“…Why is he here?
Why is my dog lying at my feet in the shape of a croissant as I write this? How have I come to cherish his warm but lightly offensive pungency? How has his fish breath become a topic of humour when friends call round for dinner? Why do I shell out more than a thousand pounds each year to pay for his insurance? And why do I love him so much?
Ludo is not a special dog. He’s just another Labrador retriever, one of approximately 500,000 in the UK (he’d be one in a million in the United States, the most popular breed in both countries). Ludo has a lot in common with all these dogs. He loves to play ball; obviously he’s an expert retriever. He could eat all the food in the universe and leave nothing for the other dogs. He is prone to hip dys- plasia. He looks particularly attractive on a plush bed in a centrally heated house very far from the Newfoundland home of his ancestors. But of course Ludo is a unique animal to me and the rest of his human family. He is now an elderly gentleman aged twelve and a half, and we would do almost anything to ensure his continued happiness. We willingly get drenched as he tries to detect every smell on Hampstead Heath. We schedule our days around his needs his meal times, his walks, the delivery of his life-saving medication (he has epilepsy, poor love). We spend a bizarrely large amount of our disposable income on him, and he never sends a card of thanks. (If you’re reading this at a point where you’re thinking of getting your first dog and consider a purchase price of £1,500 a little dear, then all I can say about the costs to come vets, food, dog-sitting, accoutrements both essential and superfluous is ha ha ha.) ”
(excerpt from Dog’s Best Friend by Simon Garfield)
One of the most welcome changes to lockdown is being able to get out and discover the countryside on your doorstep, often accompanied by a dog. So I thought it would be interesting to discover how this relationship began. Simon Garfield has done just that.
One of the first words we learn. Perhaps the best friend we’ll have. An animal so much part of our lives that we speak to it like a child and spend small fortunes on its wellbeing and wardrobe.
DOG’S BEST FRIEND investigates this unique bond by revisiting some of the most important milestones in our shared journey. It begins with the earliest visual evidence on ancient rock art, and ends at the laboratory that sequenced the first dog genome. En route we encounter the first Labradoodle in Australia, a misguidedly loyal Akita in Japan, an ill-fated Poodle trainer in the United States, and a hilariously disobedient Romanian rescue dog named Kratu at the Birmingham NEC. We will also meet Corgis and Dorgis at the Palace, the weightless mutniks of the Soviet space programme, a Dalmatian who impersonates Hitler, and an owner who claims his Border Collie can remember the names of more than a thousand soft toys.
DOG’S BEST FRIEND is as entertaining as it is informative, as eccentric as it is erudite, and all told with Simon Garfield’s irrepressible gift for witty and insightful storytelling.
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