Tag Archives: books

The dogs (a lot) of Camelot

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A newly published book reveals that John F. Kennedy had nine of them.

No, not mistresses. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) We’re talking dogs, of course — a topic that, when it comes to U.S. presidents, has always been one of great public interest, though it has never gotten quite the media attention that their extra-marital dalliances receive.

The 35th president’s pack is the focus The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines, which features a number of previously unpublished photos and never-before-told stories.

Through cooperation with the Kennedy Library, authors Margaret Reed and Joan Lownds were able to present the compilation of stories and photos about the Kennedy’s canines, who never got the publicity other White House dogs did, due mainly to Jackie Kennedy’s penchant for privacy.

The photos and accounts provide a deeply revealing look into the Kennedys, their character and compassion, and the role dogs played in their lives — both at the White House and at their home in Cape Cod, where they were when the photo at top, featuring most of the pack, was taken.

One account in the book relates to how JFK, before making a decision on the Cuban Missile Crisis, asked to see his favorite dog, Charlie, a Welsh terrier, pictured below in front of the White House with Pushinka, gifted to the Kennedy’s by Nikita Krushchev curing the Cold War.

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If you are wondering how Charlie and Pushinka got along, this next picture provides a clue. It’s Pushinka with the litter she had, sired by, you guessed it, Charlie. (And you thought this post was going to be sex free.)

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The newly released photos include one of a young John Jr., playing with one of the Charlie-Pushinka pups.

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Many include the camera-shy Jackie, including this one of her at the White House with Clipper, the German shepherd who was her constant companion.

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(Photos: Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

Clifford, that big red dog, coming back to TV


Clifford the Big Red Dog has found his way back to television.

Scholastic Entertainment announced yesterday that the new series, inspired by the books of Norman Bridwell, will run concurrently on Amazon Prime and PBS Kids, starting in the fall of 2019.

The rebooted show will have a strong emphasis on social-emotional skills such as empathy, along with a curriculum designed to boost early literacy and encourage imaginative play, Scholastic said.

“There is something enduring in Clifford’s gentle, loyal spirit that touches fans even after they become adults,” Iole Lucchese, the executive producer of the series, said in a statement. “We see it in tributes on social media and in fan art, and of course, in every parent who grew up with Clifford and now shares their love of him with their preschoolers.”

The Clifford books began being published in the 1960’s, relating the story of the loveable red dog who grew from a small pup to larger than a house.

The original version of the series debuted on PBS in 2000 and ran for three seasons, airing in 110 countries and picking up several Daytime Emmy nominations. John Ritter provided the voice of Clifford until his death in 2003. He was posthumously nominated for an Emmy in 2004.

A spinoff series, “Clifford’s Puppy Days,” starring Lara Jill Miller and Henry Winkler, ran from 2003 to 2006.

The new series will offer fresh and colorful new locations, as well as introduce all-new designs for main characters Clifford and Emily Elizabeth, according to Scholastic.

To accompany the series, Scholastic Entertainment will launch a global publishing, broadcast, merchandise and licensing program.

Scholastic published the first “Clifford The Big Red Dog” title in 1963. There are dozens of titles and more than 133 million Clifford books in print in 16 different languages.

Bridwell was a freelance artist who found little success with children’s book publishers until one suggested he make his own story to accompany one of the sketches.

(Image: Courtesy of Scholastic)

Barbara Bush stood for much, dogs included

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Barbara Bush was remembered over the weekend as a kind, strong and loyal matriarch whose advocacy for various causes touched the lives of many.

Among those were the lives of dogs — her own family’s and others, including the hundreds of thousands who have visited the dog park that bears the name of her former dog, Millie.

Mrs. Bush wrote two children’s books that featured her own family dogs.

millliesbook“Millie’s Book,” published in 1992, describes a day in the life of President George H.W. Bush and family, through their dogs eyes, including daily morning briefings, time spent in the Oval Office, and breaks in the yard to chase squirrels.

The book hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.

“C. Fred’s Story,” published in 1984, detailed their Cocker Spaniel’s life as the sidekick of then-Vice President Bush.

Both books raised money towards Bush’s top human cause, literacy, with “Millie’s Book” raising over $1.1 million.

More than 1,000 mourners gathered in Texas Saturday to attend the funeral of the former first lady at the Bushes’ family church in Houston.

She had been fighting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.

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In 2003, Harris County opened a state of the art dog park in Houston in honor of the former first lady’s English Springer Spaniel, Millie.

Millie and Mrs. Bush are said to have been the inspiration for the park, the first to open in the county. It went on to serve as a model and inspiration for other dog parks. Millie died in Kennebunkport, Maine, on May 19, 1997 at the age of about 11.

Houston locals remember Mrs. Bush as “a kind of straight-talking grandmother to the city, an approachable first lady out for a stroll in the sunshine, so genuinely earthbound that she herself picked up after her dogs at the park,” the New York Times reported.

More photos of Mrs. Bush and the Bush dogs can be seen in this PEOPLE magazine report on the former first lady’s passion for dogs.

(Photos: At top, the First Lady and Millie on the grounds of the White House in 1989, by Diana Walker; at bottom, Millie and the Lady in a 1990 photo, Associated Press)

Canadian dog lover with autism created art featured on the National Dog Show program

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There’s a story behind the cover of the program for this year’s National Dog Show — one that strikes us as far more interesting than who won the annual canine beauty pageant.

(For the record though, it was Newton, a Brussels Griffon, who captured best in show at the Thanksgiving Day event, held in Philadelphia.)

The official show program this year featured a cover (above) designed by a Manitoba artist who began painting dogs as a way to cope with struggles associated with autism.

rottweilerAlec Baldwin’s parents were told when he was 2½ years old that he had mild to severe autism and likely wouldn’t be able to speak until he was 18.

They refused to accept that. When schools didn’t seem to be expecting much out of him, or doing much for him, they took him out, figuring they could do a better job themselves. But the big change came when they brought him a how-to-draw dogs book.

“He just took off,” his mother, Tanis, told CBC News

Alec drew every dog in the Canadian Kennel Club book, and then every dog in the American Kennel Club book. He used watercolour pencils and made 200 portraits of dogs that he gave to the owners of his subjects. He is a dog handler who shows at competitions and is a Special Olympics athlete going to Nova Scotia next year as part of the Manitoba team.

And, yes, at 24 now, he speaks:

It was after switching to paint that one of his pieces, a 40-by-60-inch night scene with 35 champion dogs, won best acrylic painting in the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba’s fine art show in Gimli last year.

Baldwin gave a poster of that painting to Wayne Ferguson, president of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, which runs the National Dog Show, who hung it in his den.

Ferguson then commissioned Baldwin to do a painting for the show.

The finished work shows the Philadelphia skyline at night, with 15 previous champion dogs in the foreground.

It appears on the cover of the program, the show’s VIP passes, posters and 8,000 brochures, even on the wrapper of the show’s official chocolate bar.

The painting was unveiled at a special gala for VIPs, including Baldwin and his mom.

“When I was at the show, I looked down at my VIP pass and it had his painting on it, and it dawned on me that everyone around here who was a VIP has his painting around their neck,” Tanis said.

“We’ve worked on his weaknesses and built on his strengths,” Tanis said. “That’s the best you can do with any child,” she added. “I’m really proud of him. He’s worked really hard — he’s had to work harder than anybody … But above all, he has a good heart.”

We’ve looked at dogs from all sides now — or have we?

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Just when you think that photographers have captured dogs from every angle and in every situation — from under water to free falls, from dogs looking skeptical to dogs shaking off water — comes this: A series of images from a Lithuanian photographer that focus on the canine undercarriage.

Andrius Burba uses a specially made glass table to take photographs of the dogs from underneath, against a black backdrop, showing us a side of dogs we don’t usually see, except maybe during belly rubs.

Granted, it may not be their most photogenic side — given the dangly bits and such — but it’s a novel concept that provides some unique viewpoints.

Sometimes the paws alone make for a stunning image:

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Burba is an advertising and fashion photographer whose earlier work, Unter Katzen (Under-cats) went from Internet hit to a hardcover book. His dog photos are now a book as well, published in German under the title, Unter Hunden (Under-dogs).

He has also photographed rabbits and horses from underneath, and is planning a series involving wild animals such as tigers and elephants.

You can find more information about his work with other species and his merchandise (calendars, prints and books) here. Meanwhile, here are a couple more from his series on dogs, as viewed from below:

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(Photos by Andrius Burba, from the book Unter Hunden)

Much ado about nothing: Audible partners with Millan to launch audio books for dogs

Gotta call bullshit on this one.

Well, maybe “bullshit” is too strong a term. Maybe I should just say, “Give me a break” or “Get real,” while rolling my eyes and wondering what consumers are going to fall for next.

Audible and Cesar Millan have teamed up, offering and promoting a book-of-the-month type program, in which, for $14.95 a month, you can choose audio books to play for your dog while you’re not home.

Of course Audible For Dogs is the same thing as Audible for humans, thereby requiring no investment from Audible, or parent company Amazon, other than what they’re spending on promoting the campaign and the undisclosed amount they’re paying Millan, who reportedly is helping choose the books and making promotional appearances.

If you’re not the sort to buy “Pride and Prejudice” for yourself, you might be willing to buy it for your dog, Audible figures, and play it for him to keep him calm and occupied when you leave the house.

The campaign promotes books the company already offers in audio, featuring them on the Audible For Dogs web page — sometimes classics, sometimes bestsellers, sometimes dog-themed, including several by (you guessed it) Cesar Millan.

It’s all based on a 2015 study performed at Hartpury College in the U.K. that showed that listening to audio books reduced stress in shelter dogs even more than music does.

dogs-with-headphonesFollow-up research was conducted with 100 dog participants through Millan’s Dog Psychology Center, and it found (big surprise) exactly what the company wanted it to find.

Specifically, Millan’s center found that 76% of dog owners who played audio books for their dogs reported an increase in calm, relaxed behavior in their pets over a four-week period.

Audible is already the largest seller of narrated books.

But it has figured out it can sell even more by cashing in on our tendency to pamper our dogs and exploiting the guilt we feel when we leave them alone

As one of the owners involved in Millan’s “follow-up study” explained, she used to feel guilty every time she left her dog, Buddy, at home alone.

In a video interview with Millan, she spoke of the effects the audio book program had on her dog and, more importantly it seems, her.

“I was really surprised at the lack of guilt I found when I was able to do that, it was like leaving him with a friend,” the woman, named Leslie, says. “I could go out with a smile on my face and feel really good about what I was doing for him.”

News flash, Leslie: You could have just left a TV or radio on for him and achieved pretty much the same effect, saving $14.95 a month.

($14.95 is the regular price for an Audible subscription, which comes with one new book a month.)

I’ll admit I leave the TV on for my dog, rescued from a Korean dog farm, in hopes it will keep him calm and help him get used to non-threatening humans.

But would I buy him his own audio book? Absolutely not — unless maybe it was one narrated by the soothing voice of Morgan Freeman, or the calm, sleep-inducing, you-can’t-have-too-much-Xanax voice of Bob Ross, the painter.

(Disclaimer 1: We are not implying Bob Ross uses Xanax. You can have too much Xanax. And so can your dog.)

(Disclaimer 2: I apply this same therapy to myself, seeking out a reassuring voice on TV to fall asleep to. Sixty-three year old’s can’t suck their thumbs. This is why I often go to bed with Bob Newhart.)

Millan suggests choosing a book narrated by a person of the same gender as their dog’s primary master and notes that “it’s the consistency of a tone that allows the dog to stay in that (relaxed) frame of mind.”

He also suggested the books be played at average volume on a listening device such as the Alexa-driven Echo, which Audible’s parent Amazon just so happens to sell.

audiodogsMillan says audio books can help dogs better cope with the separation anxiety many have when left alone, which can result in bad behavior, including barking, destruction and peeing.

He also told USA Today, “I’m always looking for ways where people don’t feel guilty, worried, (or) stressed when they leave their dogs alone.”

Again, none of this is actually groundbreaking.

Most of us likely had already figured out that an audio book — like the television or radio — can keep our dog “company.”

Yet Audible/Amazon still felt the need to appoint a celebrity, create a new niche market, conduct a campaign, issue press releases and have a “launch.”

“While most dog owners will indeed go to great lengths to ensure the happiness of their four-legged family members, you can’t help but approach Audible For Dogs with a healthy dose of skepticism,” wrote USA Today. “So is Audible barking up the wrong tree?”

We’d say yes, unless you’re talking about the money tree.

To its credit, through the end of the year, Audible will donate a dime per download to Long Island’s North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization, up to a total donation of $250,000.

Millan also somewhat philanthropically recorded an original audio book for the service called “Cesar Millan’s Guide to Bringing Home a Shelter Dog,” which you can download for free.

Launch titles include Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” performed by Rosamund Pike; Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood,” performed by Noah; W. Bruce Cameron’s “A Dog’s Purpose,” performed by William Dufris; Garth Stein’s “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” performed by Christopher Evan Welch; and Maria Goodavage’s “Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes,” performed by Nicole Vilencia.

We laugh at Audible’s effort. And yet, at the same time, we encourage them, if they are going to persist in this, to work some books narrated by Morgan Freeman, Bob Ross and Bob Newhart into the mix.

We’d also suggest some Hans Christian Anderson — specifically, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” because it so perfectly reflects what they are up to: making people think something is there when it’s not.

The only thing there is a desire to sell more books. With fewer humans reading them, maybe Audible felt the need to branch out to other species.

I’d warn you that the day could come — given all the books dogs might be consuming and a decline in our own reading — that dogs could become smarter than us.

But there’s a pretty good chance that day is already here.

Dog museum heading back to New York

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The Dog Museum of America (yes, it’s a real thing) will move from its home in Missouri back to New York City.

The museum spent its first five years of existence in Manhattan, until it moved west, in part because the rent would be cheaper.

It first opened in the New York Life building at 51 Madison Avenue in 1982, and moved to St. Louis in 1987. After 30 years it will be moving back, probably within a year, to be housed in the American Kennel Club headquarters, the AKC announced Friday.

The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog boasts one of the world’s biggest collections of canine art.

The move is aimed at enhancing its future, and is the result of a “mutual agreement” between the museum’s board and the AKC board, the New York Post reported

“New York City is world-renowned for its art and museum culture and we feel that it is the perfect place to house a museum and educational interactive learning center as a destination,” said Ronald H. Menaker, chairman of the board for the American Kennel Club.

Stephen George, the museum’s executive director, said the decision was made to increase the number of people who see the artwork.

George said attendance and programming has increased in recent years, with about 6,000 paying visitors last year. Its revenues, however, have dropped.

In addition to George, a curator, an event coordinator and five part-time staffers will lose their jobs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

After a year-long nationwide search for a new home, it was moved to Missouri, reopening in 1987 as the Dog Museum of America at the Jarville House in Queeny Park.

museum2St. Louis County officials had meant for the Jarville House to be a temporary home, but plans to incorporate the museum into a planned horse park and condominium complex fell through.

The museum operated on its own in St. Louis County, but in 1995, it and the AKC reaffiliated, and the museum was renamed the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog.

There was more talk of relocating after that, with a move to North Carolina being described in 1996 as a “done deal.”

But the AKC reconsidered and opted to keep it in St. Louis.

Through the years, the AKC has donated more than $4.5 million to keep the museum open.

The museum in houses 4,000 pieces of dog art, including paintings, photos and sculptures. It also holds more than 3,000 books and other publications, and it maintains a registry of more than 250 artists who are available by commission to paint dog portraits.

(Photo: Robert Cohen / Post-Dispatch)