Learning new tricks from an old dog

Humorist Dave Barry derives wisdom from his beloved canine Lucy

Created date

March 25th, 2019
An image of the newest book from Dave Barry, Lessons From Lucy

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling author Dave Barry’s latest book takes on aging with help from his beloved dog Lucy.

Apparently, dogs are a font of wisdom. Wander into your local public library and you’re likely to find an entire section of dog wisdom books. 

John Grogan’s Marley & Me is perhaps the best-known book about the lessons dogs impart. An international bestseller, it clearly caught the attention of other successful authors who believed their own dogs could teach the world a few new tricks.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Quindlen weighed in on dog wisdom when she wrote Good Dog. Stay. about her black Labrador retriever Beau.

Gotham Chopra and his famously wise father Deepak gave us Walking Wisdom: Three Generations, Two Dogs, and the Search for a Happy Life.

And best-selling author Danielle Steel shared insights gleaned from her tiny Chihuahua Minnie in Pure Joy.


The latest dog wisdom book comes from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dave Barry with Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old Happy Dog (2019, Simon & Schuster).

Barry contemplates Lucy’s wisdom through the prism of aging. A rescue pup, Lucy joined the Barry family when she was about six months old, and like most puppies, she was full of mischievous energy.

Now Lucy is ten—that’s 70 in dog years. As Barry puts it, “she moves a little slower, but her capacity for joy, her enthusiasm for life, does not seem to have diminished with age.”

Barry also celebrated his seventieth birthday recently, making him the same age as Lucy in dog years. This age-related coincidence is the foundation of the book, with Barry observing how Lucy deals with everyday challenges that seem to throw him into a tizzy. “I think that, even at 70, I should still be aiming to be happy,” he says. “Like my old, but still happy, dog Lucy.”

Hurricane Irma

From the early 1980s until 2005, Barry was an enormously popular syndicated humor columnist. Fans who miss Barry’s columns will enjoy Lessons From Lucy. He has a knack for interweaving seemingly unrelated experiences together to extract meaning from the most random situations.

For example, as Floridians, Barry and his family have seen their share of hurricanes. With Hurricane Irma looming offshore, his family heeded the dire warnings of the local news reporters to stock up on nonperishable foods, batteries, and other emergency supplies.

Whipped into a frenzy, they bought batteries they had no use for and lentils, a food they have never eaten and don’t want to try. The only reason they bought lentils was because TV reporters kept advising viewers to buy nonperishable foods.

Amid all that hysteria, Barry noticed Lucy’s relative calm. She doesn’t watch TV, so she doesn’t get swept up in the weather panic. She’s got her food and water. She’s warm and dry. She’s with the people she loves. That’s all she needs.

This keen observation serves as the inspiration for the sixth lesson from Lucy: “Don’t let your happiness depend on things.”

On the surface, such “lessons” may not seem profound, but Barry explains it this way: “I don’t claim that the seven lessons I came up with are amazing or even original. They are obvious. They are common sense. My problem is not that I didn’t know these things; it’s that I’ve done a lousy job of using what I know.”

Barry’s point is exactly why readers will appreciate and even chuckle at Lessons From Lucy. Sure, you probably already know this stuff, but it doesn’t hurt to have someone as amusing and, yes, perceptive as Barry to remind you of what’s important.

A sampling of Dave Barry dog quotes throughout the years

“Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.”

“Dogs need to sniff the ground; it’s how they keep abreast of current events. The ground is a giant dog newspaper, containing all kinds of late-breaking dog news items, which, if they are especially urgent, are often continued into the next yard.”

“Lassie looked brilliant, in part because the farm family she lived with was made up of idiots. Remember? One of them was always getting pinned under the tractor, and Lassie was always rushing back to the farmhouse to alert the other ones. She’d whimper and tug at their sleeves, and they’d always waste precious minutes saying things: ‘Do you think something’s wrong?’ ‘Do you think she wants us to follow her?’ ‘What is it, girl?’ as if this had never happened before, instead of every week.”

“You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, ‘My God, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!’”

“The objective is not so much to walk your dog, as it is to empty him.”

Source: DogQuotations.com