Monday, September 30, 2019

Alexandra Horowitz's "Our Dogs, Ourselves"

Alexandra Horowitz's books include Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, and On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation. She teaches at Barnard College, where she runs the Dog Cognition Lab.

Horowitz lives with her family and two large, highly sniffy dogs in New York City.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond, and reported the following:
Page 99 opens thusly: "the slobbery, loveable Labrador (“style and quality without over-refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness”)."

Much on this page is characteristic of the book. It's very dog-filled -- apt, for a book all about the nature, complexities, and contraditions of the dog-human bond. I use footnotes (gasp!) -- on this page, referencing the recent popularity of having a "rescue" dog (for the record, I have two such pups). I do love a good aside, tucked into the text as a footnote.

I quote breed standards, which are at once charming and ridiculous, as much of our lives with dogs is, I find. As I am a researcher of dog cognition, it is fitting that on this page, I reference research (of others: into the rise in purchasing of specific breeds after a member of the breed is featured prominently in a Hollywood film).

Page 99 of Our Dogs, Ourselves is part of a chapter on the trouble with our society's current practices in purebreeding. I challenge our easy acceptance of the idea that we should be breeding and buying dogs. In that my view is slightly contrarian, and the information that I appeal to unsettling, I think this is a good representative of at least some of my book.

My book has two faces, though. The other half of the book celebrates the pleasures of the dog-human relationship, and I delve deeply into such non-serious topics as the things people say to their dogs, the ways we come up for names for our dogs, and the question I am asked most at cocktail parties: Does my dog really love me? It's also missing one of the small dog sketches that I dot through the book in the margins and as chapter heads. The marginal dogs function to refer the curious reader to another chapter where further discussion on the topic of that page can be found. In that way, they are like print hyperlinks. Hyperdogs, if you will.
Visit Alexandra Horowitz's website and the Dog Cognition Lab website.

The Page 99 Test: Inside of a Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue