Friday, September 16, 2011

More Dog Books!

I had German Shepherds when I was growing up. Our first dog was Jody (which was pronounced Yody, with a German "J"). Freda, one of my mother's college roommates, trained German Shepherds for show, and she arranged for us to get Jody. Jody was bred as a show dog, but he had hip dysplasia, so became undesirable as a show dog. As a family dog, however, he was wonderful.

Jody came to us when I was 9. His coat was mostly black, with gold highlights and it was coarse, except for his face and his ears, which were velvet soft, and he had lovely brown eyes. He was a guard dog absolutely, he'd bark loud, scary barks when anyone came to the house, but was gentle to all of us and anyone we deemed friendly. He encountered skunks a few times, and so endured (and so did we) baths in tomato juice. He ate steak left out on the counter to thaw. In other words, he was a dog. A great dog. The best dog.

At work I saw an advance reader copy for RIN TIN TIN: The Life and The Legend, by Susan Orlean. This is Susan Orlean of THE ORCHID THIEF fame. Interesting! While I never watched Rin Tin Tin on TV, I was certainly aware of him as a famous dog. And he was a German Shepherd. I wanted to read this.


Orlean begins by talking about Lee Duncan, the man who found the original Rin Tin Tin in World War I in France. There is a picture in the beginning of the book of him and his unit in uniform, sitting on the ground somewhere in France, and he has a gorgeous German Shepherd puppy in his lap. The puppy who would become Rin Tin Tin.

Orlean talks about how Lee Duncan bonded with this dog so closely, almost certainly in part because of his childhood, in which his father was absent, and his mother sent Lee and his sister to an orphanage for four years so she could get back on her feet financially. Duncan seemed to find solace and connection with his dogs as he got older, and his best and closest connection was with Rin Tin Tin.

Orlean does a skillful and fascinating job chronicling Rin Tin Tin and his life with Duncan, his rise to fame in the movies and then in television (these would be descendents of the original Rin Tin Tin, though it really doesn't matter), as well as talking about dogs' roles in the military and in family life. She talks about how obedience training came into fashion, not just to train dogs for military or farm and ranch work or show business, but for dogs who live with families. I'd never really thought about it, but obedience training is a relatively new phenomenon, started in the 1920's and 30's. It caught on in a big way.

I am loving this book, and all I'm learning about Rin Tin Tin and dogs... I think I need to see a Rin Tin Tin movie! Evidently, his screen presence is amazing. Does Netflix carry Where the North Begins or Clash of the Wolves? I need to find out.

The next dog book I'll be reading is PACK OF TWO by Caroline Knapp. She wrote the brilliant book about her recovery from alcohol addiciton, DRINKING: A LOVE STORY, and this is her story of her getting a dog after getting sober. Therapist has been recommending this book to me for several years now. And I finally bought a copy so I can read it.


And again, not that this is about winning (okay, maybe it is a little bit), but I am over halfway in the 100 handsell challenge at work! We had been given the task of picking a book that we can handsell in the store, by talking about it with customers, writing staff recommendation blurbs, and getting people to know about it and buy it. The book I chose was Susannah Charleson's SCENT OF THE MISSING, her fascinating book about her decision to get a puppy and train her to work as a Search and Rescue dog. I loved the book, loved learning about Search and Rescue (of which, I admit, I was woefully ignorant), loved reading about her training Puzzle and Puzzle becoming her partner in Search. So far I've sold 53 copies...wahoo!


Did you know that you can learn more about any of the books mentioned by clicking on the cover? You'll be taken to Amazon's site where you can read more about the book, and order it if you'd like. Hopefully Barnes and Noble will be restarting their affiliate program soon as well. Thanks for reading the blog!

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