Our Best Friends: Wagging Tales to Warm the Heartby Michael Capuzzo, Teresa B. Capuzzo
In this delightful and heartwarming book, America's premier pet columnist, Michael Capuzzo, presents remarkable true stories celebrating the powerful and nurturing bond between people and their dogs. Drawn from history and literature as well as from dog loversboth famous and not so famousfrom all walks of life all over the world, here are unforgettable tales of hope, heroism, and healing that capture the unflagging nobility of our oldest, dearest, and truly best animal friend. Inside you'll meet:
Inspiring, poignant, filled with laughter and tears, and always entertaining, Our Best Friends is a book whosedeeply moving stories will touch your heart and lift your spirits even as they offer you the opportunity to develop a greater appreciation for and understanding of your own best friend.
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.41(w) x 7.86(h) x 0.87(d)
Read an Excerpt
Nietzsche said the beautiful words, "Let it be your aim always to love more than the other, never to be the second." With human beings, I am sometimes able to fulfil this commandment, but in my relations with a faithful dog, I am always the second. Have you ever thought how extraordinary is all this? Man, endowed with reason and a highly developed sense of moral responsibility, whose finest and noblest belief is the religion of brotherly love, in this very respect falls short of the carnivores. . . . The plain fact that my dog loves me more than I love him is undeniable and always fills me with a certain feeling of shame.
A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than you love yourself.
Qui me amat, amat et canem meum. ("Love me, love my dog.")
--St. Bernard, "Sermo Primus" (1150)
He wasn't the best, but he was the best I ever had.
--Epitaph to Track, buried in the Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard, Colbert County, Alabama
A Dog's Home Is Many Hearths
In 1940, Mickey Mantle turned eight years old. The sounds of swing and bebop were spinning on turntables and the number one best-seller at the bookstores was Native Son.
America was relatively lazy and peaceful in 1940. This was especially true in Daytona Beach, a resort city on Florida's northeast coast known for its twenty-three miles of hard, white sandy beaches.
Down on Beach Street, which was the main drag, Ed Budgen ran the Daytona Cab Company. It was neighbor to a bar, a Liggett's drugstore, a barbershop, a pool hall, and a bank.
A yacht marina sat across from the cabstand on the southeast side ofBeach Street. On the northeast corner was Riverfront Park, a verdant, pleasantly shady spot in which to gaze out at the Intracoastal Waterway.
In 1940, something about this small-town commercial area attracted a stray dog. Nobody knows where he came from or why, but one day a four-legged stranger wandered into town, sniffed around, and liked what he smelled. That day, Daytona Beach's permanent population--22,580--increased by one.
"I was knee-high to a grasshopper in 1940, but I remember Brownie as a nice, friendly dog," said Ed Budgen's son George. "My father gave him the name Brownie. He was a short-haired, tan dog, around eighteen inches high. He looked somewhat like a boxer."
Ed took the dog to a local veterinarian to be checked out. The vet guessed that Brownie was a year old.
Ed asked around, but nobody knew anything about a runaway dog with a sweet nature. So Ed, the cabdrivers, and the other merchants along Beach Street decided to adopt Brownie.
Ed constructed a doghouse out of a big cardboard box. And that's where Brownie lived. As each doghouse wore out, Ed made another one. Brownie maintained his lease for the next fourteen years, thirty yards from the corner of Orange and Beach.
Every day, Brownie would lope from merchant to merchant. He'd even go into the post office, then cross over to the park and marina.
His visits created an air of comforting consistency. The merchants found themselves expecting--and enjoying--Brownie's presence. As long as he was around to wag his hello, all seemed right with the small world of Daytona Beach.
Brownie became a familiar, welcome fixture in town. Local residents would greet him with a smile, a hug, or a pat. They'd tell him he was a good dog. They'd offer him a treat. And, once in a while, someone would bring him a steak.
E.B. Davidson, who was six in 1940, said, "Brownie loved it when all the kids visited him after school. He was a real nice dog. He had a big head and a long nose. His face reminded me of a Rhodesian Ridgeback, but his body looked more like a hound."
Vince Clarida was a boy when Brownie first came to town. His memories of Brownie include the local patrolman walking his beat along Beach Street--and Brownie tagging along.
"Ed and the other cabdrivers used to feed Brownie a daily pint of ice cream," Clarida said. "That dog loved ice cream!" Ed Budgen fashioned a small pouch or box that he tied around Brownie's neck. It served as a donation box. Residents and winter visitors would drop money into the box. Ed would deposit the money into a special bank account he had opened to help pay for Brownie's food and veterinary care.
Brownie was also famous for constantly crossing into traffic. To the residents' amazement, he was injured only once. It was a leg injury, and it healed.
Brownie was too independent to go home with anyone. But he was attached enough to the people of Daytona Beach to want to live out his years with them.
In October of 1954, Brownie died. Everyone assumed he died of old age. Someone from back home reported the sad news to E.B. Davidson while he was away at college. Neither he nor George Budgen, who was away in the military, could attend the funeral.
"The money in Brownie's bank account paid for the plywood casket and the headstone," Vince Clarida said. "Around seventy-five people were at the funeral, but a lot more people said they'd have been there, too, if they had known."
Mayor Jack Tamm gave the eulogy, in which he declared that Brownie was a good dog. And that's what they all decided to put on the headstone.
There's a cool, quiet spot of grass in Riverfront Park that has a clear view of the calm Intracoastal Waterway at one end and the stores of Beach Street on the other.
Brownie is buried there. His grave is flanked by delicate red flowers. It's covered with a granite stone etched with the likeness of a dog of unknown origin who might have understood that a lot of people loved him.
The granite is cold, but the engraved words are warm: "Brownie. 1939-1954. A good dog." --Roberta Sandler
Meet the Author
Four times nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Michael Capuzzo writes a nationally syndicated pet column that appears in Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rocky Mountain News, and numerous other newspapers. He is the author of Wild Things and Mutts: America's Dogs.
Teresa Banik Capuzzo writes feature stories for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. She was the chief researcher for an Inquirer Pulitzer Prize-winning series and the book America: What Went Wrong? The Capuzzos, who live on a farm in southern New Jersey, are co-authors of Cat Caught My Heart, the companion volume to Our Best Friends.
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