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The authors visit passionate owners, breeders, trainers, and collectors across the country and offer a look into their dog-filled lives. Profiles include an interior designer who has amassed a lifetime of canine art; a collector with a house full of four-legged porcelain figurines; a bibliophile with an outstanding assortment of dog-literature first editions; an artist who specializes in dog portraits; and a veterinarian who proudly displays antique tools of his trade. The authors also focus on other aspects of dog devotion, including the Philadelphia All-Terrier Show; a hotel decorated with canine appointments; a New England camp exclusively for dogs; a boutique devoted to canine accessories; the American Kennel Club; and a Manhattan gallery specializing in 19th-century dog art.
Whether they are devoted to a particular breed or have simply fallen in love with dogs in general, the people featured here have succumbed to the "Slipcover School of Dog Management, allowing their dogs the complete run of their lives as well as their hearts.
With an extensive resource list that includes dog art galleries, dog shows, kennel clubs, breeders, supply houses, and more, Living with Dogs is the ultimate tribute to canine companions.
In 26 stories and 400 full-color photographs of homes, collections, galleries, meets, shows, kennels, and camps, Living with Dogs celebrates the devotion and passion of the millions of Americans for whom a life without dogs is not worth living.
When my wife, Carol, and I moved to a small town in rural western Massachusetts a few years ago, we decided it was time to get a dog. After all, with the recent ascendency of dogs in American life, statistics showed that more U.S. households--almost 40 percent--had canines than had children. Our own household felt a bit empty and quiet and neat and clean. A pooch could change all that! Of the roughly 58 million dogs in the nation, representing more than 200 breeds, surely there was one dog out there that could wear a tag with our name on it.
Actually we had both grown up with dogs in our families--Carol with beagles--Maggie, Molly, and Mr. Magoo--in Houston, and I with a succession of collie mixes and other mutts in the suburbs of New Haven, Connecticut. Later, when raising my own family, I had acquired--for the sake of the kids, you understand--an exuberant Labrador retriever mix named Blue and a purebred tricolor (black, brown, and white) collie named Zorro.
There was nothing particularly noteworthy about any of those dogs, except perhaps for the tricolor. He was a descendant of one of the Hollywood Lassies, but unfortunately he was as slow-witted as he was beautiful. A collie critic once told me that Zorro's brain capacity had been sacrificed through selective breeding for a longer snout. After hearing those harsh words, we loved Zorro even more.
Carol's and my experience growing up with dogs was probably typical of most Americans coming of age with dogs in the 1940s and 1950s. They were in our hearts and in our annual Christmas card photographs, but they were hardly the stuff of legend or obsession. Nevertheless, these many years later we decided the time had come to bring home a new dog, a leash, and maybe some flea powder. With plenty of open fields and woods surrounding our new residence, it seemed almost criminal not to have a dog. So when we came upon a litter of Australian shepherds for sale at the annual agricultural fair in a neighboring town, we took the plunge.
To our amazement, the puppy we picked out--a female who at that early stage of growth looked more like a California sea otter than a dog--radically changed our lives, and not just because of the practical impact she had on our daily routines. Addie, as we named her, made all the demands on our time and patience that any puppy new to a household does. Neither of us was prepared for the emotional impact the dog would have on us, however.
Actually, that is a lie. I had been a sucker for dogs all my life. I just never expected owning a dog would be so much like parenting. It struck me that a dramatic change had occurred over the years in the way people relate to dogs. "More people are treating their dogs as human now," animal behaviorist Peter Borchelt has observed. "There is more empathy and care for them."
Carol developed a kind of sympathetic hypochondria on behalf of our young dog. By subscribing to a couple of newsletters published by eminent veterinary schools, she learned about an astonishing range of maladies and disorders to which dogs are susceptible. Routine trips to the vet gave her the opportunity to air all her concerns with batteries of questions: What do we do if Addie gets a fever? Is it all right for her to eat people food? Will she get cancer if she chews on firewood?
I turned into my own worst nightmare--a guy who carries a picture of his dog around with him in his wallet. I woke up in the morning dreamily contemplating the image of Addie's face. My clothes came back from the cleaners with Milk-Bone crumbs pressed into the fabric. I worried ceaselessly, not that Addie would contract some bizarre canine disease, but that she would be hit by a car, like my first dog, Coodles.
Coming home after being away on a trip for a couple of days, I would get so excited about seeing Addie again that I would practically knock Carol over on my way to the dog. And I came bearing gifts: new latex toys, rawhide chews, hambone-scented Frisbees, boxes of a snack advertised as "the treats dogs go jerky for." Of course, I was the one going jerky.
In time, our irrational worries subsided, Addie entered fully into our lives, and like all other dog owners these days, we studied up on her heritage. Australian shepherds are best known for herding sheep. The breed originated in the Basque country of Spain and France and came to the American West as a herding dog by way of Australia in the late 1800s. We had named Addie for the city of Adelaide, Down Under, but it turns out that Biarritz and Denver would have been fitting names, too.
Today's dog-owning culture is in fact characterized by a fascination with the history and evolution of people's favorite breeds. More purebreds are registered with the American Kennel Club than ever before, and their popularity has spawned a revival in traditional dog portraiture and an explosion in contemporary dog photography, some of which is of very high caliber. Pride of breed has propelled many dog owners to collect anything and everything that bears the image of their dogs, from inexpensive porcelain figurines to priceless bronzes and oils. When Sotheby's in New York auctioned off the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's collection of pug figurines, pug owners from all over the country descended on the auction house. Some of them carried their own live pugs in their arms, while a few wore slippers embroidered with pugs, perhaps to bring them good luck in the bidding.
Posted January 21, 2002
This book is a delight,filled with wonderful photos and very English decorating ideas. A great cross-over resource for collectors, people in the pet service industry, or home decorating. A lovely coffee table book with lots of information. You don't have to be a dog lover to be thrilled by this visually tantalizing book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 1, 2000
The ultimate gift to a devoted dog lover. For greatest appreciation I recommend reading this magnificent book with the head of your own dog resting gently on you your lap.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.