Our Best Friends: Wagging Tales to Warm the Heart


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 ...

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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 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 whose deeply 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.  

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553762310
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1999
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Capuzzo

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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Read an Excerpt


Marvin Scott, owner of a furniture store just south of Tacoma, Washington, came home from work at about 10:00 p.m. one bitter cold December night.  The thermometer was hovering around zero, and the wind was whipping up waves on Lake Spanaway, where the Scotts' lakeside home sits.

Marvin was in his sixties, graying and bespectacled, given to dark suits, white shirts, and somber ties.  But he was a square-shouldered, rugged man who liked to putter around his property, so he announced to his wife at almost 11:00 that night that he was going down to a small pier below their lake home to check on possible ice damage to a patrol boat moored there.  As he clambered down the rocky, three-hundred-foot slope to the lake, Marvin was followed by his dog, Patches, a collie-malamute mix who liked to tag along.

At the lakeside, Marvin's fears were confirmed.  Noting that a film of ice was beginning to form around the boat, Marvin picked up a timber and tried to push the stern line to crack the ice.  But he did not realize that spray from the lake had made the pier boards glassy with ice, and as he pushed with the timber he slipped from the pier, his body struck a floating dock causing him to tear virtually all of the tendons and muscles in both legs, and he rolled off into the icy, fifteen-foot-deep water and went under.  The freezing waters, roiled by the storm, began to pull him toward the middle of the lake.

Suddenly, while still below the surface, Marvin felt something grasp him by the hair.  It was Patches, who had leaped into the icy waters and was holding his master firmly.  Patches pulled the dazed and shivering man to the surface, then towed him nearly twenty feet to where he could seize the edge of the floating dock.  Dimly aware that the dog, too, was by now nearly drowning and exhausted from his rescue efforts, Marvin managed to push him onto the dock.

But as Marvin, his legs immobile and useless, vainly attempted to climb onto the dock himself, the combination of the frigid water, his terrible injuries, and the water he had swallowed caused him to virtually black out, and his grip on the dock loosened.  He fell back into the water and again went under.

But again it was Patches to the rescue.  The courageous dog leaped in instantly, again seized him by the hair, and this time pulled him about four feet to the dock.  After Marvin had recovered enough to push Patches onto the dock, the man hung on grimly to the dock and screamed for help.  But with the late hour and the wind against him, his cries could not be heard.  Marvin, his grip on the dock loosening once again, knew he had no more energy left to fight and despaired that he was going to die.  As he began to slip into the water a third and final time, Patches braced his four feet firmly on the dock boards, grasped Marvin's overcoat collar in his teeth and tugged with might and main.  Encouraged by this unexpected assistance, Marvin struggled with every ounce of strength he had left and somehow, between the two of them, the gasping man was able to pull his body up onto the dock.

After he had regained his breath, Marvin began crawling toward the house, with Patches in front of him holding tenaciously to his master's collar and using every bit of strength he possessed to help pull the shivering and agonized man along.  Man and dog laboriously made their way in this fashion up the rock-studded, three-hundred-foot slope to a point near the back door, where Patches started barking a call for help, and Marvin was able to throw a stone against the door and alert his wife.

At Tacoma General Hospital, Marvin hovered between life and death for twenty-five days, with pneumonia a constant threat in addition to the massive operations required on both of his legs.  Patches, exhausted but not hurt, recovered quickly.  It was six months later, summer of the following year, before Marvin Scott was able to return to work at his furniture store.  He needed two canes to get about, walking more deliberately now, so Patches slowed his gait to match the pace of his master when he tagged along on walks around the house by the lake.  

—Teresa Banik Capuzzo


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