Admit it. You're just like me. You judge a book by its cover too. So you might also have put off reading Dogs We Love by Michael J. Rosen until you were wiped out by a cold and stuck in bed with nothing to read.
What's wrong with its cover? The cute dog and the word "love" tell me that within the pages of this book somebody's dog dies. And, looking more closely, I see that it is a compilation of 18 writers talking about the dogs they love, so I calculate there could be as many as 18 dog deaths. No way. I am not reading this book. Just like I will probably never read Marley & Me or The Art of Racing in the Rain.
Well, I read it. And guess what? You really should not judge a book by its cover. Or, if you do, read the fine print. By doing so, you'll see that the writers are literary powerhouses, people like Jane Smiley, Edward Albee, Armistead Maupin, and Ann Beattie, among others, who do with words what the greatest artists I feature on this site do with color, line, texture and composition. They show us what it's like to wildly, passionately love a dog.
I don't want to give anything away about the pieces, but know that the work is beautiful and brilliant. As you read each one, you are reminded of the individuality of every dog you've ever known. And, you lose yourself in the magic of dog love. For me, that meant not just enjoying the funny, poignant stories of dogs and their owners, but somehow falling more deeply in love with my own dog – if that could even be possible. It was like stumbling into a secret society that revels in all things dog, not on a scientific (boring) or elegiac (maudlin) level, but in an unbridled, joyful way that hit just the right note for me.
Complied by Michael J. Rosen, whose introduction is absolutely wonderful and speaks to his own talent as a poet and writer (of over 65 books), Dogs We Love is also a book that gives back to the dogs we love. All profits go to Rosen's grant program, The Company of Animals Fund, that supports animal welfare agencies throughout the country.
Last but not least, the book is filled with Robin Schwartz's charming B & W photography (pictured here), as sweet and funny as the dog tales told are.
Father's Day is June 15. If your dad is a literary minded dog-lover, Dogs We Love, is the pick of the litter!
Apologies for this late notice, but you have only one more day to see world renowned Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang's Head On at the Guggenheim. Made from 99 plaster cast wolves intricately crafted from painted sheepskin, hay stuffing, and metal wires, this powerful installation would be awesome to behold in person.
If you miss it, look for Cai's work at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics beginning 8.8.08. As a Chinese nationalist with a penchant for fireworks, I'm sure sparks will fly on philosophical, artistic, and probably political levels. Can't wait!
Cai with part of Head On, 2006 by Ethan Levitas
Read more about him in Peter Schjeldahl's New Yorkerpiece.
And thanks to the fabulous Michèle of Eurodog for the heads up about Head On.
Memorial Day is depressing, because war is depressing. And the thought the poor dogs who are sent into combat – so trusting and loyal – just breaks my heart. So, I was going to take the day off. No post. Just a moment of silence.
Then I discovered Smoky, a four-pound Yorkshire Terrier and hero of WW II. And, well, I had to share her story.
Found in the jungles of New Guinea in 1944, and sold to a dog-loving soldier named Bill Wynne, Smoky soon became a member of the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron. She flew 12 combat air/sea rescue missions and survived numerous typhoons and kamikaze attacks.
Autographed (paw print) photo of Smoky in her uniform
Smoky also became a true war hero at Luzon airfield when she pulled a string, attached to vital phone wires, through a 70 foot long , 8 inch diameter pipe. As Bill writes in his memoir Yorkie Doodle Dandy, 'Without Smoky, it would have taken the troops at least 3 days to dig up, lay wires and replace the strip, putting 40 US fighter and recon planes in peril of destruction by enemy bombings."
Yes, that's Smoky parachuting!
But her true calling was entertaining the troops perfecting dozens of tricks to cheer up the boys in the hospitals as they tried to heal.
After the war, she returned to the States with Bill and continued her career in the entertainment business, performing live on stage and TV for 10 years.
Smoky died on February 21, 1957 at age 14. But she lives on in the numerous memorials to her throughout the country where she is remembered as one of the greatest and most beloved dog heroes of all time.
All photos courtesy of Bill Wynne. Visit his website to see more.