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One Nation under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food

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One Nation under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food Cover

ISBN13: 9780805087116
ISBN10: 0805087117
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Excerpt

Prologue

From Doghouse to Our House

By the time we finally saw Murphy, wed driven the two hours of highway from our house in Philadelphia to what felt like the last rural place in all of New Jersey. Wed nosed through the townover a pair of railroad tracks, past a warehouse, down a short road. And wed gingerly tiptoed past the chain-link fence that held Boss, the massive Saint Bernard at the shotgun-style home opposite the towns small-scale animal shelter. My wife spotted him first, an oddly undersized example of the same breed running around the muddy melting snow in the kennels yard: "Its Murphy!" she exclaimed.

Wed spotted the pup a few days earlier on Petfinder, the Web site that lets prospective adopters eye hundreds of thousands of potential adoptees from shelters all over the United States. For a long time, wed visited the site as a diversion, a way to kill time at work staring at snapshots of wet noses and wagging tails and drooling jowls. Wed e-mail links back and forth, each of them attached to a heartbreaking story of how this particular dog was a sweetheart who really needed a place in some familys happy home. Eventually, we got to thinking that it was about time we became that happy family.

And then we stumbled across the page that featured Murphy, his tongue drooping, his watery eyes staring cluelessly from inside a cage that turned out to be only two hours away. When we arrived that morning, wed been talking about him long enough to feel like he was already part of our household. The woman who ran the shelter mashed a 100-length cigarette into an old tin of dog food as she led him over. As they got close enough for us to see the matted dreadlocks on Murphys back, Boss began growling. "Dont mind him," the woman said, as the guard dogs growls turned to angry barks. "Boss dont like other dogs."

Murphy, though, was another story. He was sweet and cuddly and goofy, exactly as wed wanted. Of course, we tried to stay skeptical. Knowing little about dogs when we started thinking about getting one, wed searched for wisdom in a book on how to adopt an animal. Dont let those heartbreaking shelter stories trick you into getting an animal you cant handle, it warned. Put them through the paces now, or suffer later. So in the ensuing half hour, we tried the books suggested tests as best we could. We put food in front of him and then snatched it away. No growling. A good sign. We put more food in front of him and then pushed his face away as he ate. No nipping. An even better sign. The shelter manager gazed with dismay at this spectacle of anxious yuppiehood: one of us reading reverently from the book, the other vaguely executing its tests on the befuddled dog, neither of us quite sure what to do next.

Following the books instructions as if they were holy writ, we asked how Murphy had wound up in the shelterand then steeled ourselves against what wed been warned would be a maudlin spiel designed to undercut doubts about a potentially troublesome pooch. The dog, we were told, had been brought to her kennel twice. First he was turned in by someone who the manager suspected hadnt been able to unload this especially runty runt of his litter: Murphy was eighteen months old and 63 pounds at the time; ordinary male Saint Bernards can weigh in at 180. Next he was returned by a woman who couldnt housebreak him.

"But she was some kind of backcountry hick," said the shelter manager. "She didnt even know what she was doing." Ever since, Murphy had been waiting in a cage next to Bosss yard, staring up at people like us. "Look," she said. "I dont much care about you, but I do care about him. And if he goes and bites someone, someone like you will put him down, right? Since I dont want that to happen, Im telling you: He dont bite."

The logic was pretty good.

The dog was pretty sweet.

The time was pretty right.

And so we said yes, signing some not quite official-looking paperworkthe adoption document identified the dog as "Murfy"before forking over one hundred dollars and agreeing to take into our lives a Saint Bernard with fleas and dreadlocks and a stench somewhere between warm bunion and rotten tripe. The shelter manager whipped out a syringe, planted what was purported to be a kennel cough shot into Murfy/Murphys snout, and wished us well. We coaxed the dog into the backseat of our Honda, where he promptly fell fast asleep.

As we began the drive home, we felt a bit proud of ourselves. Not for us the fancy breeders sought out by so many in our sweetly gentrified corner of upscale America. Not for us the genetically perfect beagles and bassets and Bernese mountain dogs whose poop is sanctimoniously plucked from city sidewalks in recycled blue New York Times home-delivery bags. Wed gotten a dog, yeah, but we werent going to become, like, those peoplethe ones who shell out for the spa days and agility training and homeopathic medicine for their animals, the ones who laugh it off when their puppies frighten children away from the neighborhood playground, the ones who give up vacations and promotions and transfers in order to save pooches with names like Sonoma and Hamilton and Mordecai from having their lives disrupted. No, not us.

Thats what we were telling ourselves, anyway, when the PetSmart came into view along the edge of the highway. "We should go inget some food and stuff," said my wife. "Itll just take a sec." Thus began our unwitting journey into the $41-billion-a-year world of the modern American pet.

It didnt take long to realize that the line between sober pet owner and spendthrift overindulger wasnt as clear as Id imagined.

I started thinking about that very subject an hour or so after Murphy nosed his way into the PetSmartat around the time the exhausted-looking staff at the in-store grooming salon told us there was no way they could attend to our filthy new pet today; we ought to have made reservations a couple of weeks in advance. My wife, whod grown up with a dog and had roughed out a budget when we started thinking about adopting one of our own, hadnt been aware that salon grooming was such a standard piece of contemporary pet owning that chain stores had weeks-long waiting lists. Still, without having to shell out for a wash, we made it out of the store that day for under $200. Murphy had a new bed, a pair of collars, an extend-o-leash that expands up to twenty-five feet, a variety of chew toysthat hes never usedand other goodies. The spending seemed like basic, ordinary stuff.

But as anyone whos read one of the dog-owner memoirs that seem to occupy about half of the weekly New York Times best-seller list could confirm, it was no onetime expense. Its a basic law of pet storytelling: Just as the romantic comedy vixen must wind up with the guy shed vowed not to marry if he were the last man on earth, so too must the beloved dog stomp and scratch and poop on your very last nerveand chow down on your shrinking walletbefore weaseling his way into your newly receptive heart. No surprise, then, that four years later Murphy has gone through a variety of ever newer beds (he seemed not to like the old ones) and redesigned collars and leashes (we wanted to try the special ones that are said to keep dogs from pulling too hard) and still more chew toys (we have a PetSmart discount card now and live in the eternal hope of finding one he likes). He also owns Halloween costumes (too adorable to resist), reindeer antlers (ditto), and a picture of himself with

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

C Horne, March 31, 2009 (view all comments by C Horne)
One Nation Under Dog is witty, entertaining and informative as the author examines how the role of dogs and their relations to their owners are changing in America. The author uses interesting and surprising statistics to illustrate key points about the way we perceive our pets.

At the same time, the author, while a keen observer, does not take sides in condoning or condeming a social trend that's easy to criticize without understanding. This is what makes this book such a delight. Dog lovers can enjoy it without guilt, and take some amusement at how much Fido means to them, and those who have no idea why anyone wants a dog will perhaps grasp the attraction.
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(7 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805087116
Subtitle:
America's Love Affair with Our Dogs
Author:
Schaffer, Michael
Publisher:
St. Martin's Griffin
Subject:
General
Subject:
Dogs - General
Subject:
General Social Science
Subject:
Dogs
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Popular Culture - General
Subject:
Dogs -- United States.
Subject:
Dogs -- Social aspects -- United States.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20100330
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
10-15 photographs
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8 x 6.37 x 0.885 in

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Related Subjects

Pets » Dogs » Care and Ownership
Pets » Dogs » General
Pets » General

One Nation under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.46 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Henry Holt & Company - English 9780805087116 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

It's about time someone turned this subject into a great book. As the subtitle suggests, Schaffer found no lack of material in the crazy (and perhaps uncomfortably familiar?) world of American dog ownership. He brings an ideal blend of wit and insight to the task.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A Fast Food Nation for dog lovers, this astute and amusing investigative report offers a 'journey into the $41-billion-a-year world of the modern American pet.' Each chapter focuses on 'a different realm of the pet universe,' and the total effect is reminiscent of Tom Wolfe's New Journalism essays on the sociology of pop culture. Schaffer explores baby boomers who devote themselves to 'fur babies' after their children have grown up and moved out. He attends the 2008 Global Pet Expo to take stock of the 2,400 display booths of retail pet items. He observes New York's 'burgeoning canine social scene.' In San Francisco, he looks at how arguments over dog leash laws are case studies in how cities need to 'navigate the controversies' of a new pet-friendly world. And his fascinating piece on the evolution of pet toys — from the first 'purportedly educational' ones made in a Colorado garage in the 1970s to today's 'veritable arms race' — is essential reading for anyone whose dog has become hooked on Kong bounce balls." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "...[D]ogs are members of the family, frequently as substitutes for children [millions of Americans] never had or who grew up and moved away....[I]t's not about the dogs, it's about the people." (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
"Review" by , "Doggone entertaining."
"Review" by , "Michael Schaffer's terrific One Nation Under Dog is long overdue. Schaffer understands that the mushrooming love affair between Americans and their companion animals — especially dogs — is one of the most fascinating cultural phenomena in recent history, and that this shows no signs of abating even in hard times. As pets have moved to the center of our families and our emotional lives, One Nation Under Dog — well written and thoroughly reported — explores how and why they have become mirrors of our society." Jon Katz, author of Izzy and Lenore: Two Dogs, an Unexpected Journey, and Me and A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs and Me
"Review" by , "Michael Schaffer has written a thoroughly researched, jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud exposé of our love affair with the pets in our lives. Go find yourself in One Nation Under Dog!" Nick Trout, author of Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon
"Review" by , "Simultaneously amusing and eye opening, One Nation Under Dog holds a mirror to our pet-obsessed culture, wherein even we cat lovers will see ourselves reflected. Astutely illuminating the political, social, and economic aspects of our devotion to our animal companions, Michael Schaffer makes us chuckle — and sigh with recognition."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Well researched with copious notes yet accessible to lay readers who will chuckle in self-recognition; highly recommended."
"Synopsis" by , A witty, insightful, and affectionate examination of how and why people spend billions of dollars on their pets, One Nation Under Dog is about America's pet obsession — the explosion, over the past generation, of an industry full of pet masseuses, professional dog-walkers, and organic kibble.
"Synopsis" by ,

A witty, insightful, and affectionate examination of how and why we spend billions on our pets, and what this tells us about ourselves

In 2003, Michael Schaffer and his wife drove to a rural shelter and adopted an emaciated, dreadlocked Saint Bernard who they named Murphy. They vowed that theyd never become the kind of people who send dogs named Baxter and Sonoma out to get facials, or shell out for $12,000 hip replacements. But then they started to get weird looks from the in-laws: You hired a trainer? Your vet prescribed antidepressants? So Schaffer started poking around and before long happened on an astonishing statistic: the pet industry, estimated at $43 billion this year, was just $17 billion barely a decade earlier.

One Nation Under Dog is about Americas pet obsession—the explosion, over the past generation, of an industry full of pet masseuses, professional dog-walkers, organic kibble, leash-law militants, luxury pet spas, veterinary grief counselors, upscale dog shampoos, and the like: a booming economy that is evidence of tremendous and rapid change in the status of Americas pets. Schaffer provides a surprising and lively portrait of our country—as how we treat our pets reflects evolving ideas about domesticity, consumerism, politics, and family—through this fabulously reported and sympathetic look at both us and our dogs.

"Synopsis" by , “Informative, entertaining . . . [A] terrific book.”—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

When Michael Schaffer and his wife drove to a rural animal shelter and adopted Murphy, a mistreated Saint Bernard, they vowed that theyd never become the kind of people who, say, get their dog a facial treatment. But then they started to get weird looks from the in-laws: You hired a trainer? Murphy is on antidepressants?

It turned out Murphy wasnt alone: yesteryears pooch has moved from the backyard doghouse to the master bedroom, evolving from mans best friend to bona fide family member. One Nation Under Dog is the beloved chronicle of this new world of American pet mania.

Schaffer, guided on occasion by Murphy, provides a surprising, lively, and often hilarious portrait of our country—how the way we treat our pets reflects evolving ideas about everything from science and consumerism, to politics and family—through this fabulously reported and sympathetic look at both us and our animals.

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