"Dogs belong to an elite group of con artists at the peak of their profession, the ones who pick our pockets clean and leave us smiling about it," begins Budiansky
's litany of introductory complaints in The Truth About Dogs
. (Picture a schnauzer and a poodle seated attentively behind a table labeled "defendant.") "Dogs are sharpshooters," he adds without sympathy. "We are saps." Fortunately for dogs and their fans, Budiansky (The Nature of Horses
, The Character of Cats
) also steps in as crackerjack defense counsel and expert witness; using data gathered by behavioral scientists, veterinary clinics, geneticists, and journals, he thoroughly explores and explains dogs' physical characteristics, conditions, and behavior in entertaining, well-supported, straightforward terms. Budiansky doesn't attempt to solve every mystery, but the theories he offers help to expose the misunderstandings upon which we base our more subjective complaints. With compassion and humor, he encourages the understanding that dogs and humans, while entirely separate beings often inappropriately subjected to each other's social values, share an ever-evolving symbiotic relationship. "Lets face it," he sums. "If dogs were human, they would be jerks. As dogs, they are wonderful." Those who recognize the difference are sure to enjoy Budiansky's revealing discussion.