The Dog I've Always Wanted

Canine Behavior, Training and Photography

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From My Reading List – Fetching Dylan – The Wolf in the Parlor

January 8th, 2010 · · Book Reviews

Fetching Dylan  by Stephen Foster

When I discovered that the author of Walking Ollie had a new book out I was very eager to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. Fetching Dylan is a sensitive account of the acquisition and rearing of the saluki pup who has the distinction of being Ollie’s “little brother”. Foster is an acute observer of his dogs as well as a witty and entertaining  story teller.  The book has a literary flavour with plenty of relevant references. All most all of this narrative is set outside in fields or beaches, anywhere that two dogs who were born to run can cut loose and have a tear.  There are hilarious accounts of adventures and misadventures. Stephen Foster is endowed with a rare degree of patience and an intense love for his dogs as they are meant to be.  As the cliche goes, read this book; you’ll laugh; you’ll cry.

Turning now to The Wolf in the Parlor, I’m sure that this book will engender some controversy amongst those of a scientific bent who wish to examine the origins of  the unique relationship between people and dogs. Jon Franklin, a science writer by profession and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, puts forth cogent arguments to support his views on the how and why of canine domestication.  But the truth is, as he points out, when examining historical events at such a remove we have few pieces of physical evidence from which to construct our hypotheses. It is more a case of imaginative speculation and creative reconstruction of events. It seems plausible that around the time that humans began keeping ruminant animals, ie began to be herders, dogs  (canis familiaris) as opposed to wolves (canis lupus) are distinguishable primarily by virtue of a fairly drastic shortening of the muzzle. Humans and dogs developed a mutually beneficial relationship as hunters and herders. Virtually symbiotic in nature, this relationship was critical in assuring the long term success of both species. The detailed examination of this topic makes for fascinating reading.

Jon Franklin was not always interested in dogs. He is quite open in admitting that for most of his life he never really noticed dogs or thought about them. They were just sort of present in the background and of course they belonged to other people. When he proposed to his wife to be she had only one condition to which he must agree before she assented to marriage. She wanted a dog. He agreed without much thought; it didn’t seem like a big deal. But it was. Living with a dog and spending a good deal of time with the dog out of doors started things turning over in his mind and he set out to find out as much as he could about the origins and  evolution of these unique creatures and the very profound bond between humans and canines. This book is the result of those enquiries.

The Wolf in the Parlor by Jon Franklin

Fetching Dylan by Stephen Foster

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