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The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events

The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events

by Stanley Coren, Andy Bartlett (Illustrator), Andy Bartlett (Illustrator)

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The Pawprints of History shines a new light on a favorite subject — the relationship between humans and their four-legged best friends. Stanley Coren, a renowned expert on dog-human interactions, has combed the annals of history and found captivating stories of how dogs have lent a helping paw and influenced the actions, decisions, and fates of


The Pawprints of History shines a new light on a favorite subject — the relationship between humans and their four-legged best friends. Stanley Coren, a renowned expert on dog-human interactions, has combed the annals of history and found captivating stories of how dogs have lent a helping paw and influenced the actions, decisions, and fates of well-known figures from every era and throughout the world.
As history's great figures strut across the stage, Coren guides us from the wings, adoringly picking out the canine cameos and giving every dog of distinction its day. In this unparalleled chronicle, we see how Florence Nightingale's chance encounter with a wounded dog changed her life by leading her to the vocation of nursing. We learn why Dr. Freud's Chow Chow attended all of his therapy sessions and how the life of the Fifth Dalai Lama was saved by a dog who shared his bed. Dogs have even found their way to the battlefield — great military leaders such as Robert the Bruce and Omar Bradley have shared their lives, exploits, and gunfire with dogs. From Wagner, who admitted that one of the arias in the opera Siegfried was "written" by one of his dogs, to the dogs that inspired and lived with Presidents Lincoln, Roosevelt, Johnson, and Clinton, these loving canines do double duty as loyal pets and creative muses.
From war to art, across the spectrum of human endeavor and achievement, there often stands, not only at his side but leading the way, man's beloved "best friend." For those who believe that behind every great person is a good dog, the uplifting stories in The Pawprints of History will be a lasting delight.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Seattle Post-Intelligencer A true-tales look at the fascinating role of dogs in history.
Did you know that Sigmund Freud’s chow-chow Jo-Fi attended all his therapy sessions and that the father of psychoanalysis admitted that he often depended on his pet for an assessment of a patient’s mental state? Did you know that Richard Wagner ended his marriage after his wife maliciously poisoned his beloved toy poodle? Or that King Charles II gave hereditary titles of nobility to his pooches? Stanley Coren, the companionable author of How to Speak Dog, contributes another book for pet owners to joyfully ponder. A canine ten.
Publishers Weekly
Spiced with wit and mellowed with charm, Coren's anecdote-laden survey of canine-human interspecies history is a solid read. From stories about the diminutive 18th-century intellectual poet Alexander Pope and his protective Great Dane, Bounce, to Teddy Roosevelt's mixed breed, horseback-riding companion, Skip, Coren (How to Speak Dog) deftly draws the reader into both literary salons and political realms alike. The book ranges from ancient Egypt and medieval Japan to 19th-century Vienna and 21st-century Washington, D.C. Here are dogs of every breed as well as their owners, who include emperors, scoundrels, saints and artists: a Newfoundland named Robber offered Richard Wagner company while he was in Paris completing Rienzi and The Flying Dutchman. Coren recounts stirring sagas of dog heroism in everyday life as well as in wartime, from antiquity to the modern era (the Spanish conquistadors fortified their military with dogs, and "the cruellest of the Spanish leaders would use the dogs as a means of public execution. This was known as `dogging' "). The tales are well told and thoughtfully constructed, nicely balanced with solid historical research. Each chapter works nicely as a self-contained essay, and these vignettes build to tell an informative and entertaining story of canine camaraderie. Illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Coren (Why We Love the Dogs We Do, 1998, etc.) argues, with no discernible irony, that events and people as disparate as Waterloo and Richard Wagner would have been very different without the influence of dogs. When Napoleon was escaping from Elba, he fell into the water, a dog jumped in and began the rescue effort, and the diminutive Corsican survived to meet his Waterloo. Just think . . . if he had only drowned that day! That is the level of analysis in this truly dreadful example of what-if? history. If the author had adopted a lighter tone and confined himself to amusing stories, odd coincidences, and the little-known obsessions for dogs held by some of history's more engaging figures from Cromwell to Custer, this volume might have been mildly entertaining. Instead, we get solemn pronouncements such as: "Dogs do have a way of weaving their influence through human events and subtly altering the course of history." This is not to say there are no chewy biscuits in the bowl: Florence Nightingale may indeed have been inspired to become a nurse by the sight of an injured dog, and it is interesting to learn that Alexander Graham Bell taught a dog to say "How are you, grandmamma?" But it's quite a stretch from there to speculate that dogs played a significant role in the development of Freud's psychoanalytic theories. All bark and no bite. (line drawings)

Product Details

Atria Books
Publication date:
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5.50(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt


A grizzled, unshaven man sits in a crude hut and huddles next to a tiny fire. He is clothed only in the skin of an animal. Nearby his wife sleeps, and on the other side of the shelter sleeps his nearly grown son with his younger son and tiny daughter.

Sharing the fire with him is a dog with pointed ears, but of no recognizable breed. It has just awakened and is now standing and looking in the direction of a faint sound, one too weak for the man to hear. The dog sits back down, its head still cocked to follow the sound. Then, as humans have always done, the man speaks to the dog quietly: "What do you hear, my dog? You will tell me if I should worry?"

Bones and artifacts suggest that this scene could have taken place in Iraq fourteen thousand years ago, in France or Denmark twelve thousand years ago, in Utah eleven thousand years ago or in China ten thousand years ago. It has been that long that the group of animals that we know as dogs have been sharing our living space and shaping the individual and collective histories of humans.

As the scene (which could have happened thousands of times in our past) unfolds, the man looks at the guardian and hunter beside the flickering fire. Talking to the dog again for company, he asks: "What would life be like without you?

"I remember the stories of the grandfathers. They said that there was a time when there were no dogs. Then men had no warning when animals came to hunt them, or when other tribes came to raid us. But then your grandfather came with his family. They ate the garbage, the bones and skin from our hunts that we tossed outside the village. My grandfathers thought that this was good. It kept the smells down and kept the insects away. They said that because you ate the leavings, we could stay in a village for a much longer time before we had to move.

"Then my grandfathers heard you bark. Every time an animal or a man approached, you barked. What a wonderful thing, they thought. If you stayed close and barked, then nothing could surprise us in the dark. So, to keep your family close we threw extra food to you. Soon the grandfathers took some of your ancestor's puppies and brought them into their homes. They thought, 'If a dog will protect the village with its bark, then another dog will protect my own home.' Soon the puppies who lived with us were no longer wild.

"The grandfathers say that it happened one day that we were chasing a wounded deer, and your grandfathers had trailed behind us. The deer was clever, like many are, and turned off the path. My grandfathers did not see this and ran past, but your grandfathers knew in their noses where the deer had gone and ran after it. My grandfathers followed your ancestors, and ever since we have learned to hunt together.

"The grandfathers say that there used to be other, ugly men [Neanderthals] here. But they are gone now because they never had dogs to protect them or help them hunt. So they were killed by great beasts or men who hid in ambush, and when the animals that we hunt became few, they starved.

"Today I watched you and your brothers hunt the little sheep. I saw how you circled their flock to keep them together, then drove them toward the trees where you could slow them and scatter them to make them easier to kill. And I thought, my dog, if I could get you to do this gathering of sheep without killing them, then perhaps we could keep some alive, to give birth to other sheep. Then we would not need to hunt so often. We must try this soon."

The dog settled to the ground, placing its head down on its paws, and the man knew that there was no danger near. He yawned and stirred the fire, then lay down to sleep as well, secure in the knowledge that his guardian would warn him if anything dangerous lurked by. In the morning they would hunt together and, if they were successful, in the afternoon his dog and his daughter would have time to play together. His rough hand reached out and stroked the dog's fur, and that touch made them both feel content.

The history of men and dogs had begun. Their fates would be entwined as long as each species chose to share the other's company. At some time in the far future, the history of even kings or nations might show the pattern of a dog's pawprints on it.

Copyright © 2002 by SC Psychological Enterprises, Ltd.

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From the Publisher
Seattle Post-Intelligencer A true-tales look at the fascinating role of dogs in history.

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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