Friday, April 24, 2009
One Nation Under Dog by Michael Schaffer
Man's relationship with the canine species has been a long evolution. Yesterday's wolf predator is today's sometimes overly pampered (blueberry facials, anyone?) pooch.
Michael Schaffer started thinking about the subject after he and his wife adopted a St. Bernard named Murphy. After they went into a pet supply store to pick up a few necessary items, due to their previously dogless life, the idea for Schaffer's book, "One Nation Under Dog", was born. When I saw the recently released volume, it piqued my curiosity. The title was clever and the subject matter something that interested me. But could his sociological study tell me anything new?
Turns out it could.
Thirteen chapters each give a slice of our life with dogs. Health care for pets such as a kidney transplant for a cat, legal issues like who gets custody of the dog when a relationship dissolves, the economic impact of pet businesses, pet-related employment (is the $100,000 per year dog walker an urban legend?), and how we deal with the death of a pet, are only a few of the topics Schaffer covers. The book is well-researched, yet doesn't come across as dreary or textbook stiff, largely due to liberal touches of humor throughout. Schaffer concludes that pets truly are a bellwether of our shifting culture, and his book does an excellent job of supporting the theory. I can see myself using it as a reference in the future.
For me, enjoying "One Nation Under Dog" was better than a car ride with the window down. Most times I read a book and then give it away. This one is a keeper.