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‘The Dogs and I’ by Kenny Salwey

A great read for outdoorsmen and dog lovers

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You have a teen who loves the great outdoors.

He doesn’t know any better place for relaxing with a shady tree as his easy chair, birds songs as his music, and his dog nearby.

In fact, he does everything with his furry best friend: hunting, fishing, exploring, observing. In the new book “The Dogs and I” by Kenny Salwey, he’ll see that man + dog + outdoors = a pretty good life.

When Kenny Salwey was 4 years old, he met Brownie, who knocked him to the ground and “thoroughly washed my face, which no doubt needed it anyway.” That was the first dog Salwey remembers loving, but Brownie was far from the last.

Rover was 6-year-old Salwey’s first hunting pal. It was Salwey’s job to rid the farm of feed-destroying sparrows, and Rover was good at flushing them out. He was also a good fishing companion on lazy summer afternoons.

Teddy, who joined the family later, was a coddled mama’s boy and Salwey’s mother encouraged it by fussing over the dog. Then along came Pepper, who lived up to his spicy name. Pepper sure made a fine squirrel dog, though.

Once he got out of the army in the 1960s, Salwey — who missed life “on the lovely little farm tucked away back in the hill country” — got a dog as soon as he could. Old Spook was almost a throwaway, but he became a once-in-a-lifetime dog for Salwey: they were hunting companions, fishing buddies, and “inseparable” best friends for 16 years. It broke Salwey’s heart when Spook died but “Old Spook helped me better understand the great Circle of Life.”

Spike followed Spook, and fish-retrieving Joey Girl came afterward. There was Spider, Travis, and Webster before the travel bug bit the Salweys and they decided against having another pooch. Traveling was a dream come true, but coming and going is hard on a pup.

Still, what’s a River Rat without his swamp dog?

While it’s true that anybody can read “The Dogs and I,” there’s no doubt in my mind that outdoorsy teens — particularly, maybe, boys — will love this book best.

That’s because author Kenny Salwey speaks the language of a lover of the land. Salwey’s words are thoughtful and earth-kind, evoking old-time sentiments mixed with modern sustainability. Every duck or pheasant hunter who owns this book will think of his favorite hunting spot as he reads. Every fisherman will recognize the feeling of knowing something’s been hooked, and both will remember their own four-legged companions, without whom the sport is just no fun.

I think outdoorsmen (and women) ages 13-to-17 will love this book, and they can easily share it with their dads and granddads, too. For hunters, fishers, and lovers of Labs, “The Dogs and I” is a world of good reading.

“The Dogs and I: True Tails from the Mississippi,” by Kenny Salwey [179 pages, 2013, $15].

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill with two dogs and 12,000 books.

Updated 4:38 pm, December 9, 2016
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