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Our Best Friends: Wagging Tales to Warm the Heart

Our Best Friends: Wagging Tales to Warm the Heart

by Michael Capuzzo, Teresa B. Capuzzo

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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 lovers—both famous and not so famous—from all walks of life all over the world, here are unforgettable


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 lovers—both famous and not so famous—from 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:

  • Angus, the Labrador retriever who died while his master, a stained-glass artist, was working on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.—so his master memorialized Angus by working his beloved pet's name into the National Cathedral's stained glass and into cathedral windows up and down the eastern seaboard.

  • Patches, the collie-malamute of Tacoma, Washington, who rescued his owner from the icy waters of Lake Spanaway, jumping in three times and towing him twenty feet to safety.

  • Bobby, the young mutt so devoted to his master, he lay on his master's grave for over a decade, until his own death.

  • Brownie the stray—adopted by an entire street of merchants, he was nobody's dog and everybody's dog, living happily and independently for fifteen years. His headstone in Daytona Beach says it all: "Brownie 1939-1954. A good dog."

  • Woodie, the stubby little collie-mix who leaped down an eighty-foot cliff, crushing her hip, and remained at the side of her unconscious owner until help arrived.

    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.

  • Editorial Reviews

    Kirkus Reviews
    This companion volume to the Capuzzos' Cat Caught My Heart (p. 31) follows the same format: songs in praise of pet ownership, culled from material sent to Michael Capuzzo's syndicated "Wild Things" column, only this time the adored object is Rover. Dogs of every rank and radius are profiled here: dogs rescued from abuse and dogs who rescue others from abuse, dogs who are mentors and dogs with diabetes, a dog who went to meet his master at the train station each day for ten years after the master had died (found under the chapter heading "Loyalty"), a dog on Valium because he attacks and destroys ringing telephones (found under "Perseverance"), and, of course, a mention of Balto, the dog who saved Nome, Alaska, from a diphtheria outbreak and inspired the Iditarod sled race (found under "Heroism"). Most of the contributions are short and submitted by the common citizenry, though a number of celebs make appearances: Ann Landers weighs in with some dreadful, heavy moralizing, Dave Barry goes for the yuks with a stab at fecal humor, and James Herriot chronicles the woes of a boxer with terminal flatulence. A mere handful of the stories reach for high drama ("Dragging her crushed hips along the ground, whimpering in pain, the dog struggled to Ray's side and nudged his face to keep it out of the water")—and they aren't the pick of this litter. The best are those that wish only to briefly serenade a much-loved pooch, let the mutt stand up and take a bow, or bask in an elegy, as in this epitaph to a coon dog in Colbert County, Ala.: "He wasn't the best, but he was the best I ever had." Just so.

    Product Details

    Random House Publishing Group
    Publication date:
    Product dimensions:
    5.41(w) x 7.86(h) x 0.87(d)

    Read an Excerpt

    On Love

    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.

    --Konrad Lorenz

    A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than you love yourself.

    --Josh Billings

    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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