Gay author Robert Rodi wags a puptastic ‘tail’ with ‘Dogged Pursuit’
"Dogged Pursuit" by Robert Rodi, 2009, Hudson Street Press, $24.95, 274 pages
Dog lovers are a contradictory bunch. We bring home an adorable little bundle of fur called a puppy, aiming to make him a shining example of good citizenship. The applause would be deafening! Other dog owners will be envious! Little Pupsie would learn not to jump on people, not to burrow beneath anything embarrassing, and to never, ever climb on furniture.
And then he’s taught to jump, burrow and climb on furniture. It’s called "agility," and in "Dogged Pursuit," you’ll read about one man’s leap into a growing sport, and what it taught him about himself and his dog.
During a dinner party some years ago, Robert Rodi was telling fellow diners woeful tales of "raising a fiendishly intelligent, demonically driven Shetland sheepdog."
That was when Rodi learned about agility, a dog-and-human competition consisting of hurdles, tunnels, weaving poles, teeter-totters and platforms.
Rodi started working with his dog, Carmen, and she was quite good at it.
Unfortunately, she suffered a career-killing injury and had to be retired.
But agility was in Rodi’s blood now — he needed a new dog.
After applying online for other dogs in his Chicago area, Rodi found Dusty, a scruffy, funny-looking "cryptic blue" Sheltie available from a nearby rescue group. Although Dusty seemed to be almost indifferent to agility training, Rodi set out to make the pooch a pro.
Following agility classes, Rodi entered Dusty into competitions around Chicago, joining the All Fours agility group. The group was friendly enough, but Rodi felt uncomfortable, out of place, like he didn’t belong.
And although Dusty had won a few ribbons early on, he started acting as if he didn’t know what he was doing anymore and his scores were embarrassing to Rodi. Agility was turning out to be more irritation than enjoyment.
Willing to try anything for the elusive alphabet soup that follows a champion’s name, Rodi consulted his teammates. He hired a "dog whisperer" and tried aromatherapy for the both of them. He tried to keep positive and focused for Dusty’s sake.
Anyone who’s ever loved a dog knows that you can’t teach a dog something the dog doesn’t want to learn. When Rodi took a break — literally — everything leaped into place.
"Dogged Pursuit" is funny and sweet, a true dog-lover’s tale with one near-caveat: while it initially appears that author Robert Rodi sees Dusty as a means to an end, it quickly becomes obvious that he adores the pup. But while his readers are learning that, Rodi tells a story every dog owner has lived: that of trying to make a dog do something he won’t do for you, but is perfectly willing to do for someone else.
As the human mama to a long line of like-minded canine couch potatoes, I looked very forward to reading this book, and I’m happy to say it’s a tail-wagger.
If you’ve been jumping from book to book, in search of something good to read, get this one. "Dogged Pursuit" is the pick of the litter.
Stephan Pyles hosts his annual A Tasteful Pursuit fundraiser for the Share Our Strength charity fighting hunger on Sunday. And what a way to fight hunger: Tapping David Uygur of Lola, Sara Johannes of Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck (pictured), Bradford Thompson, Dan Yamaguchi and his own pastry chef, Arturo Romanillos, to cook for you. Tickets are $175, and the party gets underway Aug. 30 at 6 p.m.
Speaking of Five Sixty, the restaurant in the sky recently launched an omakase dinner option: A special six- or nine-course chef’s dinner prepared directly for you by executive sushi Hiroyuki Fujino — "Fuji" for short. Look for a review next month in Dallas Voice.
Choices, choices: The same night as A Tasteful Pursuit, Dali Wine Bar in One Arts Plaza hosts its Chef’s Wine Table Series with proprietor Paul Pinnell. Up to 10 guests get a four-course a la carte dinner — and must bring their own bottle of wine to share! (This month: Bring an Italian Brunello.) Reservations are required, and the cost is $60.
Nana’s monthly Friday Night Flight — three wines plus nibbles for $20 — alights on Sept. 4 with a trio of Italian vinos.
On Sept. 4, High Tech Happy Hour takes place at the recently re-launched La Calle Doce in Lakewood, which continues its tradition of Mexican-style seafood.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 28, 2009.