Sunday, December 2, 2012

BOOKreMarks: What the Dog Said

I scooped up an unexpected treasure last week at a library sale. It’s one of those “gift” books: small and easy to handle, photographs on every spread, lean on text. It’s Dylan Schaffer’s Dog Stories with black-and-white, sepia-washed photographs by Jon Weber. The stories are told by dogs from dogs’ perspectives.

I don’t often fall for such stuff. Heaven only knows how many blogs and books exist in this category. And the ones written by critters who have speech impediments or spelling challenges grate on me. (I know, I know: The I Can Has Cheezburger? captions fit squarely into this description. It took me a long time to come round to them.)

But Schaffer’s dogs are different. They’re wise and poignant and engaging. They’re a perfect holiday gift for the dog lovers in your life. Here’s an excerpt—a dialogue between a couple of Greyhounds, Merlin and Palermo:

M: What makes us dogs?

P: Why do you ask?

M: I sometimes think the things that make me easily identifiable as a dog—my bark, my smell—are the least important things about me, about us. We are unique among the species, but for reasons seldom articulated.

P: That is because we live in a borrowed world. Like all domesticated creatures we exist as a subset of the experiences of our masters. And like all slaves we are valued exclusively for those traits which make us useful: we are obedient, we are protective. But our trials, loves, hopes, and dreams, these are obscured by our owners’ need for us to be dog-like.

M: So what is the one thing that most makes you a dog?

P: I can serve without being servile. And you?

M: I can see into the hearts of those who love me.

[Photograph by Barbara Karant—professional photographer, Greyhound enthusiast, and evangelist for rescue organization Greyhounds Only.]

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