Before The Title Past

By Jeff Shelby

"Gone to the Dogs"

I admit it.  I am one of those goofy dog people.

     My wife and I own two yellow Labradors, Cody and Rusty.  We refer to them as “The Boys.”  We’ve had Cody for almost five years and we bought him from a breeder when he was eight weeks old for a ridiculous amount of money.  We adopted Rusty from a shelter a little over a year ago for thirty-five bucks.  Cody graduated with honors (seriously) from puppy kindergarten and is as smart as a whip.  Rusty was expelled (seriously) from puppy kindergarten for stepping on a fellow classmate and making him cry.  Rusty is not as smart as a rock, but we hope that he will someday attain the same level of intelligence as a rock.

     Despite their differences, we love them both a great deal and treat them as equal members of our family.  (In fact, we treat them better than some members of my family.  When Cody jumps on the bed in the morning, I half-heartedly tell him to get down before realizing that I cannot win this battle.  If my Uncle Bert did the same thing, I am fairly sure I would be considerably more hostile.)  And, to be truthful, we love most all dogs.  Big dogs, little dogs, skinny dogs, fat dogs and even the dog that turned Rusty into a dog school dropout. 

     As a result, we are suckers for dog books.  Big time.  An entire shelf in our library is dedicated to dog books.  Our coffee table offers several canine reads.  We give them for gifts, too, in hopes of converting others to our worship of the beasts. 

     Here are several that are worth a look:     

It Takes a Dog to Raise a Village:  True Stories of Remarkable Canine Vagabonds by Ruth Gordon.

     A truly fun read about dogs around the world and the amazing lives they lived and lives they’ve changed.  My favorite one involves a dog named Boozer, who actually had his own bank account, which is more than I can say about a few friends of mine.

Always Faithful: A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII by William Putney.

     A great example of how books can provide information on subjects you never even knew about.  Putney’s main job in World War II was to help organize the Marine War Dog Corps.  Nearly one thousand dogs were used as messengers and scouts during the war.  Putney also recounts the lives of the dogs after their war service, which for many of them, included going to live with the soldiers they worked with during the war.

If Only You Knew How Much I Smell You – True Portraits of Dogs – Photographs by Valerie Shaff and Text by Roy Blount, Jr.

This is one of the ones on our coffee table and the one most often looked at by our friends, even those that aren’t dog aficionados.  Shaff has collected a terrific volume of photographs of dogs in all sorts of poses and they are museum quality.  Blount has created some wonderfully poetic and humorous prose that ties perfectly to the pictures.  The soaking wet bulldog on the final page is a classic.  We own a lot of books and I would argue that this is one of the coolest in our home.

I’d list a few more, but both dogs left the room about ten minutes ago and now it’s quiet and that makes me nervous...

Jeff Shelby earned a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Irvine. His first mystery, Dead Week, was released in December 2001. He and his wife live in Castle Rock, CO. His website is .

2002 Past Columns - Nancy Marie / Jeff Shelby

November is My Favorite Month

© MyShelf. All Rights Reserved.