by Margot Rosenberg, Dog Lovers Bookshop
The classic truism–that you can learn a lot from your dog–extends to what you can learn from dog books. Dogs teach us patience, and the acquisition and sales of books about dogs teaches patience plus the dogged pursuit of the right book for the needy reader.
As a dealer, my chief interest is in the old and rare and cherished in canine literature, both fiction and nonfiction. Like old dogs rescued and rehomed, these volumes deserve more than to be bought and sold as commodities. They deserve to go where they are wanted and needed. Emotion, as in the love of the living dog, often enters the equation. It is probably the most satisfying aspect of the business for me, even when it’s not easy to identify the book the longing customer craves. “There was a big dog, and he saved a little girl’s life, and then he got lost” might be all that is remembered of the story. It’s still worth asking for, and with the patience dogs have taught us all, the book about that particular big dog, and all the others, can probably be found.
What to collect? Breed-specific titles are a natural; as a dachshund fanatic, I can never have enough to read on those paragons; the same applies to all those who love one breed more than another. Beloved authors, such genres as mysteries, activities from training to crafts, the dog companions of the famous or infamous, an admired artist, a favorite photographer are but a few of the obvious possibilities. Among the less-expected alternatives: the dog in religion, poetry, the military or performing arts.
My favorite request is for the book read as a child and never forgotten: the tale the parent or grandparent wants to share with the younger generation; the adventure the adult wants to revisit, as if the dog of childhood would again curl up beside the young reader with the once-new book. The dog story that becomes part of its reader is literary DNA; too bad it is not reliably inherited. That it so often isn’t is one of the many good reasons old dog books deserve to survive. People ask often not only for the story they remember but for the very edition they once owned; cover artwork, the color of the binding, the details of every evocative text illustration are sometimes described when the title escapes recollection.
The domestic dog is not the whole story, of course. The literature of the wolf, coyote, dingo, fox, jackal, and fennec make worthy collections, offering everything from the natural history of each species to children’s picture books and fiction for the adult reader.
These books enrich us all in so many ways. They have value as collectibles. They can make us happier people. Above all, they can enhance our relationships with our dogs. Isn’t that what it’s all about?