Books | Books Books en-us Tue, 24 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 Tue, 24 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 Orion <![CDATA["Puppies Are Dicks" Makes the Case for Adopting Older Dogs]]> Have you ever stopped to wonder why certain dogs are such jerks? Sure, lots of pooches are sweet as can be, but some are so insufferably self-centered that it’s surprising we don’t publicly mock them on the regular. (Oh, wait. We do.) 

Puppies seem especially unappreciative, and that line of thinking is exactly what got funny couple Eric and Sara Sims wondering why the heck more people don't adopt older dogs. Eric is an Atlanta-based TV producer, and Sara is a speech pathologist, but the two just couldn't get over the whole puppy problem. Taking matters into their own hands, with artist Jason Barnes they spawned Puppies Are Dicks, a picture book illustrating the myriad ways in which those furious balls of fur drive us nuts.

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The new book promises to give you a giggle about poorly behaved pets.

Of course they don’t actually think puppies are dicks, but the point is that so many older dogs who deserve a loving home die in shelters every year simply because they’re not adorable, young pups. This is just not right. (See below for a little of what we’re talking about.)

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The difference between younger and older dogs is pretty clear.

We chatted with Eric to get a glimpse into the sick and twisted mind of one puppy-hating guy. (Just kidding.) We wanted to find out how Puppies Are Dicks can educate the public about older dog adoption! And to get a peek inside the book, of course.

Dogster: How did you come up with the idea for Puppies Are Dicks?

Eric Sims: Sara and I wanted to come up with a fun way to teach people about puppy mills and the importance of adopting older dogs. These are two fairly heavy subjects, BUT if an idea is funny enough, people will share it. We're hoping that people will read Puppies Are Dicks, laugh, learn a thing or two, and share its message with their friends and family.

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Older shelter dogs are where it's at.

Do you have any personal puppy war stories you can share with us?

Sara and I have both owned puppies, and we both prefer to never speak of it again.

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We've all been duped by the adorable allure of puppies.

Understandable. So why don’t more people adopt older dogs?

I think the biggest reason people don't adopt older dogs over puppies is simply because puppies are so rage-squeezingly cute. BUT with great cuteness comes great responsibility. Responsibility that most people aren't ready for. Older dogs, however, are just as cute and come equipped with love, loyalty, respect for personal property, and all of the expensive-ass shots that your brand new puppy will soon need.

The book lists pooping on your shoes and frowning most of the day (while sleeping very little) as just two ways that puppies are dicks. What else comes to mind when you think of how badly puppies can behave?

It's been scientifically proven that puppies believe there is an acceptable level of racism.

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A lot of formal research went into writing this book.

Can you tell us about your dog, Penny? What’s she like? Does she think puppies are dicks?

I adopted Penny a few years ago from the Atlanta Humane Society. She was a Katrina rescue. When I walked up to her at the shelter, she immediately put her paw on my knee. My heart almost fell out of my body. I had to take her home. She was about eight years old then. She is now 12 and still f'ing amazing. She loves everything -- puppies, kittens, accidentally eating spiders, you name it.

Speaking of kittens, we noticed you have a fabulous feline intern.

Yes, you can one of the first people to friend Albus The Intern on Twitter and Instagram. Then send me a digital high-five for introducing you to that beautiful sonofabitch.


A photo posted by @albustheintern on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:37am PDT

Consider it done. So, how do you work with the Ian Somerhalder Foundation?

A portion of every book sold goes directly to a multitude of organizations that help older dogs. We decide what amount goes where. Besides Sara's mom, ISF is the very first entity to take the Puppies Are Dicks idea seriously. They are a super passionate and ballsy group of people, who we are just huge fans of. They get it. Frankly, I think more animal foundations need to follow in their footsteps. Because of ISF's bravery and loyalty, we have decided to allocate a big chunk of the funds raised to their Emergency Medical Grants program. Plus, Ian Somerhalder is the hunkiest hunk to ever hunk. It's impossible not to just hand him everything in your pocket when he flashes you those smoldering, steely blue eyes.

We couldn’t agree more. So how do we get our paws on Puppies Are Dicks?

Penny finally finished with proofing (she takes a lot of naps), so it just went on sale on and Everyone please go out and get a copy! Help us help older dogs! (Or don't and be a dick yourself).

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Penny approves "Puppies Are Dicks."

You heard the man. Check out to learn more about the book and find out how you can help.

Read more about adopting older dogs on Dogster:

About the author: Whitney C. Harris is a New York-based freelance writer for websites including StrollerTraffic, Birchbox, and A former book and magazine editor, she enjoys running (with Finley), watching movies (also with Finley), and cooking meatless meals (usually with Finley watching close by). ]]>
Tue, 24 Mar 2015 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/puppies-are-dicks-book-senior-dog-adoption
<![CDATA[Hoda Kotb, Chevy Chase, and Lance Bass Star in "Miracle Dogs"]]> Pet photographer Liz Stavrinides' Miracle Dogs project began with an idea to celebrate rescue dogs and the people involved with saving them. Pairing family-style portraits of canine saviors (including a sprinkling of celebrities) with the often heart-wrenching stories behind the rescues, the book strikes a warm and tender note.

In celebration of the publication of Miracle Dogs, I spoke to Liz about some of her favorite tales, photos and characters from the book, and about increasing awareness of rescue animals. I also got the scoop on her own two pooches.

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Dogster: When did the idea to create Miracle Dogs come about?

Liz Stavrinides: This has been a project that has been in my heart for a long, long time. Having rescued my own dogs and after coming in contact with so many rescued dogs through my photography, I was compelled to give other dogs who have not been so lucky, including those still living in shelters, a voice.

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What was the most heartbreaking story you came across while putting the book together?

Each story is so touching and heartfelt that it is very hard to pick just one. But the story of Fiona [a single-eyed dog] stands out because of her miracle journey from tragedy to triumph.

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What were Chevy Chase's dogs like?

Chris was sweet and gregarious and loved having his picture taken! He loves Chevy and has a hard time sharing him with the other dogs. Cody was also very sweet and loving, but let Chris have the spotlight.

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What was it like profiling 'N Sync's Lance Bass for the book?

Lance is such a genuine person and so kind. The love he has for his dogs shines through him.

Which 'N Sync song do you think would make the best anthem to listen to while reading Miracle Dogs?

I think the best ’N Sync anthem song would be "This I Promise You."

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All images via Liz Stavrinides

This book also includes Hoda Kotb's dog. If the dog could host his own TV show, what would it be like?

Taking after his pet parent mom, Hoda, and after his namesake, Blake Shelton, I think he would have a music and dance variety show. And his friend Goobers would be his co-host.

During the making of Miracle Dogs, were there any of the dogs that you were secretly tempted to try and bring home yourself?

I have to say I fell in love with all of them!

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What would you like people to get out of reading Miracle Dogs?

I hope that Miracle Dogs will encourage and inspire people to open their hearts to rescuing an animal or donate their time and or resources to help or foster an animal in need.

Finally, do you have any dogs yourself at the moment?

Yes, I have two beautiful rescues. There's Jack, a handsome Wheaten Terrier mix, who I adore beyond words. Jack will be 14 in February. And then there's my sweet Enzo, a Poodle mix, named after Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain. We are a pretty inseparable duo!

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You can check out more information about Liz Stavrinides's Miracle Dogs (and purchase copies of the book) online.

Read more interviews on Dogster:

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/hoda-kotb-lance-bass-chevy-chase-miracle-dogs-pictures-photos-interview-book-dog-rescue
<![CDATA[We Chat With Warren Dotz, Collector of Vintage Dog-Food Labels]]> Warren Dotz was surfing auction websites when he came across four lots of vintage dog-food labels up for grabs. Struck by a jolt of excitement, he bid a whopping maximum of $4,000 for the lots. With little competition for the batch of labels, though, Warren ended up snagging a haul of hundreds of labels for only $19.95 each. Happily, those labels that hail from the '50s and '60s now form the basis for his coffee-table tome, Dog Food For Thought.

After perusing a copy of the book, which pairs vintage logos and labels with canine-related quotes and witticisms, I called up Warren to get a peek into the world of collecting dog-food labels. (Spoiler: Our conversation includes the revelation about exactly what you might find if you open up a 60-year-old box of dog food.)

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Reprinted from Dog Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014.

Dogster: Who did you end up buying those first lots of vintage labels from?

Warren Dotz: Well, it turned out it was an antique picker from the Midwest, who came across what was the work of a Midwestern pet food executive who was collecting all these labels as kind of corporate espionage to see what his competitors were doing. So on the back of many of the labels there are notes he wrote about the aroma and the consistency of the meat, and how many fat particles it looked like the food had. So that was the basis for the book, getting that big collection of labels.

Was there anything revelatory that the executive wrote on the back of the labels?

I was just shocked to see that there was writing on the back, and that it wasn't a collection but something owned by an executive. I was looking at the front of the label because I'm interested in graphic design, but he's more interested in looking at the ingredients. It struck me that people are fascinated with what they feed their pets and what the ingredients are.

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Reprinted from Dog Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014.

When you buy these labels, do they usually come still attached to the can of food?

Well, some of the labels are just like a beat-up label that fell off a can and someone found it in an old garage, but sometimes I'll actually buy one and the can will be still closed and it's from the '50s or '60s.

Sometimes I get mint labels that were found in print shops, which had gone out of business -- so they'd be saved in a filing cabinet somewhere. But believe me, it's not fun to get a box with food in it, because you don't know what's going to be growing inside the box.

What's the worst thing you've seen when opening up a package of dog food from the '50s?

One of them I had to open up was called People Crackers -- it was a fun twist on Animal Crackers and had the dog eating the policeman or a postman or a milkman. But there were little bugs in there -- they were poking holes in the box, so I had to open it up and empty it out.

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Reprinted from Dog Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014.

Were most of these small companies making dog food successful?

Basically what happened was there were a few companies making wet dog food that went in a can. Then during World War II there was a tin shortage, so that left a foothold for the companies that were making dry kibble foods. Then after the war and the moves to the suburbs, there were a lot of meat and poultry companies that had all these by-products, and they all pretty much opened up dog food manufacturing companies. If you went to a supermarket in the late '50s, there were tons of companies to select from. But then over time those smaller companies were bought out by larger companies and everything became consolidated. So these smaller companies had their heyday in the late '50s and the early '60s.

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Reprinted from Dog Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014.

Which of the companies from those days would you most like to see make a comeback?

I love a label called Doggy Doughnuts and another called Fetch, where the dog has a thought bubble thinking of his next meal. And I really like this one called K-9 Kola. We unraveled it but it was actually a soda can; it was meant to be a nutritious soft drink for dogs.

What sort of ingredients were in K-9 Kola?
It was like a gravy-based drink for a dog.

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A young Warren with Rover.

While researching vintage dog-food labels, did you keep coming across the same designers? Was there someone who was considered the star of designing dog-food labels?

One of my specialties is finding the artistic beauty in product and label art, and what I found with dog food labels is that it's very difficult to find out who these illustrators were. When they were can labels, they were usually graphic designers who worked in-house or were hired by the printing companies, and they did it for the dog food companies. So it's really hard to find out who these people were. I have not found the king of pet-food label art!

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Reprinted from Dog Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014.

Is your vintage dog-food label collection complete? Or is there still a Holy Grail you're in search of?

You know, I have to say that at the moment I've gotten everything that I saw that I liked. But you never know -- tomorrow I could go on an auction site and see a label I've never seen before and I'll have to have it.

There's one label in the book that deserves a special mention, called Show. There's a label dealer named Robert Booth, and his specialty is vegetable-can labels, so I had him on the lookout for pet-food labels. I came home one day from a vacation and he sent me the photo of this label called Show, and I thought it was the greatest label I'd ever seen. I like it because it's from the '70s, when in the world of logos and branding there was a move to simplify the look of logos -- the Show label is great because it's almost in the shape of a zen symbol, with dog's tongue and his eyes. It's just a terrific label.

Dog Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain is out now via Insight Editions. You can also check out Warren's other design-tactic projects over at his website. 

Read related stories on Dogster: 

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it's not quite what you think it is.

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:30:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-food-for-thought-warren-dotz-vintage-labels-interview
<![CDATA[7 Things I Learned Writing My New Book, "Medicine Dog"]]> My new book, Medicine Dog, tells the true story of how a pack of rescued dogs, led by a Pit Bull named Sam, saved my life by leading me to the cure for an illness I’d struggled with for years. The book comes out in March, and I have my dogs to thank for that -- I simply couldn’t have written Medicine Dog without them.

I’ve been observing and chronicling my dogs’ doings for many years now, so I thought I’d learned all there was to know about living the literary life with a pack of pups. Well, I was wrong –- the canine masters still had some important lessons to teach me. Here are seven things I learned while writing my book.

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I commissioned a bronze statue of Sam, my Pit Bull who helped me find a cure for my illness.

1. Veterinary medicine is ahead of human medicine 

If you’re dogless and you care about health and longevity, you’ll adopt a dog, stat. Living with a dog gives you an edge on dogless folks. The reason is simple: Dog owners make regular visits to a veterinarian, and right now in America, veterinary medicine is way ahead of human medicine. Every time you see a vet, you get a dose of the most advanced health care available -- including cutting-edge options such as stem cell regeneration therapy and hyperbaric oxygen.

As Medicine Dog explains, stem cells from my own body fat cured me of an illness I struggled with for years, but I would never have known about this sophisticated treatment if not for my dog’s vet.

2. Dogs are a great cure for writer’s block

I’m very grateful that I’ve never suffered long-term literary blockage. But every once in a while, the creative juices do have a way of drying up. Happily, as any dog-loving writer knows, there’s a simple remedy for this: Get up and go for a walk.

As a lifelong dog rescuer, I’ll jump at any opportunity to plug shelter dog adoption in the media -- and my new book is no exception. As I wrote in Medicine Dog, “If you’re a writer and you’re blocked, here’s incentive to adopt from your local animal shelter: Just walk the dog and watch the ideas flow.” 

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My beloved happy Sam.

3. My literary style is "mutt"

No less a writer than George Bernard Shaw once said, “I like a bit of a mongrel myself, whether it’s a man or a dog; they’re the best for every day.” I couldn’t agree more. While writing Medicine Dog, I learned that the literary genre that suits me best is also a mongrel: one that blends two or more genres to create an offbeat, one-of-a-kind hybrid.

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With my dog Desiree, shortly after treatment. Photo by Daniel Reichert.

Medicine Dog is a mash-up of dog memoir and medical memoir. I haven’t decided what exact form my next book will take, but this much I do know: It, too, will be a mutt. I wouldn’t have it any other way!   

4. Getting published requires dogged determination 

While searching for a publisher, Medicine Dog met with some resistance. Okay, a lot of resistance. My agent initially sang the book’s praises, confident it would start a bidding war. But as publisher after publisher turned it down, the agent changed her tune: “Take out the personal stuff and focus on the science!” I refused; years of living with five strong-willed canines turned me into a “dog with a bone.”

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When I was finally tempted to give up and give in, my dogs wouldn’t let me. Their tenacity taught me that bailing on any important goal is simply not an option, and that underdog status is the greatest badge of courage anyone, human or canine, could possibly have. 

5. Sometimes, a book is a lot like a shelter dog

Like Sam the Pit Bull and so many of the dogs I’d rescued and advocated for over the years, my book was experiencing “black dog syndrome.” No one wanted it, but that didn’t mean it didn’t deserve a chance. All it takes is the right adopter to click with an “unadoptable” dog -– or dog book. At the 11th hour, a prestigious indie publisher gave Medicine Dog a home. The best part: This publisher embraced my book with open arms, exactly the way I wanted.

6. Dogs are psychic friends 

As I neared the final stretch of completing the 240-page manuscript, I began to run out of steam. Then I came across an email plea for a dog at a Texas shelter. This solid-black beauty of a Chow mix was a ringer for the late, great Tiki Bear, subject of my very first Dogster article.

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I rescued Aldo the Chow mix -- and he rescued me by helping me finish my book.

I named this magnificent mutt Aldo and had him transported north. He arrived and lay down at my feet; a powerfully calm focus overtook me, and the manuscript was finished a few days later. Coincidence? Not according to animal communicator Gail Thackray. In a telephone interview, Gail conveyed that Tiki had actually dispatched Aldo to help me out. Whoa! I’ve always believed in psychic phenomena, but even I was astonished. I shouldn’t have been: Dogs do many amazing things to help us humans; Tiki proved it by reaching out to me across time and space. 

7. Muses need to be properly worshipped 

Dogs offer endless creative spark -– however, I soon learned divine inspiration comes at a price. Every day after the morning dog walk, I turned my attention away from my canine muses for five long hours at a stretch. As my eyes became glued to the computer screen, many of my belongings became history. Sheets were shredded; so were books, magazines, and shoes, including the perfectly worn-in Timberland boots I depended on for dog walking.

Lesson learned: Ignore the muses at your peril! Now, before sitting down to work, I get my priorities straight. Tons of tummy tickling and toy-and-treat distribution take place before any writing gets underway. And the footwear gets properly put away, high out of reach!

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author: Longtime Dogster contributor Julia Szabo is a pet journalist and reporter. Order her new book, Medicine Dogs, at Amazon, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog

Thu, 20 Feb 2014 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/medicine-dog-books-writing-a-book-things-i-learned
<![CDATA[Why I Made a Greyhound the Star of My New Book]]> Editor's Note: A few weeks ago, Nina Huang reached out to me, asking if Dogster might share her Kickstarter project: a hand-illustrated art book that featured her own rescued Greyhound, Apollo. The plight of the Greyhound is one that is very close to my heart (I once wrote about attending a Greyhound haul, and how it brought me to tears), so I invited Nina to come and share the story behind her children's book in her own words. We hope you'll join us in supporting her project -- there are few books out there that impress on children the story of the Greyhound. --Janine Kahn, Dogster EIC


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Nina and her own rescued Greyhound, Apollo.

When I wrote and illustrated the book, My Apollo, I had no idea that it would find such resonance with dog-lovers everywhere. My Apollo is a hand-illustrated picture book tale about how a small boy named Briar and a rescue dog named Apollo came together to help each other heal and regain footing in life again. Illustrations from the book are featured in this post. The Kickstarter campaign to publish this book is nearly 70 percent funded, with almost two weeks remaining.

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Illustrations by Nina Huang

The message of the book is simple –- the loving bond between a dog and his or her human is healing, for both the human and the dog. The story was birthed from a place of gratitude and appreciation for all the joy, happiness, and pure positive energy our canines bring into our lives. As many dog-parents who have rescued dogs can relate, sometimes it isn’t clear at all who rescued whom.

My Apollo is loosely based on the rehabilitation of my own rescue greyhound dog, Apollo. Apollo came from a racing track in Florida. When we first brought him home, he didn’t understand stairs, toys, treats, or cars. He was scared of physical contact, loud sounds, and sudden movements. He was a 2-year-old adult greyhound, but he was completely clueless about life outside of the racing track.

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Like Apollo, I was also in a tough place. I adopted Apollo during one of the most difficult times of my life. I was a Ph.D student at Harvard University, about three years away from getting my doctorate in sociology. But I was miserable and depressed. Since I picked up a painting brush at the age of 14, I knew that my true passion was painting and storytelling, but I couldn’t work up the courage to leave the familiar path I was already on. The prospect of being a career artist was terrifying to me.

Along came Apollo, a timid rescue dog who had to learn the ropes of a completely new lifestyle. My husband and I would bring home toys for Apollo, and he would just stare at them blankly. At the dog park, Apollo didn’t understand the game of fetch. Whenever he got scared (which was often), he would start shaking uncontrollably. It took about nine months for Apollo to get comfortable in his new role as a family pet.

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I remember the day Apollo stopped shaking while riding in the back of the car. We were on our way back from a hike, and I looked back to check on him. To my surprise, Apollo had poked his long face out of the car window for the very first time. He was looking around curiously, sniffing lightly and enjoying the wind in his face. I started laughing and crying at the same time. It was a huge moment for us.

With patience, training, and a lot of encouragement, Apollo became more confident, care-free, and playful. Witnessing Apollo’s transformation and willingness to embrace life’s new vistas changed me forever. If Apollo could leave his fears and traumas behind, what was keeping me from really going for my dream? Are my fears about being a career artist and writer really more logical than Apollo’s fears of cars and stairs?

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One year after bringing Apollo home, I officially withdrew from the Ph.D program and launched an art business creating vibrant and impressionistic custom dog portraits for others who shared the same love for their canines. I also immediately started writing and illustrating My Apollo  As soon as I decided to honor my heart’s truest desires, the plot of My Apollo came to me almost in completion.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed with fear of the unknown, I would look at Apollo napping blissfully on the couch, and receive a sense of calm and faith. Yes, I do believe Apollo came into my life to nudge me toward my true calling. I gave him a loving home, but he gave me so much more.

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I hope that My Apollo will raise awareness of greyhound racing in the United States and around the world, and the need to find loving forever homes for retired racers. More generally, I hope that children will learn the value of rescuing dogs as a loving alternative to purchasing them. If funded, I will be donating $1 for every book sold to greyhound rescue, as well as 200 copies of the book to animal shelters, children’s hospitals, and libraries across the U.S.

The Kickstarter campaign to bring My Apollo to reality is now active until Nov. 26. We have some really beautiful rewards planned for our backers, including a signed copy of the hardbound book, note cards, art prints, and custom pet portraits. I hope you will join us in the campaign to bring this book to press!

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To see more of my dog paintings, please visit my website. To join us in our Kickstarter campaign to print My Apollo, click here.

Wed, 13 Nov 2013 12:30:00 -0800 /lifestyle/my-apollo-kickstarter-greyhound-book
<![CDATA[Freebies: Win a Copy of "I, Toto," a Book About the Canine Star of "The Wizard of Oz"]]> Editor's note: Willard has kindly given us FIVE copies of I, Toto for lucky Dogster readers! Enjoy his article and then find out how you can win one.

In The Wizard of Oz, it is Toto who gets the ball rolling, so to speak. He certainly gets the movie going. From the first shot to the last, there he is: Dorothy’s faithful, adorably scruffy companion. Yes, he’s a bit of a troublemaker, but what dog isn’t? If he wasn’t a troublemaker, there would be no story. Dorothy would never run away. Dorothy would never get to Oz and back. And after meeting Miss Gulch, who can really blame him for taking a bite out of her leg?

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Dorothy, Toto, and the Scarecrow meet the Good Witch.

When I first saw the movie at age five, I was struck by the unconditional love a young, lonely girl has for her dog -- and obviously vice versa. It was my “way in” to the movie. The movie is jam-packed with fun and music and charm and fantasy but it’s that basic relationship between a child and a pet which grounds the movie in genuine emotion.

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Dorothy and Toto, still in Kansas.

At the beginning of the movie, Toto is Dorothy’s whole world. At the end of the movie, after Dorothy has journeyed through a phantasmagorical fantasy world in the company of several more faithful eccentric companions, Toto is there beside her, a profound relationship restored, intact.

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Terry/Toto and friends on tour with trainer Carl Spitz. Buck was the canine star of "Call of the Wild," starring Clark Gable.

Just recently I watched the movie with a sold-out crowd at the Strand Theater in Rockland, Maine. The audience was with the little guy the whole time -- they cheered Toto’s leap from Miss Gulch’s basket through to his escape from the Winkies. It is Toto, after all, who leads Dorothy’s friends back into the line of fire to save his best friend. Toto is Dorothy’s hero.

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With Spencer Tracy in "Fury."

When Turner Classic Movies first went on the air, I had it playing in my kitchen almost nonstop every day. One morning I was in another room and heard a familiar sound coming from the TV. It was Toto barking. It was unmistakable, even though I knew The Wizard of Oz wasn’t on (TCM had yet to air the movie on the service). I went to the TV and sure enough there was Toto -- in an obscure movie called Bad Little Angel.

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Toto/Terry with Virginia Weidler and Gene Reynolds in "Bad Little Angel." Reynolds went on to be a prominent TV producer and director with credits including M*A*S*H*.

Made just after The Wizard of Oz, the film was a decidedly lower-budget offering from MGM -- so low-budget that they didn’t even bother to re-record Toto’s barking. The audio tracks are identical to those used in Oz.

When I first set out to write Toto’s story -- more than 10 years ago -- very little was known about the dog that played him. The first discovery was the most obvious: Toto, a male character, was actually played by a female Cairn Terrier named Terry. It was known that Terry/Toto made several other movies, but it took considerable archival detective work to uncover more than were ever imagined.

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Reunited with Margaret "Wicked Witch Of The West" Hamilton in "Twin Beds."

I discovered that the widow of Carl Spitz, who trained Terry, lived near me in North Hollywood. She was a gracious interview who gave me fond insight into Terry’s life and times. She couldn’t name all of her films but mentioned several of which I wasn’t aware -- The Women, Bright Eyes -- and from there, I went to every film archive in Los Angeles, determined to tell Terry’s story with as much accuracy as possible.

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With Prince and mezzo-soprano Rise Stevens in the Nelson Eddy musical comedy "The Chocolate Soldier."

It was fun to discover that Toto was reunited on film with both Frank Morgan (Tortilla Flat) and Margaret Hamilton (Twin Beds). To this day, I’ve continued to discover movies that Terry/Toto appeared in. Just as the new edition of I, Toto went to press, I unearthed another film called The Old Swimmin' Hole in which Terry makes a brief but memorable appearance. A word of warning: if you seek out this movie, have some tissues handy.

In writing my/her book, accuracy took something of a back seat to enthusiasm. What I cared about more than anything was presenting Terry’s story with love and humor and respect. I wanted to tell her story the way I imagined she would want it known.

Of course, I could have written a standard tome along the lines of The Films of Terry, but since as an actor Terry/Toto was never predictable, I thought "Why should I be?"

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French poster for "The Wizard of Oz" from Willard Carroll's collection.

That was where the idea of I, Toto -- an “autobiography” -- came into play. It was great fun to channel a Cairn! I hope I’ve done the four-legged star justice. In life, the only thing I love more than movies and music is dogs. I wouldn’t want to live without them.

I’ve tended to have three at a time -- it’s a good number for somewhat organized chaos. I have had a “Toto” (a Chihuahua who lived to the grand age of 18) and now have a “Terry” (a Golden Retriever who takes the troublemaking concept to a hilariously entertaining extreme), but I’ve yet to make a home for a Cairn!

I have no explanation or excuse for that oversight but I’m certain that one will come into my life at some point. I hope I’ll be worthy of he or she. It’s not the dog that would have a lot to live up to. I’m here for them since I know they’re always here for me.

About the author: Willard Carroll is an Emmy Award–winning producer, writer, and director. He has written and directed the feature films The Runestone, Tom’s Midnight Garden, Playing by Heart, and Marigold. He has amassed the world’s largest collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia, documented in 100 Years of Oz: A Century of Classic Images from The Wizard of Oz Collection of Willard Carroll. Together with Tom Wilhite, he founded the National Oz Museum in Camden, Maine.

If you can make it to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, the exhibition "Wonderful World of Oz: Selections from the Willard Carroll/Tom Wilhite Collection" runs through March 2014. On Saturday, November 16, Willard will be giving a lecture at the museum on "The World According to Toto" to celebrate her 80th birthday!

How to enter to win a copy of I, Toto

So Toto is already the canine star of The Wizard of Oz. We want you to tell us which character your dog would play in the movie -- and why. Maybe you have a cowardly Doberman, or a scatterbrained Chihuahua. Or maybe your dog has always reminded you of the flying monkeys! Leave a comment below and we'll pick our five favorites. May the best dog win!

  1. Log into your Disqus account or sign up for a new one. It takes just a minute to register, and allows you to be a member of Dogster's community of passionate dog lovers. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email. (If you don't, we can't contact you! So you can't win!)
  2. Comment below using your Disqus account, following the directions above. Our favorite comments win! You can enter no matter where you live.
  3. Check your email for a “You've Won!” message after noon PST on Monday, November 18. We'll give the winners two days to respond before moving on. Sorry, that's the deal.

And if you aren't lucky enough to win, I, Toto is available from booksellers everywhere.

Mon, 11 Nov 2013 12:30:00 -0800 /lifestyle/freebies-i-toto-dog-wizard-of-oz-book-win-willard-carroll
<![CDATA[Meet the 6 Most Adorable Pups Pictured in "Wedding Dogs"]]> Weddings are a family affair. Of course the happy couples want to include their dogs. The recently released photobook Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Muttrimony celebrates the many roles canines can play on the special day.

The images come from wedding photographers around the world, with authors Katie Preston Toepfer and Sam Stall providing the sweet backstories. Here are six of our favorites dogs from the photobook.

1. Banff

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Photo by DAVINA + DANIEL, from the book "Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Mutrimony," published by Quirk Books.

Banff waited patiently for his turn to kiss the bride, taking full advantage once he had it. After all, the Siberian Husky carefully carried the rings on his harness and did not allow local wildlife to distract him during the ceremony, which took place outdoors in Toronto. He earned the face time captured here!

Erika Hasler-Gentile and Mark Gentile shared their decision to cast Banff in the role of ring bearer. In the book, Erika says, "Seeing that we had no little cousins, nieces, or nephews to include in our wedding, he was the obvious choice. Although, to be fair, even if we had little cousins, nieces, or nephews, he would still have been the obvious choice."

2. Oscar

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Photo by Wendy Hickock Photography, from the book "Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Mutrimony," published by Quirk Books.

James and Jennifer Montrose regret not giving their Jack Russell Terrier ring bearer duties in their Maryland wedding. Their three-year-old nephew chickened out at the last second. Oscar instead went as a guest, sitting calmly as he watched Jennifer head to the altar. 

"He was a welcome distraction," Jennifer says in the book. "One of my husband's family members commented on how my face lit up when I saw Oscar. He helped me walk down the aisle." What a good boy.

3. Sadie

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Photo by Aves Photography, from the book "Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Mutrimony," published by Quirk Books.

For their wedding photos, Brice and Jacqui Russell decided to visit points of interest around Fort Worth on a Vespa. They did not plan for their Weimaraner, Sadie, to take part, but she found her way into many of the images.

Brice says in the book, "Jacqui's father brought the Vespa, and her along with it. We decided, spur of the moment, to try a couple of shots with the dog. We wound up taking tons of pictures. ... She hammed it up real nice." Perhaps Sadie was hoping to tag along on the honeymoon.

4. Brutus

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Photo by A&A Photography, from the book "Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Mutrimony," published by Quirk Books.

Brutus and Bulldog sibling Bella were in attendance when their humans, Ryan and Lindsay Christiansen, tied the knot in an outdoor ceremony in Colorado. This bride and groom also risked having their vows interrupted by nearby wildlife.

"Fortunately for us, during our ceremony they didn't notice the deer grazing right behind the spot where we were married," Ryan says in the book. "If they'd seen them, they would have been gone." And mess up their fancy clothes? We think not.

5. Princess

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Photo by Adagion Studio, from the book "Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Mutrimony," published by Quirk Books.

What guest dares wear white to a wedding? A little Bichon Frise named Princess, that's who. The dog of bride Danielle Mante's father and stepmother, she did not have an official role in the South Florida wedding, but she made up for the lack of spotlight by appearing in as many photos as she could, such as this one of Danielle and groom Paul.

Danielle says in the book, "She greeted everyone as they entered the house, left everyone alone during dinner, then worked the crowd after the meal." That sounds like behavior befitting a royal.

6. Toby

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Photo by Brook Mayo Photographers, from the book "Wedding Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Mutrimony," published by Quirk Books.

Travis and Jennifer Ward also did not include their dog in the Virginia Beach exchange of vows, for fear that the Chihuahua would bark the entire time. Toby made up for the slight by becoming fast friends with the wedding photographer.

"He helped corral the kids, because they wanted to be around him," Travis says in the book. "Though it was hard to get them to stop looking at him and look at the camera." Can you blame them?

Let's hear from you, readers. Were your dogs at your wedding? Please share your memories and photos in the comments. If you're still in the planning stages, we want to hear about that, too! You can even pick up a few tips in "7 Tips for a Dog-Friendly Wedding."

You also can enter to win one of 10 copies of Weddings Dogs: A Celebration of Holy Muttrimony by following the directions below!


  1. Create a Disqus account, if you haven't already, and include a valid email. It takes just a minute and allows you to better participate in Dogster's community of people who are passionate about dogs. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email.
  2. Comment below using your Disqus account, telling us how your dogs took part in your wedding or why they didn't. Or, tell us your future plans! Our favorite comments win. Note: You must be a U.S. resident to win.
  3. Check your email for a “You've Won!” message from us after noon PST on Wednesday, May 1. We'll give the winners two days to respond before moving on to our next favorite comment.

If you don't score the book, not to worry: You still have plenty of opportunities to win other great prizes. You also can find out where to buy the book on the Quirk Books website

Fri, 26 Apr 2013 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/photobook-dog-photos-dogs-in-weddings
<![CDATA[New Book "Rabid" Charts the Cultural History of Rabies]]> Rabies has always occupied a mythically scary place in human existence. It has the distinction of being the most lethal transmissible disease of humans and dogs. Everything about it is interesting, from its mechanism of transmission to its effects on the nervous system and its effects on human culture, so I jumped at the opportunity to read Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus, by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. 

It turns out that a cultural history of rabies must also be a cultural history of dogs. Rabies, dogs, and people have always gone together. The book fascinatingly charts the impact the disease has had on the relationship between dogs and people for thousands of years. 

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Dogs have long been humanity's best friends, but rabies historically impacted that friendship. Before the advent of canine rabies vaccines, the overwhelming majority of human rabies cases were the result of dog bites. In places where rabies is still a significant threat, dogs remain the main source of human infection. Long before the cause of rabies was clear, people understood that a family pet could transform from a docile companion to a carrier of a horrible death.

The book tracks the history of rabies and dogs from some of the earliest recorded times. The authors take some time to describe the Greek word lyssa -- a very special, overwhelming, and all-consuming mindless rage -- as it is used by Homer in The Iliad, which puts the fact that rabies is in a genus of viruses known as lyssaviruses in context.

Suffice it to say that Homer's contemporaries did not hold dogs in the same esteem we modern Westerners do. The book reveals that the same could be said throughout the Middle Ages. Even through the Renaissance and into the 19th century, rabies was a chronic threat to the lives and bonds between humans and dogs. The book provides plenty of cultural examples of the terror and damage caused by rabies, and links rabies to cultural curiosities such as werewolves, vampires, and zombies.

The book addresses Louis Pasteur's remarkable efforts to devise a rabies vaccine, which succeeded in creating vaccines for both humans and dogs. Those efforts also sparked the antivaccine movement, which is alive and well to this day (and whose members would be well served by watching the ending of Old Yeller).

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Barking dog outdoors by Shutterstock

The rabies vaccine fundamentally changed the relationship between dogs and people in developed countries. We now share our beds and lives with our dogs without placing ourselves at any real risk of contracting the disease. Human exposure to rabies is astonishingly rare and comes most often via the teeth of bats.

In countries where rabies vaccination is not common, dogs are necessarily kept at arms' length or further. Feral dogs roam the streets. Even owned dogs are generally marginalized and viewed as potential risks. Rabies outbreaks are often treated with mass canine slaughter.

Wasik and Murphy spent two years researching the book, and their coverage of the subject is comprehensive but never boring. I took some interest in their sections on rabies in modern times. For instance, physicians have recently had some success treating human rabies with medical comas. The authors include not only descriptions of the success rates and controversies in the treatment, but also a description of the tactics employed (for those who are curious, the main treatment is a ketamine-midazolam infusion).

They also devote a fascinating chapter to a recent rabies outbreak in Bali, where they describe the efforts of a determined crew who promoted vaccination over extermination -- and where the authors actually see a rabid dog firsthand (something that I, to my knowledge, have never seen).

Rabid is a book that will fascinate any person who loves dogs, whether they are curious about rabies or not. I devoured it in less than a day, and I strongly recommend it. 

Tue, 20 Nov 2012 07:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/book-rabies-vaccine-rabid-bill-wasik-monica-murphy
<![CDATA[ The Book "Canine Angels" Celebrates Service Dogs]]> Most people know about the exceptional work that guide dogs perform for blind and visually impaired people, and how assistance dogs aid people whose mobility is impaired. But there are other types of assistance dogs that improve people’s quality of life in other ways.

I've featured many of these dogs in my book Canine Angelswhich I wrote with Carole Villeneuve.

For several years, assistance dogs have been trained to help diabetics to better control their condition, such as at Dogs for Diabetics, a nonprofit organization in California. Thanks to a rigorous training and a well-developed olfactory acuity, these dogs can detect low or high blood glucose levels in their owners’ blood. When that happens, the dog takes something called a bringsel (a small leather strap hooked to the collar) into his or her mouth and makes physical contact with the human. This way, diabetics know that they must check their blood-sugar level. If they ignore or do not respond to this request, their dogs become more intense in the method of contact. Some diabetics wearing an insulin pump with an alarm say that their assistance dogs alert them well before the pump’s alarm starts beeping.

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Kristin, a diabetic, says her service dog, Rochelle, can detect low or high blood glucose levels.

There are also dogs for people with epilepsy. The Lions Foundation Dog Guides offers this type of dog. When an individual has a seizure in a public place, the service dog begins to bark in order to attract people’s attention. When a seizure occurs at home, the dog is trained to fetch a cordless phone and bring it to the owner. In other cases, the dog has to press a button on a specially designed device.

One-third of these assistance dogs can anticipate a seizure well before it occurs, yet no scientific study has explained why. Most of these dogs show signs of agitation and repeatedly circle their owners as if they want to protect them. This gives people with epilepsy time to get to a safe place to avoid injuries during a seizure. 

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Judy is epileptic and says her service dog, Veto, has ended her injuries during seizures.

More surprisingly, dogs can be trained to detect cancer in humans. The Pine Street Foundation, located in San Anselmo, CA, published a study based on breath samples contained in tubes, the goal of which was to detect breast and lung cancer. The dogs had undergone only a few weeks of training and worked over a four-month period, investigating 12,295 trials. Each trial was documented on video. The study targeted 55 people afflicted with lung cancer, 31 suffering from breast cancer, and 83 in good health. The five professionally trained dogs, with more than 90 percent accuracy, distinguished people who had cancer from those who did not.

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Chanda says she relies on her service dog, Oliver, to calm her during panic attacks.

There are also psychiatric service dogs, when medication proves ineffective in alleviating the effects of mental health problems. A psychiatric service dog can perform several tasks. For example, for an individual suffering from major depression, the dog can wake him up in the morning, bring his medication, and find lost objects. For someone with a bipolar disorder, the dog can give a warning at the beginning of a manic episode by performing an alerting behavior, much like with epileptics.

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Rowan, who is autistic, says thanks to his dog Whitby he is highly motivated to learn new things.

Autistic children also benefit from service dogs, with parents noticing improvements in their children's language skills, motor skills, and behavior. Some parents even describe service dogs as real therapists.

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Canine Angels features chapters on various types of dogs, such as assistance dogs for people with post-traumatic stress syndrome or reduced mobility, and guide dogs for deaf people and blind people. It contains more than 20 testimonials, with people relating how their assistance dog has improved their quality of life. The stories differ greatly in terms of individual disorders and people’s circumstances, but they share the joy of living rediscovered, thanks in large part to the constant support and presence of canine angels.

Thu, 25 Oct 2012 11:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/service-dogs-book-canine-angels
<![CDATA["The Preventive Vet" Needs Help Keeping Pets Out of E.R.]]> You might have come across veterinarian Jason Nicholas' website, The Preventive Vet, in your first forays into pet parenthood. Bringing a puppy home is much like bringing a baby into the world, and you might not realize that many things innocuous to you could pose a serious threat to a curious canine. The Preventive Vet offers a wealth of potential life-saving advice, tips, and tricks, because as the old Ben Franklin saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." And considering the rising costs of vet bills, preventing an accident from happening can benefit your bank account in addition to saving the life of your pet.

However, when those pet emergencies do occur, Nicholas is right there with you, offering a free emergency and disaster guide for pets. Nicholas' willingness to provide his knowledge for free speaks to his deep love of animals and keeping pets and their humans together for as long as possible.

Nicholas has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise money so he can publish his preventive care in two books -- one for dogs and another one for cats. He seeks $15,000 to realize his dream. The books are already written, and the money will ease the burden of production costs, allowing more books to reach the hands of responsible and caring pet parents like you.

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An example of what the illustrations for the book will look like. Illustration by Chuck Gonzales

But there's some urgency here: There's only a little more than a day left for Nicholas to reach his goal. He is just short of $13,000, and if the total $15,000 is not met, Nicholas will receive none of the money. It's all or nothing, and we've got the power to make this much-needed resource a reality.

So let's do what we can to help Jason help us -- it's ultimately a contribution to the health and happiness of our much beloved and sometimes quite mischievous companion animals, and isn't that priceless? Nicolas is offering rewards for those who can contribute at varying levels. Among them is a heartfelt rendition of your pet, and even a chance for your dog or cat to make it into the pages of his books.

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Among the rewards Nicholas offers contributors is this high tech pet tag. If a dog is lost, the tag can be scanned with a smartphone and links to the owners' contact information at

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This t-shirt is another thing offered to contributors.

To find out more about Nicholas' Indiegogo campaign, click here. If you can't afford to contribute, pass this post on to your fellow animal lovers -- it all helps!

Tue, 02 Oct 2012 11:25:30 -0700 /the-scoop/the-preventive-vet-jason-nicholas-indiegogo-books-fundraiser
<![CDATA[Fetch, I Say! We Blow the Dust Off Vintage Dog Training Books]]> Television, rock ’n’ roll, and dog training books. This is the trifecta, the cocktail that stirred and exploded in the 1950s, changing our world irrecoverably. Today we take these things for granted. It’s understandable we might overlook TV and rock ’n’ roll, because by now they’re largely rubbish. But dog training books continue to add value to our lives by helping us connect to our only friends who will tolerate us throwing copies of Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto at them while imploring they “go get it, boy!” (Anyone besides your pooch who lets you do that is both something much more and much less than a friend.)

So let’s take a moment to remember the dog training books that have mattered most, even when they’ve been wrongheaded and frightfully barbaric. Let’s find out how we got to the relatively enlightened place we call the present day.

Training Dogs: A Manual by Konrad Most

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Colonel Most’s groundbreaking book has had at least two lives. It was first published in the original German in 1910, when it became a best seller. It proved highly influential internationally when German dog trainers began exiling around the world during the 1930s. In 1954, when Training Dogs was translated into English, it helped spur the first wave of dog training books that flooded the market in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The Complete Book of Dog Obedience by Blanche Saunders

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Equally influential on the mid-century dog training boom was Blanche Saunders, who already had published the best-seller Training You to Train Your Dog in 1946. By the 1950s, Saunders had established herself as the most prominent face associated with dog training, thanks to a run of successful books and television appearances.

The Koehler Method series by William R. Koehler

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By the 1960s, dog training books were often written from one of two opposing points of view. The first, placing emphasis on punishment as a way to guide canine behavior,was despicable, and appears rightfully archaic today. The school of thought was popularized by William Koehler’s series of books, which are valuable today only as artifacts from a kind of dark ages in publishing for dog lovers.

Obedience Class Instruction for Dogs by Winifred G. Strickland

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In the other camp are the positive-reinforcement trainers. Strickland’s 1960 volume was one of the most celebrated of this school and is a forebear of the books from the ‘80s that would emphasize human-canine symbiosis over domination.

Stop! Sit! And Think! by Charles P. Eisenmann

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The author of this self-published curio is more famous for owning and training London, the German Shepherd who starred in the 1960s Canadian television series, The Littlest Hobo. Eisenmann’s book was unusual in its day for being written in the digressive and intimate tone of a memoir. Today, it remains one of the rarest dog training books, fetching up to $400 on Amazon. 

Playtraining Your Dog by Patricia Gail Burnham

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From the sublime to the uproariously silly -- though, in its own way, brilliant -- Playtraining Your Dog was a faddish ‘80s best-seller. The book is notable today for laying the groundwork for the increasing use of a canine’s prey drive -- the inclination to chase moving objects -- as part of a trainer’s motivational technique.

Don’t Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor

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The classic era of dog training books reached its apex and conclusion with Karen Pryor's best-selling 1985 guide. The key to this book’s lasting influence is the importance it places on effective communication between owner and dog. In a move that seemed to sweep away Kohler’s influence once and for all (that is, until “domination” methods rose to prominence in the past decade), Pryor implores us to establish a truly symbiotic relationship with our beloved pets.

Did we miss one of your dog-eared favorites? Let us know in the comments!

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 12:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-training-7-vintage-books