A Dictionary of Interesting and Important Dogs by Peter J Conradi
|A Dictionary of Interesting and Important Dogs by Peter J Conradi|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: If you're looking for a present for a dog lover, this could be the perfect gift. It gives great pleasure as well as food for thought.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: November 2019|
|Publisher: Short Books|
I struggle to resist a book about dogs, but I did wonder why this one was so thin: given that I've never encountered a dog who wasn't interesting or important - and probably both, I was expecting a massive tome. But A Dictionary of Interesting and Important Dogs is actually a rich compendium of the world's most significant and beloved dogs and it's certainly a rich treasure trove. We begin with Peter J Conradi's four collies: Cloudy, Sky. Bradley and Max. They're consecutive rather than simultaneous dogs, but what comes over is Conradi's love for each and every one of them. I knew that I was in safe hands.
The book is set out as a dictionary, but in reality it's an anthology of dogs in life and literature, and of dog-related prose and poetry which Conradi enjoys. This could have been self indulgent, but the choices of what to include have been wisely made. Not all dog-related stories deserve to be believed but prominent legends, such as Greyfriars Bobby are included. Conradi says that the saccharine and sentimental can't wholly be avoided, but they are balanced by the ironic, the unexpected and the provocative.
Each piece is short, sometimes as short as a page and given that the book is but small it's an ideal handbag or briefcase book and perfect for those waiting room moments when the aged copy of Hello! doesn't appeal. Just don't snigger too loudly when you read Alexander Pope's most famous satirical couplet:
I am His Highness' dog at Kew
Pray tell me, Sir: Whose dog are you?
Bluey Les Hall is officially the world's longest-lived dog, living from 7 June 1910 to 14 November 1939. Life on a farm two hours north of Melbourne, Australia obviously suited him.
The dog most likely to win Best in Show at Crufts is the cocker spaniel - having won the accolade seven times. We connect with another spaniel when we meet Flush, beloved by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Furious at her elopement to Italy with Robert Browning her father ordered that the dog be destroyed, only to learn that Flush had gone to Italy with the lovers.
One of the saddest stories for me was that of Laika, the first dog in space - and space was where she was to die. How is not clear - initial reports say that she was euthanised prior to oxygen depletion but the reality is that she died alone, in panic and terrible pain. Most worrying of all are reports that Russia might be moving ahead with more primate experimentation.
There are sixty-three pieces for us to read and they're accompanied by some delightful line drawings by Evie Dunne. I'd love for this to have been an even larger book, but it gave me great pleasure as well as food for thought. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Would you like to meet more dogs? How about Dogs on Instagram by @dogsofinstagram?
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