Sunday, January 31, 2010

Collecting Dog Books: Breeds

If "collect what you love" is a classic recommendation for bibliophiles, then the breed you love best may be the most logical, the most satisfying way to start or refine a library devoted to canine literature. Let your dog be your guide!

But even within your specialty you can specialize.

Breed books per se are only the most obvious choice. Even if you have a few, or many, such volumes, remember that authors' eras and perspectives provide not only different takes on everything from breed origin to breed standard, and the usual guidance on choosing, rearing, training, breeding, and showing, but also some extras, a few surprises, an anecdote or two you've found nowhere else, illustrations or photos you've never seen and wish you hadn't had to wait so long to admire.

Dog literature is rich in breed-specific biography and memoir, immortalizing dogs who've experienced every walk of life, from the farm and field to the city streets, from the rigors of war to the fanfare of motion pictures. In fiction, the role of the dog knows no bounds, from the realistic to the fantastical; is there a recognized breed that hasn't appeared in a novel or short story? Whether your preference is fact or fiction, you can fine-tune a collection by searching for books written in the canine first person, books written for the adult or younger reader, picture books for kids or other illustrated works, including those by artists known for depicting certain breeds with special skill.

Curiosity can take you far afield, to a dog's ancestral home, to places associated with breed history. During the 1970s, I made several pilgrimages to Gergweis, Germany's famous Dackeldorf, where more than one breeder assured me that the town always had more dachshund than human inhabitants, an innkeeper showed me the dog beds with dachshund-sized duvets in every guest room, and a farmer invited me to watch a dachshund herd cows home for milking. Travel is also a wonderful excuse to acquire books, editions you might not find at home, as souvenirs or gifts. Of course, if you can't make the trip, you can read about the place or scour the Internet.

Learning more about what a breed was created to do is another great provider of insight. So my love of the dachshund, which translates as badger dog, has given me a shelf devoted to the members of the family Mustelidae. I collect everything I can find that describes the dachshund as hunter and earthdog. The more you know about your breed's talents and instincts, the more you know about the dog individual with whom you live.

While I know there's nothing in life more compelling than dogs, I admit that most dog lovers have other interests, many of which combine nicely with the canine. Who among the great and famous, for example, has shared your breed preference? Read about those individuals, and you'll often read about their dogs. In my constant quest for dachshundiana, I’ve read everything I can find about Pierre Bonnard and his Ravejeau and Poucette after marvelling at the dachshunds in his paintings, and my appreciation for tenor Richard Tauber’s recordings has only been amplified by discovering his dachshunds Fritzi and Mitzi in an article in Time in 1931, and on the cover of Opera News in 1991.

Part of the fun of collecting is the sense that one is always on the scent. Just another little lesson my dogs have taught me.

1 comment:

  1. You will probably enjoy all of the Elizabeth George novels which stand on their own for fun and mysterious murder solving, but which, among other characters, highlights one couple's dachshund, Peach ! EG herself is usually found on the cover's back page holding one of her own little dachshunds.