Lost Dog by Kate Spicer – Review

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By Barney Bardsley

The world is divided into those who love dogs, and those who don’t really care. Anyone growing up with a treasured canine pal, or who discovers them as an adult, and introduces them to their world, whether for therapeutic purposes, for company, or for pure, dog-to-human fun, will tell you one thing: dogs are magic. But not everyone gets that. And, for those who don’t – as well as the obvious converts, like me – I would say, give this book a read. It may not persuade you to get a dog yourself, but it will give you a cracking good insight into why so many people do, and just what a transforming effect it can have on their lives. Plus, it’s a rollicking good read.

Kate Spicer is a West Londoner, living a rackety sort of life as a freelance writer for the fancy supplements. Whilst her much more orderly boyfriend goes to sleep at nine, ready for an early rise next day, when he will work a full and productive day, Kate is out on the town with wearying regularity, drinking too much wine, scoring too much cocaine from her shady pal Timbo, and staggering around the streets in all kinds of broken pieces in the early hours of the morning, waiting to pour herself into the last cab home. She is hitting middle age. No kids. Career not going far. And with a craving for excess – whether booze, drugs, or an overdose of coffee – that barely conceals her existential panic. Something has to change. But what? And how? She is, as the title of the first part of her book proclaims, a ‘Lost Woman’.

lost dog kate spicer book review coverShe writes about all this with pleasing self deprecation, recounting her ill-favoured adventures with astonishing indiscretion. Along the way she subjects a string of friends and family – and even her beloved partner Charlie – to a litany of criticism and complaints. Do any of these people still speak to her, I wonder? Probably so, because she may be a self-confessed mess – but she is clearly, also, great fun. Someone you could spend hours with in the kitchen corner at a party, tearing the other guests to shreds.

“Deeply touching and heartwarming”

So – she is full of naughtiness. But she is also deeply unhappy. And this is where the dog comes in. One day, standing in the cafe queue, waiting for her coffee fix, she spots a PR pal called Keith. And with Keith is a whippet called Castor. She feels “an overwhelming urge to touch it”, and when she does, “the effect is not much different to a dose of valium”. And that’s it. She’s hooked. Before long she adopts a Norfolk Lurcher called Wolfy. It is love at first sight. And her life is changed forever.

A dog once changed my life – and that of my deeply sick and depressed husband – when we rescued her from an RSPCA dog pound, so I know just what miracles these creatures can manifest. It is not news to me. But still, it is deeply touching and heartwarming to read of Spicer’s relationship with Wolfy, and to realise just what a difference he makes to her world.

Part Two, ‘Lost Dog’, is a much harder read, for obvious reasons. Left with her brother and his family, while Kate and Charlie go off to a friend’s wedding, Wolfy is accidentally let out of the front door and makes a run for it. It is a part of London he doesn’t know – the roads are hellishly busy – and there are all manner of hazards that can do for a dog like him in a very short amount of time. It’s a nightmare. And one that lasts ten very long days. Spicer initiates a massive dog hunt, using all her media contacts – and the 24 hour klaxon of social media – to publicise her cause. She is in pieces. But she is also determined. Wolfy is the love of her life (sorry Charlie) and she will never give up till she finds him.

This is not a work of great literature, and the repetitive rigours of the dog hunt in Part Two occasionally pall, but it is nonetheless an engaging tale, told with humour, honesty, and great gusto. It is a story that reinforces, once again, the age-old truth that a woman’s best friend is, indeed, her dog. Bravo to Wolfy, for getting Kate away from the dark corners of her life, out on long walks – and back into the beautiful light.

‘Lost Dog’ by Kate Spicer (Ebury Press, £16.99)
‘Old Dog’ by Barney Bardsley is published by Simon and Schuster


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