Recently I noticed that my collection of dog books was starting to fill my shelves like dog hair on the furniture. They’re crowding out the serious literature but I think each of them is worth reading in part, if not cover to cover. They run the gamut from insightful to silly, reference to ridiculous. Here are a few, the pick of the litter, you might say.The Dorling-Kindersley Eyewitness Handbooks are always a treat to behold. Dogs, the Visual Guide to Over 300 dog breeds from Around the World is a beautifully designed picture reference book, particularly helpful if you’re curious about the origins of that new guy at the dog park. Or a few hundred others. Brian Hare’s The Genius of Dogs is full of gee-whiz, anthropological revelations about how dogs think, why dogs and humans get along so well and how this all came about. Check out Hare’s work with dogs at http://evolutionaryanthropology.duke.edu/research/dogs and at https://www.dognition.com They really are smarter than you think. And not just those Border Collies. David Hockney’s Dog Days is a collection of paintings and drawings of his two obviously well-loved dachshunds. The images are lovely, every last one of them, and the book is a delight. The Betty and Rita books are great fun. These two girl dogs cavort through the cities of Paris and Rome, taking in l’Arc de Triomphe, il Pantheon and enjoying all sorts of in-between indulgences. We follow fetching black and white photos as they become more culturally sophisticated than any hound oughta be. betty and rita go to paris and betty and rita la dolce vita. Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs is a collection of poems as touching as those in any of her previous books. Beautiful language describes beautiful dog spirits, language that makes me pause, to rest, to remember, to pay attention. This book is good for the soul. EB White on Dogs is a collection of his essays, stories and letters about his dogs. White’s obituary for his scottie, Daisy, is a fine example of the craft: “All her life she was subject to moods, and her feelings about horses laid her sanity open to question.” This is a book for those who love good writing as well as for those who love dogs.
Local and international news, and it’s not good:
The Greater Raleigh Sports Council is an organization whose mission is “to foster a healthy economic environment by promoting the region as a leading site for sporting events. . . .” To that end, the Sports Council has invited Michael Vick as a Special Guest to its 2014 Evening of Champions. Really?
The Sports Council website states that “His presentation includes what he learned from his mistakes and the consequences, and how he has worked to change his life,” including a link to learn of his involvement with The Humane Society. I didn’t realize Vick and the HSUS had an arrangement but I’m so stunned by his upcoming role at the Who-Cares-Anyway Evening of Champions that I don’t have the psychic energy to scrutinize those public service announcements. I do hope he has rehabilitated himself, but it stretches my imagination to think of him as a speaker of any repute.
What to do? Enough people have objected to his invitation to this event that a petition on Change.org has garnered almost 72,000 signatures as of 2:00 EST. If any of you bloggers feel similarly, here’s the url:
Local news aside, and assuming that he really is interested in showing kindness toward animals, I’d rather see Mr. Vick flown to Sochi, Russia to assist animal rights workers who are racing against the clock to rescue stray dogs “from exterminators hired by the government.” According to the Humane Society International’s website, “HSI became involved in Sochi last summer when city officials announced a plan to kill 2,000 dogs ahead of the Winter Olympics. The international outcry forced city officials to abandon that plan.”
In one of the stars I shall be living. . . . And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince
World Animal Day
The NC State College of Veterinary Medicine selected this day to host a Kindred Companions Memorial Gathering. We came, those of us whose animals had been patients at the hospital, patients who are no longer with us.
Some of us felt that we ought to come back to this campus to pay some sort of tribute to our animals. Something drew us back, despite the painful memories, the exquisite hope and despair that had once spilled out of every crevice of the place. We came back for those we had hoped would continue to beat the odds and for those who died without letting us know, for animals who left us last month and those who died years ago.
100 of us came back this October evening to grieve collectively, to find solace in mourning amongst strangers who understand our heartache and recognize our loss. We came because grieving the death of an animal does not have a place in the rituals of our society, because the ensuing despair can feel as though it is barely acknowledged. The Gathering gave us a ritual, our solemn aura expressed our gratitude.
There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are [beings] whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.
—Hannah Senesh, poet, playwright, and paratrooper (1921-1944)