BOOK REVIEW: There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard by David W Berner
There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard by David W Berner
When David W. Berner sent me chapter 1 of “There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard” for possible inclusion in a magazine I publish, I had no idea it was an excerpt from a book. Nor was I familiar with David or his body of work, his awards and his impressive credentials. All I knew as I read his submission was I loved his conversational tone, his warmth and friendliness, and the admiration he had for his favorite kind of pet: dogs.
So it was a real treat to later learn that this segment was only the beginning of a delightful book, not just about dogs, but a whole slew of pets that David had as a child, and later enjoyed with his own two sons. As a youngster, David, who liked to keep his pets’ names simple ie. Ralph, Tom, begged to keep a tarantula which terrified his mother but impressed the heck out of his male classmates. Another time, he found and nursed a baby squirrel, Nicky, back to health. When Nicky was well enough and stole away to her natural habitat during the night, little David felt his heart break. But with that heart break came the realization that we will love and lose things as we grow but our parents are still there for us.
And those kinds of epiphonies are how David Berner ends most of these vignettes: each encounter with his pets teaches the growing child something, not just about the animals which fascinate him, but about himself. As David shares his stories of dogs, a cat named “Mouse”, pet ants, mating gerbils, an angelfish, and more dogs, David grows into a loving, caring father who enjoys teaching his own children about life through having pets. And the readers remember and recognize themselves in so much of what David experiences.
“Theres a Hamster in the Dashboard” is a wonderful blend of humor and pathos, told in simple, unpretentious language. David’s recollection of the time his sons wanted a lizard was just too funny, and too sad. Seems what they got wasn’t a lizard but an anole…I had to look it up too. But this anole’s diet consisted of crickets ie.. you fed him one or two every few days. When the novelty of having the anole wore off and going to the pet shop every couple of days to purchase crickets became annoying, David dumped a whole pile of crickets into the tank with the anole. What David didn’t know, and never told his sons, was crickets feed on anoles. By the time realization set in, the poor anole was half eaten and quite dead. Like so much in life, funny but sad too. Experience can be a tough teacher.
Of course, if like David and me, your favorite pet is a dog, the last chapter will tug at your heart strings and remind you why “man’s best friend” is man’s best friend. This is the kind of book that makes the perfect gift for anyone who is fascinated by, and has a respect for animals and the wonder of their ways. David W. Berner captures all of that beautifully in “There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard.”
And now, you’ll excuse me while I toddle off to enjoy yet another of David’s wonderful books. He’s made me a true fan of his writing.
©Viga Boland, Editor Memoirabilia