing, theories about how this should be done.

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—Washington Post
About the author

Donald McCaig, a New York Times–bestselling novelist, poet, and essayist, is the author of Nop's Trials, Nop's Hope, The Dog Wars, A Useful Dog (Virginia), Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men, Last Poems, and An American Homeplace (Virginia). A sheepdog trainer, he lives with his wife, Anne, and their nine dogs on a farm in the western mountains of Virginia.