We seem to be living in dog days. From cyberspace to pet stores, pop culture to haute couture, our love affair with the dog has reached new heights and shows no sign of abating. Advertisements, films, “human interest” news stories, and an apparently endless slew of bestsellers celebrate our “best friends” and the qualities – intelligence, bravery, and undying loyalty – that inspire our profound attachment to them. But Marjorie Garber, Director of the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Harvard and one of our shrewdest cultural critics, is the fist to take a look at what our fellow feeling for our famously devoted companions says about us.
Roving from real life to “dogs’ lives” (canine biography and autobiography), kennel clubs to leash laws, “puppy love” to dogs as emblems of mourning and loss, Dog Love unleashes a fresh perspective on a favorite topic. What do the stories of such “celebrity hounds” as Lassie and Millie Bush have to say about the demands we place on their human counterparts in political life and pop culture? In an age when information abounds but comprehension seems to be breaking down, how do fantasies about canine communication express our longing to be understood? Why are we able to accept in our pets the very mix of emotional constancy and sexual inconstancy that dogs our human partnerships? How does our preoccupations with canine pedigree reflect social snobbery, nationalism, and other forms of cultural anxiety? What does the growing body of dog law have to say about our desires to regulate human behavior? Why is it that, from Argus onward, the dog has embodied our most elegiac feelings?
In exploring these and other questions, Dog Love shows how, in a society that is less and less “humane,” it is with the dog that we permit ourselves to experience and express our deepest sorrows and joys. As this profound and profoundly delightful book makes plain, it is the dog who makes us human.