A Dog is a Dog: And That’s Why He’s So Special

A Dog is a DogBy Clarice Rutherford. Alpine Publications, Inc. $14.95.

Lavishly illustrated and photographed throughout, this kids’ volume also comes with peppy packaging and an upbeat, yet challenging tone.

Rutherford’s invigorating work is one of the most complete dog portraits fashioned in years, not simply because of its layout, but the complementary text designed to inform and engage young readers.

The author, a dog-obedience instructor for more than two decades, has bred, trained, shown and done field work with Labrador retrievers for more than 40 years.

The changing roles of dogs from their origins; instincts and senses; how dogs learn to live with people; roles and responsibilities of the family pack; learning how to decipher the dog’s body language; the value of teaching your dog good manners; and the history and future of the dog in society are among the subjects addressed.

This is one of those rare primers that is equally valuable in a (science or social studies) classroom, library or home environment, since it backgrounds the young reader about the species canis lupus familiaris while establishing guidelines for responsible ownership today.

The dog’s day-to-day actions are determined by both its owners, she emphasizes, and its historic relationship to the wolf. “But even though the dog is so close to us now,” says Rutherford, “he isn’t a member of our world. His genetic structure differs by only two percent from that of the wolf. He has adapted to humans and chooses to live in our world, but the dogs we know and love still have ‘wolfness’ in them, even after thousands of years.”

With “A Dog is a Dog,” Rutherford hands the young reader a map that details influencing pathways of canine history yet empowers him/her with tools for maximizing that human-animal bond today.