One Nation Under Dog: America's Love Affair with Our Dogs Paperback – Bargain Price, Mar 30 2010
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"In a finely tuned voice full of wit and grace, Michael Schaffer takes an incredibly smart look at an important cultural phenomenon that too often is dismissed as a four-legged sideshow. I couldn't stop reading, except to repeat to whoever was around some stunning fact or anecdote about Fur Baby America. If you want to understand how we live now, One Nation Under Dog is essential reading."—Benjamin Wallace, author of The Billionaire’s Vinegar
"One Nation Under Dog is a masterwork of comic sociology: The pooch set has found its Max Weber. With witty analysis, great storytelling and a generous spirit, Schaffer has done more than provide a window into our dog obsession; he has provided a portrait of American life."—Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the World
About the Author
Michael Schaffer is a former staff writer at The Philadelphia Inquirer, US News & World Report, and Washington City Paper, and has written for The Washington Post, Slate, The Daily Beast, and The New Republic, among other publications. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Keltie Hawkins, and their daughter, Eleanor. They insist that their own pets, Murphy the Saint Bernard and Amelia the black cat, are not freakishly pampered.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
So if you're a pet lover, read this book-you'll LOVE it! If you're not a pet lover, read this book anyway-you'll likely get a new perspective on our modern "solitary" society and it's effects on our nation as a whole.
Chapter 1 discusses how much money is spent on pets in this country, and the vast array of products available. Chapter 2 discusses social networks and dogs. Much of this chapter relates to the material in The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Schaffer profiles one "connector" in the dog world, Ada Nieves, who hosts Chihuahua get-togethers and (for fairly significant money) dog birthday parties, among other dog-related activities. Chapter 3 discusses the conflict over leash laws and dog parks. The main case examined is the city of San Francisco, where the issue has been very hot politically. Chapter 4 discusses luxery spending on pets. Not that this hasn't been covered in the book already, and will yet be covered more (indeed, it's a major theme of the book), but this chapter focuses on it exclusively. Schaffer covers pet fashion shows and pet boutiques which sell fancy, expensive products with snob appeal. Chapter 5 covers how much money is spent on pet medical expenses. Modern veterinary medicine has opened up many options, some quite expensive, for those whose pets have medical issues. Schaffer profiles several owners spending significant amounts of money on new procedures that might buy their dogs some additional time. (Those who spend a lot of money on treatments which will likely bring about a cure are not the topic.) One bizarre example is a couple who spends about $10,000 on a 7 month old Boxer, when the treatment is not expected to buy the dog much time. The owner's statements seem more about the owner being impressed with his willingness to spend money on the dog than the owner's actual love of the dog. Is he doing this for the dog's sake or to impress himself or others? It left me wondering. Chapter 6 discusses some of the places which provide people with their new pet. Schaffer covers 4 sources -- puppy mills, show dog breeders, shelters, and designer dog breeders ($15,000 for a Jabari GD anyone?). Chapter 7 discusses legal issues involving our pets. Several cases are discussed, such as suing for the mental anguish of the owner when a pet is killed. This is now sometimes allowed, rather than just awarding the owner the "monetary value" of the pet. The melamine pet food poisonings feature prominantly in this discussion. Chapter 8 discusses the big business aspects of dog toys. The company making the Everlasting Treat Ball is profiled. (With my Lab, the "Everlasting" treats last about 5 minutes; but it is a GREAT product for some dogs.) The Kong company is also covered. This chapter also touches on latchkey dogs and why such toys are in greater demand now that many dogs are left alone for long periods. Chapter 9 discusses pet services, primarily dog walkers, kennels, and groomers. Pets with owners who are away much of the time benefit from such services. Chapter 10 is about the "war" between two different dog training philosophies -- using treats to reward desired behavior vs. "pack theory" (punishment based training). Oddly, this chapter seems more about the people who are profiled than the actual philosophies. Even if you know nothing about this issue, I doubt you will learn much, other than that is exists. However, for those who are unaware, I'm glad that the topic is brought up. Chapter 11 is about the different types of dog food and conflict over which is best. Schaffer discusses Ol' Roy, premium kibble, commercial raw diets, consumer prepared raw diets, and a hard gnawable commercial diet. This chapter isn't about how to judge which you should feed your own dog. It is about the issues involved in the debate. Interesting to me was the aspect of raw diets (either commercial or home prepared) being used as a way to claim that you care "more" for your pet. Chapter 12 is a great chapter discussing new and inovative ways to get people willing to listen to pet care advice. Major improvements have been made in this area. Near the end of the book is chapter 13, discussing the end of our pets lives. This covers euthanasia and pet cemetaries. The epilogue, titled "Our Pets, Our Selves" is another look at the main undercurrent of the entire book. Oddly, the book conflicts with itself. Much of the time is proclaims how people love their pets more now, as evidenced by how much they are willing to spend on the pet and what they are willing to provide it with. Yet other parts of the book point out the link between our behavior toward our pets and how it follows along with our behavior in general in today's culture. Really, does paying a lot of money for a blueberry facial for your dog (YES, this is covered in the book) actually demonstrate a greater love for the dog than someone who does not provide this for their dog? Or is it simply a reflection of the person and the culture of the person paying for the facial?
I did choke up a little when reading the chapter on dog death, but only a little. The tone of the book is informative and explorative. But of course if you are very close to experiencing a wrenching dog loss, you might react differently. Still, that is not the book's tone.
I found the book really fascinating. Schaffer discusses so many aspects of dog ownership/guardianship including selection, veterinary care, legal issues and how they have played, services such as dog walkers, dog training, and more.
I have been involved with dog training for many years and seen many changes. I found Schaffer's words on this subject interesting and even a bit delightful!
If you are into dogs, you are likely to find this book very interesting. It's well-written, and covers a lot. It's interesting to realize as I sit here that there is so much more--no limit, really, to what we could discuss about dogs. No wonder people have social events built around dogs (that's in the book, too!).
Back in the Peanuts and Flintstones days, the only pets that lived inside were the pets of the rich. Now, in a time when everyone claims to be middle class, we all spoil our pets. One Nation Under Dog author Michael Schaffer examines the many ways we indulge our pets. He's as guilty as the next pet owner. He owns a dog and a cat, and we learn that his dog eats superpremium dog food, takes antidepressants, and has his own webpage on Dogster. Murphy, a Saint Bernard, sleeps indoors, has a professional dog walker, and stays at posh pet hotels when his family goes out of town.
But as a journalist, Schaffer manages to remain objective throughout. It would have been easy to write a book that just points out all the wacky ways people pamper their "fur babies." Those of us who don't have pets would just laugh or ignore the phenomenon.
Instead, Schaffer has written about how the expanding importance of pets affects all of us. In the chapter about the San Francisco Dog Wars, he explains how unleashed dogs have taken over a local park and even the beach, to the consternation of people who prefer to enjoy poop-free grass and sand. The police, city council, and even the mayor, are reluctant to enforce the leash laws because it would be political suicide.
In another trend, people whose pets have been injured or killed, sue for emotional damages as well as for negligence. This is significant because pets have always been considered property under the law.
One Nation Under Dog also goes behind the scenes to examine how pet food is produced, what goes on at the animal shelter, who's walking your dog, how pet medicine is advancing, the widespread use of pet pharmaceuticals, the many theories of training pets, and more. The emphasis is on dogs, but in the end, it's really all about us.
I liked that Schaffer does not shy away from questions that his book raises, such as should we be spending so much money on our pets, who have a better standard of living than some people in this country? As a dog person, it is simple to guess which side of the fence the author is on, but his arguments are nicely objective.
One Nation Under Dog will appeal to any fur baby parent. It is an entertaining and occasionally insightful read.