They’re so much more than man’s best friend. These days, dogs occupy privileged places in our hearts and homes, improving us as humans and making our lives more purposeful. As the books here show, the love of a good canine can cure almost any ailment.
DIARY OF A DOG LOVER
When Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, adopted a golden retriever puppy named Scout, she blogged about her canine-related experiences on the paper’s website. Her posts proved surprisingly popular, prompting responses from readers around the country. We’ve got good news for Abramson’s followers: Her beloved blog has inspired a full-blown book, The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout.
In this wonderfully engaging narrative, Abramson documents the ups and downs of Scout’s first year. It’s a time of adjustment, as Abramson and her husband, Henry, struggle with a bad case of the empty nest blues made worse by the loss of their previous dog. Scout fills these voids, and then some, but she comes with a catch—a boisterous nature that suits Abramson’s country house in Connecticut but poses problems in her New York City loft. Exasperated by the challenges of raising a dog in an urban setting and by Scout’s bad habits (you name it, this puppy’s done it: chewing shoes, barking at mealtimes, relieving herself indoors), Abramson turns to behaviorists for help. The story of how she molds Scout into a compliant, city-dwelling creature will give hope to anyone who owns a problematic pooch. Along with humorous anecdotes and can’t-be-beat memories, Abramson offers sound counsel on breeding, adoption and diet, making this an invaluable guidebook as well as a sweet valentine to a lovable canine.
INTO THE WILD
As the man behind the Newbury, Massachusetts, newspaper The Undertoad, Tom Ryan played the role of roving reporter for a decade. In 2007, ready for a change, he sold the publication and relocated to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with his miniature schnauzer pal, Atticus M. Finch. The move opened up new vistas for the pair—both literally and figuratively—inspiring the incredible adventures that Ryan recounts with flair in Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship.
Stirred by the majestic terrain of his new home and moved by the death of a close friend from cancer, Ryan forms a plan to raise money to fight the disease: With Atticus by his side (accoutered in booties and fleece-lined bodysuit), he tackles the intimidating peaks of the White Mountain Range, climbing all 48 of them twice as a charity fundraiser. Up in the mountains, the two contend with frigid temperatures, snow and wind, and there are times when the weather makes progress impossible. It’s at these moments that Ryan’s affection for his pint-sized companion, who possesses courage and pluck of epic proportions, is most endearingly apparent. Not long after their return from the peaks, Atticus experiences serious health problems. What transpires for him and for Ryan on their home turf is just as extraordinary as their mountain journey. Following Atticus is an intriguing story of growth, possibility and the one-of-a-kind camaraderie that exists between man and dog.
SALVATION WITH A FURRY FACE
Julie Klam has had lots of experience in the dog department. Her best-selling memoir, You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness (2010), was a delightful account of the way her under-populated personal life was enriched by a dog named Otto and grew to include a husband, daughter and small brood of adopted Boston terriers. Klam’s latest release, Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself, exhibits the same humor and narrative panache that made her last book so appealing.
With her wry, honest style in full swing, Klam shares personal tales of dog rescue and rehab that read, at times, like adventure stories. Traveling to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Klam finds herself in a swamp assisting with the retrieval of a feral puppy who has a jar jammed on his head. A Manhattan rescue named Morris—a burly pit bull—helps resuscitate the author’s fragile marriage. Another adoptee, a Boston terrier called Clementine, has a major (and messy) incontinence problem and a spirit so cheery that Klam can’t help but be inspired by her. At bottom, these stories share a single sentiment—that pets in general (and dogs in particular) have a rejuvenating effect on the human spirit. This is a lovely little book that will strike a chord with just about any breed of animal lover.
HOME IS WHERE THE DOG IS
Globetrotting photographer Art Wolfe has aimed his lens at just about every kind of animal imaginable—canines included, of course. In fact, photographing dogs and the people who own them has been a pet (pardon the pun) project of Wolfe’s since 1984, when he snapped images of kids and their four-legged friends while on assignment in Tibet. Wolfe’s favorite dog-and-owner shots are showcased in the breathtaking new book Dogs Make Us Human: A Global Family Album. Remarkable for its reach and diversity, this international gallery features poodles and Pomeranians, purebreds and mutts, dogs that hunt and dogs that defend—canines of every conceivable breed and demeanor. Ditto the owners.
Along with captivating images from every continent, this unique collection contains text by best-selling author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, who examines the incomparable bond between man and dog. “Our relationship with dogs is the single most important symbiotic relationship between humans and another species on the planet,” he says. Wolfe’s photos support this statement. Standout images include a Yorkie in Tokyo perched on the seat of a moped, and a chihuahua in Seattle whose sunglasses and leather cap parallel its owner’s outfit—or lack thereof. If you’re trying to convert a cat lover, this collection should do the trick.
P.S. FROM A SPECIAL PET
With Letters from Angel, Martin P. Levin offers a touching tribute to a much-missed pooch. After he was forced to put Angel, his golden retriever, to sleep, Levin decided to share her story with the world, producing this slender but substantial book. Told from Angel’s perspective in a series of letters, the narrative provides a dog’s-eye view of daily existence that’s utterly enchanting. Angel is frightened of fireworks, finds cabdrivers unmannerly and adores Mrs. Levin’s home-cooked lamb chops. She uses the letters to share memories—not all of them happy—of her pre-Levin life. Her take on humans and the world they inhabit is irresistible. Illustrated with delightful black-and-white line drawings, this is a book you can breeze through in a single sitting, but it’s better savored slowly.