Book Review: The Dog Who Ate the Vegetable Garden and Helped Save the Planet, Dori and Meg Hurley

The Dog Who Ate the Vegetable Garden & Helped Save the Planet by Dorothea Orane Hurley (the dog) and Margaret Hurley is a book that talks about ethical veganism from the perspective of a white boxer, Dori. This book explores the why behind ethical veganism and also explores the life of a vegan dog.

Now, before I get into the review, I would like to mention that I am not an ethical vegan. I am a dietary vegetarian and have coeliacs (gluten-free). I tend to go all natural—which often includes, but does not always mean veganism—in all my skin care, hair care, cleaning products and the like as well, but that is because I don’t process chemicals well. At all, really. So while I often use and consume vegan products, I am not an ethical vegan. Ethical veganism is a philosophy that a person should consume and use no animal products in any aspect of their life because that would entail cruelty to animals and enables many of the large corporations in using and exploiting animals.

Okay, now that we’ve got the definitions cleared up, let’s get on to the book.

I think, generally, that it is an interesting idea to tell a story from the perspective of a dog, or other innocent party, so that the reader can experience the world or idea from the ground up. Often this allows for a greater exploration of a concept, which, when trying to persuade or inform, is a very useful tool. In this case, I understand the idea and think it very interesting, I just don’t think it was executed well.

The prose was extremely difficult to get through. Not because of spelling inconsistencies or grammatical issues, but because the sentences were broken up into incomplete thoughts. This would be like: I went. To the store. Yesterday. The full thought that makes up the sentence is broken up. And, because our brains are trained to treat periods as a full-stop, I had to pause at each and every one. This made reading incredibly difficult. I couldn’t follow the train of thought and a lot of the impact of the story was lost to a headache. If that sort of linguistic phenomenon doesn’t bother you, then the rest of the prose was fairly coherent. 

As for the story itself, that is a difficult one. A lot of times, the arguments behind ethical veganism appeal to emotions. They argue that consuming such things as dairy or eggs or meat involves a great deal of harm to the animals, because they are crammed into small spaces, mistreated, forced to endure great discomfort at the hands of humans, etc. A lot of the language I have seen in the past regarding ethical veganism is designed to be inflammatory, because the argument is being made that humans are cruel and violent beings in regards to animals, and that needs to stop.

I understand the emotional appeal. However, it is not an argument I often appreciate. Nor is it one that works well on me. For me, logic and science are two things that will make a lasting impression. Mentioning the emotional impact once or twice is plenty; I get the message. But repeating it over and over with as graphic imagery as possible—that actually pushes me away from the argument. I find that the best way to persuade—at least in my case—is with the presentation of logical arguments backed up by science. I saw a few logical arguments here, in the form of descriptions of what is done to animals, but little science to inform me why I should pursue a vegan diet or lifestyle. At the beginning, science was mentioned once in that it hadn’t been proven that veganism was bad for a person. There were a couple of other times where the difference between animal protein and vegetable protein were mentioned, but that was about it.

As a story with a tale to weave from beginning to end, I think this lacked in coherence because of the prose. As a political or philosophical argument, I think that the inflammatory emotional descriptors were far less effective than a logical, sequential argument. I understand that the perspective of the dog was meant to create empathy, but I didn’t feel particularly connected to Dori.

Overall, I would say that the book is not bad. It was definitely difficult for me to read, though I understand the reasoning behind using such an unusual and choppy sentence structure. And the arguments were designed for people who are not quite so logic-based as am I. So, I think this could be a good book, even a very good book, just not for me.