Why We Love the Dogs We Do: How to Find the Dog That Matches Your Personality [NOOK Book]

Overview

A Dog's Best Friend

In Why We Love the Dogs We Do, Stanley Coren provides a foolproof guide to understanding which dog will make the best lifetime companion. He brings together his expertise in the fields of human psychology and animal behavior to provide a completely new approach to the dog/human relationship.

Working with a team of animal experts, Coren has identified ...
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Why We Love the Dogs We Do: How to Find the Dog That Matches Your Personality

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Overview

A Dog's Best Friend

In Why We Love the Dogs We Do, Stanley Coren provides a foolproof guide to understanding which dog will make the best lifetime companion. He brings together his expertise in the fields of human psychology and animal behavior to provide a completely new approach to the dog/human relationship.

Working with a team of animal experts, Coren has identified seven groups of dogs based on characteristics such as friendliness, protectiveness, independence, and steadiness. Each group contains dogs from different breeds that share similar personality traits -- a unique departure from the familiar American Kennel Club breed groups. Perhaps even more fascinating are the results of Dr. Coren's extensive work matching human personality types with canine characteristics. Using his personality tests, anyone can determine which dog is the right match and which dog is almost certain to cause heartbreak.

Rich in anecdotes and grounded in scientific study, Why We Love the Dogs We Do offers us the tools we need to find happiness in what can be among the most satisfying relationships of a lifetime.

Stanley Coren, author of The Intelligence of Dogs, takes an eye-opening look at how the mix of personalities between people and their dogs can create the perfect relationship or a terrible mess. Along with interesting tidbits about the long history of canine-human interaction, Coren offers myth-debunking information about popular breeds and personality tests that will help readers choose the dog that's perfect for them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Charles Darwin so loved his little West Highland white terrier, Coren reports, that he often wrote of his dog adventures around the house. Yet, the same man so loathed a big hound he had been given (he called it "graceless, noisy and drooling") that he ultimately had the dog shot. Dog expert Coren (What Do Dogs Know?) offers a scheme that describes why different types of people favor certain species of dogs. Entertaining the reader with historical anecdotes and odd facts, the author describes case after case of dogs who fit -- or, disastrously, don't fit -- an owner's temperament and lifestyle. Coren includes a conversation he had with Picasso about the many dogs the painter lived with, and reveals that Richard Nixon, who was greatly distrusted by the American public, liked dogs. Actor Jimmy Stewart was apparently as nice a man as the characters he played, and he, too, loved (and spoiled) dogs. Coren categorizes according to their basic temperaments some of the more than 400 breeds of dogs recognized by international kennel clubs. Golden retrievers and Labradors are warm and friendly, he explains, while dalmatians are independent and strong-willed. Coren supplies a personality inventory, "the interpersonal adjective scale," to enable readers to rate how well they are described by various adjectives that run the gamut from dominant to submissive, gregarious to cold, thus helping them to pick the appropriate dog for their personality. This is an engaging, edifying work, but the author's academic background does manifest in his prose from time to time. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Library Journal
As we all have unique and distinct personalities, so do the dogs we choose as pets and companions. Coren, a psychology professor, renowned dog trainer, and author of The Intelligence of Dogs (LJ 3/15/94), provides an interesting study of dog breeds, their personality characteristics, and how these breeds match up with different types of people. Abandoning the traditional Kennel Club breed listing, Coren has used statistical analysis to reclassify the most popular dog breeds by personality types. He then offers a simplified personality test for humans, evaluating people in four areas. Merging the personality test with the dog-breed analysis results in a listing of the most compatible dog breeds for various types of people. Coren is a little excessive in providing historical background, but he is fun to read even when not especially relevant. Of interest to "dog people" everywhere, this book is recommended for most pet collections. Deborah Emerson, Monroe Community Coll., Rochester, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Coren, author of the bestselling The Intelligence of Dogs, wants you to get the right dog and to cut back on the alarming human-dog divorce rate, and here he delivers the kind of goods a professional matchmaker would be proud of. This is a book of pure good intention: Deploying his background in psychology and dog intelligence, Coren endeavors to hitch people and canines in a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. Considering that four out of ten dogs don't last one year with their adoptive families, it is a worthy project. He emphasizes the importance of emotional attraction and companionship over image, and devises a new classification of dogs that, in contrast to the classic kennel-club standards, groups them by behavioral characteristics and temperament (this is accomplished with the input of veterinarians, trainers, dog-show judges, and canine psychologists): friendly, protective, independent, self-assured, consistent, steady, and clever. He then provides a personality test for readers to measure their own extroversion, trust, dominance, warmth, and such. In subsequent chapters, he outlines what dogs fit what categories, including psychological detailings and copious anecdotes (a kind of "dog styles of the rich and famous"): why Steinbeck had a poodle, Eugene O'Neill a Dalmatian, Emily Bronte a boxer, Picasso an Afghan hound, what dogs presidents have chosen, and those selected by queens. Then he delves into the mechanics of his personality profiles, how readers can use them to find an appropriate dog, or maybe even to learn that they are, like Goethe and Napoleon, not meant to have a dog at all. The final chapter, a listing of the dogs of celebrities, isgratuitous, as readers will likely have little clue as to the glitteratiþs real personalities. Coren, a humble dog lover and a longtime student of the beast, has the best interests of both dogs and humans at heart. His is a scheme worth a gamble. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)
From the Publisher
Michael Capuzzo USA Today Coren concocts nothing less than an entire classification system...based on personality. The book is filled with compelling stories.

Ranny Green The Seattle Times Coren's newest work...may rank as dogs' best literary friend — ever.

Elizabeth Abbott The Globe and Mail (Toronto) All dog lovers should read Why We Love the Dogs We Do, and humane societies and breeders should adopt it as their bible.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439105498
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 4/25/2000
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 929,632
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Stanley Coren an international authority on sidedness, is professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Born to Bark: My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog (2010), among other books.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

Loving and Hating Dogs

It was a hot day. The light wind off the Mediterranean Sea did little to cool the men, who were on their hands and knees. They were gently uncovering something buried in the sandy soil using small trowels and brushes. They were archaeologists, and the site that they were excavating was known as Ein Mallaha. It is located on the coast of what is now Israel and is one of the remains of many small villages that were built near the shore. The archaeologists call them Natufian communities; they date back to around ten thousand years ago. This Old Stone Age settlement was moderately sophisticated. There were about fifty round huts, some with stone foundations. There were some agricultural tools, such as flint sickles and grindstones for wheat. There was also evidence that animals, such as sheep, had been domesticated.

The location where the archaeologists worked was an ancient cemetery. The Natufians buried their dead with treasured personal ornaments and special tokens of the deceased. Thus these graves provide valuable information about the people and the culture of this time. This archaeological team had already uncovered some carved bone and stone artwork and were hoping for more.

The body they were uncovering was that of an elderly man. He was in a curled position, with knees up near his chin -- the traditional burial posture of the time. As they uncovered the upper part of the body they found that the man's head was resting on his left hand. Working to clear the area around the hand, they found that it had been gently placed on the chest of a four- or five-month-old puppy. A surprised scientist stood up and brushed one eye with the back of a sand-covered hand. "He must have really loved dogs," he said, "to have chosen to take one along on his journey to eternity."

A HISTORY OF COMPANIONSHIP

Even from the dawn of civilization, some five hundred generations ago, we have evidence of the powerful bond between some people and their dogs. If we had some kind of video camera that could go back in time, we could see for ourselves, for instance, that Rameses the Great had four dogs that he particularly loved. According to information carved into his tomb, one was a great hound named Pahates but called Kami by his master. This dog was so special that it was allowed to sleep with the Pharaoh. If our time-traveling camera does a fast-forward, we can find other historical and powerful figures sharing their beds with their dogs. Alexander the Great, resting from his battles, was known to sleep beside his great Mastiff, Peritas. Mary Queen of Scots spent her long hours of prison confinement with her small spaniels, and they comforted her through the night. In 1587, when she was beheaded, it was found that she had hidden one of the toy dogs under her voluminous robes. Afterwards, according to one eyewitness, it "would not depart from the dead corpse" and had to be carried away. It is reported that the person who ordered her execution, Elizabeth I, spent her own last night in life "counsolled only by her dogge" -- a very similar toy spaniel. One of Elizabeth's direct successors eventually gave his name to that breed of spaniel. Charles II of England also slept with his Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and even had a ceiling mural in one of his bedrooms decorated with them.

Fast-forward again to the time of Czar Peter the Great of Russia. He slept with his Italian Greyhound, Lissette, and in one instance this relationship may have saved a life. A member of the court had been falsely accused of corruption. Peter's wife, Catherine, was apprised of the circumstances and attempted to intervene on the accused man's behalf. Czar Peter, not known for his calm demeanor, flew into a violent rage and forbade her ever to mention the case again in his presence. Distraught at the mounting evidence of the man's innocence, Catherine wrote a message to Peter, petitioning for clemency. She then signed it with Lissette's name, affixed her paw print, and tied the note to Lissette's silver collar. Later that evening when Peter was preparing for sleep he found the message. He sat on the edge of his bed gently petting Lissette's head and then, without further comment, called for his secretary and had a pardon drafted that night.

At about the same time that the Russian leader Peter was resting beside his Italian Greyhound, the Prussian leader Frederick the Great was also sharing his bed with a similar dog. Like the old man at Ein Mallaha, he loved his dogs so much that he wished to be buried near them. He had a special mausoleum constructed on the palace lawn, where it overlooked the graves of eleven of his dogs. Although political unrest nearly prevented his wishes from coming true, Frederick now rests inside that royal crypt next to the body of his last dog.

Stories such as these, which show how deeply individuals bond to their dogs, could be told of literally millions of people, ordinary and exalted alike. There are stories of kings and also of presidents: Lyndon Johnson, who filled the White House lawn with his pack of Beagles; Ulysses S. Grant, who appointed his Newfoundland dog to the post of White House steward; or George Bush, who told me that during his presidency he would often be joined in his morning shower by his Springer Spaniel, Millie (see plate 1). There are actors and entertainers who dote on their dogs, such as comedian Joan Rivers. Her Yorkshire Terrier, Spike, has been called "the world's laziest dog" because he doesn't have to walk anywhere on his own power. Rivers has hired a man to tote him around in a Louis Vuitton carrying case. She also gave Spike a catered Bark Mitzvah party with kosher food and decked him out in a yarmulke with his name embroidered on it. Then there are the serious scientists and their cherished dogs, such as Sigmund Freud, whose Chow Chow, Jo-Fi, attended many of his therapy sessions (plate 2). Freud said that the dog helped to calm and reassure his patients, especially young children. Later he claimed that he depended on Jo-Fi's judgment to tell him about his patients' mental states. The dog would lie down at various distances from the person being treated, depending on the degree of stress that the patient was under.

Add to these the hundreds of millions of ordinary people who dearly love their own family dogs. There's Aunt Martha, whose Christmas card includes a picture of the kids and their Golden Retriever, Honey, all sitting around Uncle Max, who is dressed like Santa Claus. There's also the videotape you received in the mail, presenting Cousin Fred playing the clarinet while his Border Collie, Babe, plaintively wails the vocal parts. All of this is clear evidence for how much we love, care for, and think about our dogs.

DOGS TO LOVE OR NOT

Stories like these make dogs sound like the silver lining on the storm clouds of life. After hearing such tales, it is hard to suppress the desire to go right out and get a dog to share its life with us. Unfortunately, human relationships with dogs are not always so sunny and warm. Some people have temperaments that permit little love for any dog. Other people seem to get along with some kinds of dogs and have strong negative feelings for others. The secret lies in matching the personality of the person to the behavioral characteristics of the dog. An incompatible pairing of a dog and a person can be a disaster.

Just a few paragraphs back, I described some famous kings and generals who were so fond of their dogs that they slept with them. Sleeping with a dog is actually quite common for people who are happy with their pet. One recent survey of Americans found that about half of all dog owners allow their dogs to sleep on the bed with them. The people most inclined to sleep with their dogs are single females between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four. Nearly three out of five women in this group allow their dog on the bed. Those most likely to boot the dog out of bed are married men over forty-five years of age. However, even in this group, just shy of 40 percent still sleep with their dogs.

Affection for canines can be problematic, though. In that same survey the researchers found that 13 percent of the couples that they studied included one partner who so objected to the dog being on the bed that the dispute strained the relationship with their human partner. Consider General George Armstrong Custer, the one who was wiped out at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer had frequent heated disputes with his wife, Libbie, over the presence of dogs on their bed. Eventually she threatened to sleep elsewhere if her husband insisted on sharing the bed with his dogs. The Custers finally compromised: when Custer was at home the dogs could sleep in their bedroom but not on their bed. In the field, however, Custer shared his mattress with his Greyhounds, Blucher and Byron, and his white Bulldog, Turk.

For some people, love or hate for dogs is quite breed-specific. Charles Darwin, whose Theory of Evolution is the cornerstone of biological thinking today, truly loved some dogs. His favorites were terriers. He often wrote about his West Highland White Terrier's adventures around his house and speculated on the dog's thinking processes. On the other hand, Darwin had no patience or love for large hounds. He was once given a Talbot Hound, one of the immediate predecessors of our present day Bloodhounds. He described it as "graceless, noisy and drooling," "witless and lacking in self-control," and "with no visible merit of consequence to civilized society." In the end, the terrier-loving Darwin had the hound taken from the house and shot.

Another case of dogs that fit and don't fit into a person's lifestyle comes from former president Ronald Reagan. Reagan has had many dogs during his life. Before his political career started he had a pair of Scottish Terriers. Later, as governor of California and then president of the United States, he received many dogs as gifts. There was a Golden Retriever named Victory, an Irish Setter named Peggy, a Siberian Husky named Taca, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Rex, and a Belgian Sheepdog named Fuzzy. Of these Reagan's favorites were a pair of Scottish Terriers and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. However, there was also Lucky, a Bouvier des Flandres who was given to him during his early years at the White House. Poor Lucky just never fit in with Reagan's personality. Bouviers are large dogs that have been specialized to herd cattle. Although quite friendly, they can be dominant and demanding. Reagan had no patience for this rambunctious dog who continually attempted to herd him across the lawn by snapping at his heels and bumping at his side. On one occasion, Lucky even drew blood with a nip on the presidential hindquarters, a trick Bouviers use to make cattle move along at a swifter pace. Although she clearly exasperated Reagan, Lucky certainly was luckier than Darwin's hound. Instead of getting shot behind the barn, she was ultimately "retired" to Reagan's ranch in Santa Barbara, California, thus effectively removing her annoying presence from his daily life.

I was quite surprised to learn how many dog and human pairings do not work. A series of surveys in North America and Britain suggest that four out of every ten puppies do not last even one year with the people who adopt them. These dogs are returned to their breeders or placed in shelters, killed by their owners or taken to veterinarians for euthanasia, or simply abandoned. An additional 8 to 10 percent suffer the same fate in their second year. Even in apparently happy homes, some 9 percent of dog owners admit that at one time or another they have deliberately tried to lose their dogs. Most commonly, this kind of behavior is found among married women in the twenty-five to thirty-four-year-old range. Fortunately only about 2 percent of these dogs remain missing, since guilt usually drives people back to the scene of the abandonment to try to find their missing pet. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that there are many human-dog combinations that simply don't work.

You have probably been in homes where dogs are loved and in others where their lives are not so happy. It is easy to spot the behaviors that indicate whether the relationship between a person and a dog is working or failing. Let's look at the homes of two hypothetical dogs that we will call Lassie and Laddie.

Lassie has just wandered into the kitchen to investigate some food smells, and her owner pauses in her task of making dinner to speak to the dog. "Are you hungry, Lassie, or just hopeful? I'll bet you plan to just hang out around here in case I get sloppy and drop something. Is that your plan, girl? Well, stay close, Fur Face, and you might get lucky."

In that simple exchange we find all the elements of a relationship that is working. The dog's presence is noticed and responded to and, perhaps, she is spontaneously touched in a friendly manner. The dog has a name, and even a nickname. Nicknames, even if they are given spontaneously and forgotten a moment later (like "Fur Face" in this case), are important signs of affection. Research has shown that we may have dozens of such names that we use for a loved spouse or child. My daughter, Rebecca, had to put up with names like "Princess" or "Pumpkin," while my son, Benn, found himself called "Trooper" or "Young Hero" among the many names that came and went. Psychologists say that such alternate names are signs of affection -- part of a sort of secret code between you and someone you care about.

Let's look at the less cordial situation in Laddie's house. It is the same scenario, with Laddie wandering into the kitchen because the smell of cooking food has wafted through the house. Laddie's owner ignores his entry as she moves around the room. The dog is standing in the middle of the floor, and eventually the owner brushes against him accidentally. She turns and looks at him. "Why are you always underfoot? Just go away and don't be a pest. Don't expect any extra food from me -- you're too fat already. Scat!" She waves her hand in a dismissive gesture.

Her husband enters the room as this scene is unfolding, and the woman turns to him. "The dog is always in my way and I'm tripping over it. I don't understand why it can't learn to keep out of my way. Why don't you put it outside for a while so I can get something done?"

This little scene tells us volumes about the relationship between the person and the dog. To begin with, the dog's arrival is not seen as desirable, or as a chance to show a momentary flicker of affection. His presence is simply an interruption, which is responded to with annoyance. Notice that Laddie is an "it," without gender or identity. Laddie is not a family member, he is "the dog." In family conversations he has no name, neither a formal given name nor any pleasant nickname. Psychologists refer to this as depersonalization. It is the kind of behavior we engage in when we don't want to acknowledge someone as an individual, with his own identity and personal feelings. Thus an executioner might say, "Bring out the prisoner. It is time to carry out the sentence." He would not say, "Go get Freddie. It's time to kill him." The word "prisoner" is a label; it has no particular individuality, since there are many prisoners. "The dog" is a similar depersonalized label. Names, whether Freddie or Laddie, refer to individuals, each with an identity of their own and a right to consciousness, life, and maybe happiness. Notice that the labels "prisoner" or "dog" allow you to think of the individual as an "it." If something is nameless we do not consider its unique characteristics, such as its sex. The moment a personal name is used we must accompany it with personalized pronouns. Thus Freddie becomes a "him" while Lassie would be a "her."

Many people do not recognize the depersonalized nature of this kind of interaction where a dog is concerned. However, what would you think about a parent who turned to his or her spouse and said, "Go get the child. It's time to change its diaper and feed it"? With references like "the child" and "it" and never a mention of the baby's name, one might immediately suspect that we were dealing with a loveless relationship, and begin to wonder about the safety and well-being of the child.

THE CASE OF HARRISON'S HOUND

Even when a dog is loved by its master there is no guarantee that it will be loved by everyone in the household. Sometimes a person's fondness for a particular dog can blind them to the distaste that other family members may have for the animal. This can often lead to embarrassing or uncomfortable situations, and can certainly increase the stress on a relationship. Take the case of Rex Harrison, the British stage and screen actor. Harrison is best known for his part as Professor Henry Higgins in the musical My Fair Lady, which won him both a Tony and an Oscar. He also appeared in many films such as Major Barbara and Doctor Dolittle. Harrison already had a Basset Hound named Homer when he married Elizabeth Rees Harris. Her son Damian remembered meeting Homer for the first time, and described him as "the most spoilt dog." At that time Homer had been around for years. Damian claimed that Homer "was the only person who had managed to stick it out with Rex -- and Rex loved him." In Harrison's eyes, Homer could do no wrong. Each day, a brush would be brought in and the dog would lie at his feet while the actor would brush his ears. "Homer was like him -- they knew they had soul mates in each other."

The problem was that, although Harrison loved Homer, his new wife, Elizabeth, emphatically did not. They simply did not get along, and Harrison appeared to be oblivious to the developing stress. Elizabeth later complained vehemently about the dog. "Homer was ghastly. He hated women. He would stand in front of the door just as you were ready to go out and trip you up." Each morning she and Harrison would have breakfast in bed with his tray on one side and hers on the other. "Homer would come right the way round and slobber all over my breakfast, leaving the spittle all over it, and then he would wag his tail to Rex, who would pat him and say what a good dog he was -- and my breakfast was ruined every damn time."

Elizabeth seemed to feel that the dog was actually using his drooling as a weapon against her. "Homer loathed me. If we were going out, he would stand and wait until I was dressed and then do his slobbering bit; so I would have to run or jump or hide behind the curtain from him."

Elizabeth seemed to attribute all of the annoying behaviors that Homer displayed to premeditation and willful scheming, even when, to a casual observer, they seemed to be what you might expect from an old lazy dog. For instance, since Homer slept in the basement he would have to go down the steps to sleep in his quarters. Elizabeth claimed that when Harrison was away on tour or on location, Homer would refuse to go downstairs unless she took him in the elevator. "He would just sit there, and he weighed a ton so I couldn't move him. So I would have to get the lift and then he would go." Her interpretation was that he was doing this just to make her angry.

In the end, Elizabeth felt that Homer might have played a significant role in the disintegration of her relationship with Harrison, and may have contributed to their divorce. She often complained about how sexist Homer was and how he was trying to make her life miserable. When she did, Harrison would just smile and tell her that she was exaggerating. "Then he would lean down and pat Homer -- like he was trying to reassure the damn dog rather than listening to me. It infuriated me." In the end, she reflected about how the atmosphere between them began to change and things began to go downhill. She would later recall this time, saying, "I couldn't help thinking about how he seemed to care more for that wretched dog than for me."

THE SENATOR AND THE POET

One out of every four households in North America contains a dog, and in some countries, such as England, Germany, and France, the numbers rise to one out of every two or three households. Despite these numbers, scientific investigation of the factors that go into our choice of dogs, and what constitutes a good match between a person and a dog, is virtually nonexistent. The reason is probably that research on topics like love or affection, even between humans, let alone between humans and dogs, is considered frivolous by many social scientists who want to appear to be concerned with more "serious" matters. It is considered reasonable to study conditions that lead to stress or aggression in a family, or even the underlying causes of divorce, but somehow it is not "scientific" to study factors that lead to comfort or love. For instance, a senator from Wisconsin, William Proxmire, once became almost apoplectic when he heard that the U.S. National Science Foundation had awarded an $84,000 grant to a psychologist to study love. He raged:

I object to this, not only because no one -- not even the National Science Foundation -- can argue that falling in love is a science; not only because I'm sure that even if they spend $84 million or $84 billion they wouldn't get an answer that anyone would believe. I'm also against it because I don't want the answer....So, National Science Foundation -- get out of the love racket. Leave that to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Irving Berlin.

If so much anger is aroused by an attempt to study the attraction between men and women, imagine what Senator Proxmire might have said if the research project had to do with how and why we develop affection for particular types of dogs. Or why we love certain dog breeds and do not get along with others. As a psychologist, however, I know that these questions can be answered scientifically, and that the answers are important to people. If you select a breed of dog that you can develop a warm companionship with, the quality of your life can improve greatly. Selecting the wrong breed of dog can increase the stress and misery in your life significantly, and often ends in the death or abandonment of the dog. For this reason, although I love the poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the songs of Irving Berlin, I think that we should rely on science to answer the question of why we love certain breeds of dogs and why we are neutral to downright negative about some other breeds.

Although Elizabeth Barrett Browning may not have contributed directly to a scientific understanding of compatibility between certain breeds of dogs and particular people, she is, herself, an interesting case study of how deep affection can form between a person and a dog. Elizabeth Barrett Browning is best known as a romantic poet. Among her most famous works is the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese, which she dedicated to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. These poems contain some of the best-known love lyrics ever written in English, with familiar lines like "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." From adolescence on, Elizabeth's health was poor, probably because of a spinal injury which was originally thought to be incurable and kept her confined to her bed for much of the time. This confinement, however, gave her the opportunity to write, and she became well known in literary circles for several volumes of poems. Some of her poems, like "The Cry of the Children" and "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," were so well received that she was mentioned as a possible successor to William Wordsworth as poet laureate of England.

Robert Browning read some of Elizabeth's poems and began to write to her to praise her poetry. He himself was already on the way to becoming one of the best known of the Victorian poets, particularly for his dramatic monologues. A short time later the two poets met and fell in love. Their courtship was bitterly opposed by Elizabeth's father, who was a dominant and possessive man. The whole episode had the flavor of high melodrama, with the requisite tense climax and happy ending, as the two lovers eloped and then fled from England to live happily ever after in Italy. This romantic tale was eventually immortalized in a popular play, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Rudolf Besier.

As a young woman, Elizabeth was often depressed by her illness and confinement, and her friend Mary Russell Mitford thought that it might be diverting for her to have a dog. Elizabeth had a fondness for animals in general, although her tastes in dogs were quite specific. Her brothers owned dogs, which she did not like. According to Elizabeth, one of her brothers' dogs was "an odious bloodhound." Then there was a Mastiff who was "a cannibal who glories in battle and the taste of raw meat." Finally, her youngest brother had a terrier that she judged "the ugliest dog of all Christendom." She had, however, developed a fondness for Mary Mitford's Cocker Spaniel, Flush. Eventually Flush sired a litter, and Mitford gave Elizabeth one of his offspring, a little golden-colored male that she had named after his father, Flush.

The puppy had an instantaneous effect on Elizabeth's spirits. "Flush amuses me sometimes when I am inclined to be amused by nothing else," she told her brother George. Flush was soon spending most of the day and night in bed with Elizabeth, where "his ears were often the first thing to catch my tears."

Every one of Flush's whims was indulged. For a while he would not touch unbuttered bread, then he would eat only muffins, then his taste shifted to sweet sponge cakes and macaroons. As for meat, he would not eat mutton, but only beef or fowl, and then only if cut into tiny bits and fed to him. "If you were but to see him eat partridge from a silver fork," she wrote to Mitford. When Elizabeth drank a glass of milk, she would save half of it for Flush. She recognized that she was being overindulgent ("Voices to the north and south cry 'Flush is spoilt!'" she wrote), but as the dog's preferences changed with the seasons she continued to coddle him. "Of course, he has given up his ice creams for the season, and his favorite substitute seems to be coffee -- coffee, understand, not poured into the saucer, but taken out of my little coffee cup...He sees that I drink out of the cup and not out of the saucer; and in spite of his nose, he will do the same. My dear pretty little Flushie!"

In Victorian England there were several rings of dognappers, who would abduct dogs of middle- or upper-class families and hold them for ransom. This trade was lucrative and relatively low in risk since English law was rather ambiguous about whether dogs were to be considered property. Flush was kidnapped no less than three times, each time being ransomed back for a higher sum. The third time the ransom demanded was more than Elizabeth's father was willing to pay, and far more than Elizabeth could get from her own resources. She was beside herself with anxiety and grief, not eating and barely sleeping, moaning to those around her, "Flush doesn't know that we can recover him, and he is in the extremest despair all this while, poor darling Flush, with his fretful fears, and petty whims, and his fancy of being near me. All this night he will howl and lament, I know perfectly -- for I fear we shall not ransom him tonight."

Eventually the strain built to a climax, and Elizabeth decided that she would go to the thieves and negotiate Flush's release. Her father did not know of her plans, but her brothers were aghast, warning that she would be robbed and murdered. Nonetheless, one evening, five days after Flush had been stolen, Elizabeth got into a cab with her frightened but loyal maid, and they drove through what she later described as "obscure streets" to the rough neighborhood of Shoreditch. This was where the gang of dog banditti known as "The Fancy" had their headquarters, and she knew from the previous kidnappings that their leader was a man named Taylor. The cab driver stopped at a pub and asked the way, and when they arrived at the address he had been given, several men came out and invited Elizabeth to come in and wait for Taylor, who was not at home. Her maid was terrified and begged her mistress to do no such thing. She agreed, and sat in the cab. Fortunately, when the cab driver had gone to the pub seeking Taylor's whereabouts, he had explained why Elizabeth was there. Several people in the pub felt some pity for her and had tagged along behind the cab. Now as she and her maid sat there they were surrounded by what Elizabeth later described as a "gang of benevolent men and boys who 'lived but to oblige us.'"

After some time had passed, Mrs. Taylor -- "an immense feminine bandit" -- reappeared and promised to inform her "dear husband," when he returned, that a lady had called and was waiting for her dog. Elizabeth told Mrs. Taylor the amount that she could afford as "a reward" for Flush's return, and she was assured that such a generous contribution would be acceptable. Elizabeth returned home to await Taylor's appearance to arrange the final exchange. In the end, Flush was returned and the ransom paid was the more affordable price that Elizabeth had negotiated during her adventure.

When not worrying about his safety, Elizabeth was concerned about Flush's education. She became quite convinced that the spaniel had almost human intelligence. "My Flush clearly understands articulate language, acting in a correct and knowledgeable manner when I say 'dinner,' 'cakes,' 'milk,' 'go downstairs,' 'go out,' or even when Crow [her housekeeper] tells him 'Go and kiss Miss Barrett.'" Since Flush had mastered language to such an extent, Elizabeth decided to teach him to read. When she announced this to her brothers they were beside themselves and laughed so hard that tears came to their eyes. They watched with amazement while she held up a card with the letter A printed on it and another with the letter B on it. Holding the cards on either side she instructed the dog "Kiss A, Flush -- and now Kiss B," waiting till the dog pressed its nose against the appropriate card. When he did he was rewarded with a bit of cake. Unfortunately, Flush's reading lessons did not go as well as the poet had hoped, and she later dismissed his failings with an apologetic "I am afraid that he has no very pronounced love for literature."

Her next attempts were to teach him numbers and arithmetic, with the aim of making Flush competent enough to play dominoes with her. "I have read of a gentleman and his dog doing so, and I felt jealous...I can't help it." The lessons were amusing to watch. Elizabeth would hold a piece of cake and slowly count to three. Flush's task was to take it on three and not sooner. The spaniel's inadequacy in mathematics was taken not as an intellectual limitation but rather as a matter of preference. "His soul has the sensitivities of an artist, hence he finds the mechanics of arithmetic both tedious and inconvenient."

When Elizabeth and Robert eloped and fled the family home, she brought with her only two bags of luggage and, of course, Flush. The newlyweds traveled to Italy to start their new life, and soon Robert was expected to be as solicitous toward Flush as his mistress was. He did take good care of Flush, for his wife's sake, but often complained that the dog was vociferous, arrogant, overbearing, and tyrannical with him. He also declared that Flush seemed to consider him "to be created for the special purpose of doing him service."

Elizabeth never lost her love for Flush. She also never lost her belief that he was intelligent enough to learn language if he so desired. From her new home in Italy she wrote to Mitford that Flush highly approved of his new home and of the various canine playmates in his new neighborhood. She informed her friend that Flush was now "going out every day and speaking Italian to the little dogs."

Although Elizabeth Barrett Browning may not have done research on the issue of human and dog compatibility, she is a perfect example of the reason that we ask the question "Why do we love certain dogs and dislike others?" Why did she have such disdain for her brothers' Bloodhound, Mastiff, and terrier, and yet have such a deep affection for her spaniel, Flush? Despite Senator Proxmire's loud complaints, some of us are quite interested in the answer to a question like this -- and science can provide us with an answer. In this book we will explore why we love the dogs that we do, and also why certain breeds of dogs turn out to be catastrophes for particular people. In the following pages I will try to show how you can select the breed of dog that best fits you, based on your personality. To do this we will use some scientific data from a study of over six thousand people and the dogs that improved or diminished the quality of their lives.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2003

    A dog person and owner

    This is a great book. Had some friends take the short quiz in it just for fun. The results had turned out true for them all. The book is very informative and insightful. Good basis for someone looking into getting a dog.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2000

    My Dog, My Self

    Loved this book. A surprising personality quiz to match you up with group/groups of breeds that you would be compatible with. Some touching stories also. Recommend for any dog lover, or someone thinking of getting a dog.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2011

    Highly Recommended-Awesome book

    I had a Yorkie for 13 years. He has been gone for about 5 years. I needed to decide which type of dog I would like next. I choose the Belgian Teruven and an Airedale Terrier along with the Yorkshire Terrier.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2003

    Quiz !?

    I thoght that the book was vary interesting. But when I took the quiz I got a group of breeds thatI have never been interested in.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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