I opened Kimberlee Berlin’s article from The New York Times because it was the featured article of the newspaper’s opinion webpage. There was an illustration of a dog in an empty room with the title “A Dog’s Grace” and a caption that read “This is why it’s scary to love anything.” Being the dog lover that I am, I opened the article. Why? I’m not so sure. I’ve been homesick recently, homesick especially for my dog. I, the girl who sobbed thirty minutes before Marley actually died in the film adaptation of Marley & Me, don’t know why I’d put myself through such torture.
I expected the article to be about a dog that died. The opening led me to believe my assumption was correct – the author describes her helpless puppy throwing up and her husband rushing the dog to the animal hospital. Berlin knows her audience, dog lovers like me who sometimes need a good cry. She appeals to pathos by describing the frantic situation of trying to figure out what was wrong with her dog and learning that she and her husband would have to pay $4000 for surgery that they later learned wasn’t even necessary. It puts the audience in her shoes and makes them ask themselves how they would approach the situation.
The middle section of the article lost me, however. Berlin lost her ethos when she described the New York taxi driver who didn’t allow dogs in the vehicle: “Then I lost it. I started crying, cursing, my eyeballs bulging, yelling at this man with no heart.” I understand that she’s upset – I would be too if my dog’s life was in jeopardy – but she sounds like a rabid lunatic in this passage. And then, all of a sudden it seems, the dog is better, and now Berlin is having pregnancy issues. She redeems herself at the end of the narrative, though, by tugging at the audience’s heartstrings once again by depicting her dog comforting her after the news of her miscarriage.