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“Dogs with No Names” provides an insightful look at the plight of reservation dogs


It sometimes seems a new dog book leaps off the presses everday — some not so good, some far too precious, some (though we like goofy) way too goofy, some noble and some ignoble.

Often, the most noble ones are so preachy, pedantic and overwrought they leave you feeling like you’ve spent six hours locked in a room with an evangelist who’s more concerned with lassoing your mind than opening it.

“Dogs With No Names”  is an exception to that — a collection of photos, thoughts and insights gathered by Dr. Judith Samson-French while she was on a mission to sterilize stray and feral dogs on an Indian reservation in Canada.

It has a point, without being preachy; it has heart, without being schmaltzy; it has depth, valuable insights and some awesome photographs; and it looks at the plight some reservation dogs face without being desperate, culturally insensitive or overly judgmental.

Millions of unnamed, unclaimed and often unwanted dogs roam North America’s indian reservations — some feral, some tame, many somewhere in between — doing what they need to do to survive, including repopulating.

Samson-French’s mission was to implant a new type of contraceptive into female dogs on a reservation in Alberta, Canada, but her insights extend far beyond Canada, and far beyond reproduction.

She exposes the adversity, despair and suffering reservation dogs often face, and she looks at ways to compassionately and effectively address the overpopulation problem. She examines the behavior of reservation dogs, and how they’ve evolved to the conditions they live in. And she doesn’t overlook the role humans have played — and could play — in the equation.

The book lives up to its billing as “an intimate look at the relationship between North America’s First Nations communities and dogs: seeing past our prejudices to build bridges and understanding between our often combative cultures.”

Samson-French is a veterinary clinician and surgeon with over 20 years of experience. She owns and operates a veterinary hospital in the Rocky Mountain foothills. A graduate of McGill University (B.Sc.) and the University of Alberta (M.Sc.), she received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College.

All of the profits from the sales of Dogs With No Names are donated to the Dogs With No Names project, of which Samson-French is founder.

(Photo: The cover photo of “Dogs with No Names,” courtesy of evocativedogphoto.com)


Comment from Jen Brighton
Time June 26, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Thanks for the book review. As an avid reader, I appreciate knowing from someone I trust whether a book is worth my time. I’ll give this one a go. Also a timely subject as we hear more and more about dog packs (and sometimes attacks) in rural areas and on Native lands.

Comment from Miss Jan
Time June 27, 2013 at 12:06 am

I will be buying the book to try to understand something I have been unable to understand for many years. If you want to see an up close and personal account of the abuse and corruption surrounding tribes’ treatment of animals read Susan Stoltz’s 15 part series on the Dogs of Kayenta. Then google anything about the Pine Ridge Reservation horses. You will be shocked and sickened. How the tribes came from close and worshipful communion with all nature to brutalizing not only themselves and each other but any four-legged animal within their reach or beyond (yes – they use dogs for target practice) – I would like to see a better approach than let’s blame the white man it’s all whitey’s fault. Perhaps this book will offer a more balanced and thoughtful analysis. I only hope I don’t see more buck passing. Every human should — MUST — take personal responsibility for how they treat themselves and others whether two- or four-legged. The true evil comes when that responsibility is rejected in favor of passing blame.