Review: Dogs Never Lie about Love

Dogs Never Lie about Love.

In his own good-natured way, my husband, Guion, likes to make fun of my obsession with dogs, including my ferocious appetite for dog books. He especially likes to tease me about the goofy names that dog writers often give their books. Dogs Never Lie about Love is certainly up there as far as cheesy, sappy titles go. (Guion also made a lot of fun of the title Bones Would Rain from the Sky, which is totally fair, but I actually loved that book.) I was reading this book while killing time before a wedding and I made sure to hide the spine and cover from any passersby, to save myself from any outright judgment, looks of concern, and the like.

Goofy title aside, this book reminds me of Stanley Coren’s work and the one Jon Katz book I read, as they can be categorized as “emotional quasi-science” books. Emotional quasi-science books like to sprinkle in lots of little studies and research among the body of heart-grabbing stories of canine wonder and relationships. They can tend to the gimmicky, but I admit that I like them just the same.

I am perfectly content reading a book in which Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson keeps describing the ways his three dogs interact with each other. In this way, I, the dog-less one, can live vicariously through Masson and his furry trio. (I told Guion that I would totally watch a reality TV show that just filmed dogs playing in their living rooms. No drama, no medical emergencies, no training nightmares. Just dogs being dogs. It would be the most boring and unprofitable television show ever, but *I* would watch it. Again, cue loving husband’s teasing laughter.)

That said, I don’t know if many people would actually enjoy this book–that is, people who were lucky enough to already have dogs of their own. I myself had already read about the majority of the research that Masson cites. The book is split into chapters that cover a dog’s basic emotions. And while I enjoyed this overview, I’m not sure if I learned anything new.

However, if you’re like me and you just like reading about the inner world of dogs, even if you’re not learning anything exciting or new, Dogs Never Lie about Love might be the book for you.


Review: The New Work of Dogs

The New Work of Dogs.

The New Work of Dogs was my first Jon Katz book, after he had been repeatedly recommended to me from other knowledgeable dog people. I admit that I stayed away from him for a while, because the snippets of Katz I had read before seemed very sappy.

This book, however, was not too sappy. Essentially, it’s a book about how we are relying on dogs in more intense, emotional ways in the 20th- and 21st-centuries. It’s very close to the late Caroline Knapp’s Pack of Two, except that he writes about both men and women’s relationships with dogs.

In this modern age, we ask our dogs to bear a lot of emotional burdens for us, and this trend is what initially sparked Katz’s research. Dogs don’t just live in the backyard on a chain anymore (at least, we hope not); they are members of the family, recipients of a multi-billion dollar pet supplies industry, and life companions in a way they have not been previously.

The stories in this book are taken primarily from his upper-middle class community in New Jersey. We meet a recently divorced woman who received her husband’s German shepherd but doesn’t really want the dog; an intense investment banker and his untrained and unruly labrador; a lonely single woman who makes her dachshund her surrogate baby; and a club of divorcees and their dogs who meet together on a regular basis.

I enjoyed reading the stories, but the book did make me feel a little depressed in the end. There didn’t seem to be an overarching message to the book, except for: “Look at the ways we emotionally abuse our dogs!” Every person in this book was projecting emotions onto their dogs, making their dogs a mirror of their own personalities and anxieties. I guess this is what we all do, in some ways, but I really wanted the people in these stories to take a good, hard look at themselves. It’s time to train your dogs, people. It’s time to start talking to them and thinking of them as furry humans. I’m sure Katz himself felt this way about some of his subjects, but since he was maintaining a journalist’s objective distance, he wasn’t trying to reform their relationships.

If anything, this book is a good warning of what can happen when we expect too much from our dogs. Dogs do provide immense emotional comfort and joy, but we can’t expect them to be our therapists, husbands, pastors, or children. They’re dogs. Let them be dogs.