Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reviewer, review thyself

Generally, I look forward to seeing WaPo's Jonathan Yardley's book reviews and other writing about dogs. He clearly loves them, and his 2008 elegy to a departed canine companion made me cry. The fact that he proclaimed in print his admiration for one of my favorite authors gives him major points in my book, too.

But the book review in today's paper: yikes.

The book in question is Michael Schaffer's One Nation Under Dog (Henry Holt). Based on Yardley's review, the book appears to be a 288-page version of countless newspaper and magazine articles that cluck-cluck-cluck about the excesses -- fiscal and otherwise -- of some segments of of the dog-owning public. Yardley writes that readers "are referred to page after page of advertisements for pet-related products in Sky Mall, the magazine for bored (and generally affluent) airplane passengers. The sky, literally and figuratively, is the limit. People who see pets as extensions and reflections of themselves apparently have no hesitation about laying out significant sums to give those pets the best (i.e., the most expensive) food, accoutrements and veterinary care."

Yardley also notes in his review that the veterinary profession has become "almost unbelievably specialized and increasingly dominated by women (emphasis mine)." Domination of a profession by women is a problem? Specialization is to be criticized?

On and on the review goes, decrying the apparent metamorphosis of pet keeping from viewing animals "as an economic unit" to loving "animals for their own sakes ... and [being] increasingly willing to act on that love by ordering up previously unimaginable medical interventions." His tone is one of exasperation, even indignation. Yet, in that very eloquent elegy, Mr. Yardley acknowledges that he and his family apparently were willing to part with significant sums of money to care for their ailing dogs. Which is fine, I've done the same thing. But it seems a little inconsistent, to say the least, to decry spending a lot of money on veterinary care when one has done that oneself.

The rest of the review is here.

For my part, I'd much rather read about the positive aspects of the human-canine bond, particularly about how to grow that connection -- which is why I can't wait to read this book written by my very good friend, Victoria Schade (yes, Mr. Yardley, a female trainer! Deal with it.)

And, speaking of bonds, I sincerely and fervently hope that Bo Obama builds a deep and long-lasting bond with his new family.

Update: Kudos to Christie Keith of PetConnection for her dogged reporting of how Vicki Kennedy and a very responsible breeder brought Bo to his new family. The story is here.


Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

Thanks to the link to the breeder interview. Very interesting. She sounds like a hoot.

Susan said...

She does indeed -- not to mention as eloquent a spokesperson for responsible breeders as PWD and other purebred dog devotees could hope to get.

I'll have more on "One Nation Under Dog" in a future posting.