Monday, May 31, 2010

Military Dogs and Memorial Day

Bookselling introduces me to all kinds of people who love dogs, and many of them tell me their stories, of happiness and loss, of goodness and regret, of lifetimes and families in which the giving and receiving of love knows no distinction between two legs and four. If there's a feature common to all these stories, it's emotion. Often there's heroism, sometimes horror, but always a sense of indescribable gratitude, in stories told by the people I've found to be the most emotional when it comes to dogs. The tellers of these stories are military personnel. Whether long retired or on active duty, they know something about the skills and tenacity and uniqueness of dogs that the most dog-devoted of us civilians can only begin to imagine.

So today, on Memorial Day, when Americans honor the armed forces, let's get emotional about the dogs who also served, and the dogs who serve now. Thank them for all they've done and all they do. Promise them that we'll work for a world free of conflict, for every human and every canine.

Your favorite Internet search engine will connect you with organizations that support military dogs. Consider a donation or a care package, perhaps in the name of your dog.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Collecting Dog Books: What's Your Genre?

In dog terms, the dachshund is my genre. Dachshunds chose me when I was an infant; I belong to the breed. But I read and collect beyond the scope of the sublime badger dog. I'm always looking for new niches to explore and recommend.

For entertainment, mysteries and thrillers probably lead the genre parade. There are the classics, often obtainable in old and not always expensive fine editions, and a constant crop of new tales. You can collect by author, series, breed, or such subgenres as the cosy (you've got to curl up with a dog to read these!). A dog's role in the action might also be your focus: there are dog victims and heroes, dogs whose mastery of human speech may tell the reader more than what any other character imparts, and the canine sidekicks of professional investigators and amateur sleuths.

In nonfiction, there are lives of dogs and lives of people devoted to them. Veterinarians, zoologists, explorers, dog breeders and trainers and behaviorists, authors and artists, hikers and hunters and mushers, names renowned in the world beyond dogs, and names known only to next-door neighbors are among those whose biographies or memoirs transport us to times, places, and events we might otherwise know little or nothing about, and where we'll meet memorable dogs. In canine biography, the possibilities include the companions of European monarchs, American presidents, and celebrities; dogs remembered for their immortal contributions in military service, space exploration, and other endeavors; dogs who have excelled in the performing arts; and pets who may never have left their backyards but have so much to share with us.

Whether you rate religion and fairy tales as unrelated or indistinguishable, you'll find illuminating stories of the dog in both fields. Investigate creation stories from every corner of the globe, and you may be surprised and humbled by how often the dog is present and significant. Similarly, "Little Red Riding Hood" and its wolf in grandma's guise is just one classic with equivalents in many cultures.

What’s your favorite corner of the dog reading world?