Editorial September 2003 Issue

“Must-See” Dog Book

From the people behind National Geographic.

Every month, I receive anywhere from a dozen to several dozen dog-related books, sent by publishers who are eager for a published review or just a casual editorial mention. My home office is pretty small, and already jam-packed with piles of press releases and boxes of products, but I do my best to find room on the already overflowing bookshelves. About once every couple of months, I weed through the stack, holding onto the most useful books and donating the rest to my local library.

Only rarely does a book arrive on my porch that immediately compels me to open it and read it right away; only once in six years of publishing WDJ have I received one that was so good that I couldn’t put it down until I had consumed the entire volume.

It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that the book that brought an abrupt halt to my work day is a product of National Geographic Books. Dog Stories is a 128-page softcover book featuring text and photographs by Richard Olsenius, an award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and former photo editor for National Geographic.

Dog books produced by “outsiders” – journalists from the mainstream press – often present a skewed look at our world. They tend to exaggerate the most eccentric aspects of our obsessions and overlook the serious, useful ways we benefit from our association with our dogs. However inaccurately portrayed we might appear, these books tend to look attractive and professional.

In contrast are the many book offerings from dog-world insiders. These publications, written or edited by dog breeders, trainers, judges, or veterinarians, are usually factually accurate, but sometimes lack graphic appeal or professional appearance.

Richard Olsenius does all the right things, and none of the wrong, in Dog Stories. Yes, he shows dog owners at our obsessive extremes, with pictures of dogs dressed in zany outfits, dogs enduring excesses of grooming in preparation for the show ring, and people who spend fortunes on medical marvels to extend their dogs’ lives. However, these portraits are not made in fun or to mock us, but as a continuation of Olsenius’ exploration of the range and depth of the human/canine bond.

Olsenius also includes lush, gorgeous portraits of dogs who work sheep, assist disabled people, provide emotional support, sniff out drugs and bombs, and rescue disaster victims. Perhaps the most moving portrayals, however, are his written and photographic depictions of the relationships between ordinary people and their beloved canine companions. I promise; you’ll love this book.

-Nancy Kerns


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