There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard – A Life in Pets. David W. Berner. Dream of Things, April 23, 2015, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 138 pages.
Reviewed by Gerry Souter.
Reading David’s book is akin to putting on a pair of old comfortable house slippers, scuffing out to the patio with a tasty beverage in hand, and slouching into a comfy chair to take up a conversation with an old friend. The tweedle and chirp of the birds is cut short as my frowsy 19-year-old cat, Hemingway strolls up to my chair and puts his head in my dangling hand for an ear fluff. David and I are both animal people. I‘ve had a cat sharing the house since I was nine years old. He’s a dog person, but his taste also runs to exotica as hinted at by his book’s title, “There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard.” He has a droll sense of whimsy that never reaches the sappy, kissy-kissy, and fawning oozing from many animal writers. He lets his critters be critters.
If there is a common thread to his collection of abbreviated short stories, it’s respect for the heartbeat that shares his space: the industry of the ant farm, the driven flexibility of the hamster, the loyalty of Mike the yellow Lab with gender issues, the determination of the box turtle, and admiration for the piranha–though he had to settle for an angelfish. This is only a partial list of the menagerie that has accompanied David on his life’s journey. Besides granting him wisdom concerning their individual worlds, his animal friends sharpened his tolerance and appreciation of the people around him including his savvy parents, policemen tangled in his goofy pre-teen indiscretions, the neighborhood Nazi dog poisoner who wasn’t, and the newspaper customer with a raging aversion to invisible dog poop on her lawn.
Berner understands that the love in the eyes of his canine chums is real, and not just a ploy for a chewy treat or a Frisbee toss. For an animal person, reading Berner’s book is a return to childhood and growing up with companions that truly mattered along the way. David’s book, There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard, is meant to be read and re-read.