It is astounding to realize that Alexandra Horowitz, author of so many insightful and useful books about the development of dogs, has never raised one from puppyhood. Despite running the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, she notes that raising a puppy is as unfamiliar to her as raising a snow leopard.
Given the sharpness of puppy teeth, that is not a bad comparison.
But then, at some point, the idea gripped her. Her husband and son agreed. Puppy. Being a diligent researcher, she finds a dog about to give birth, determined to observe her new puppy from Day One. Eleven squirming puppies later (oh, how we feel for the mother dog, Maize), we have the great joy of watching through Horowitz’s eyes as they spend their first weeks sleeping, eating and growing, and then taking their first tentative steps toward exploration.
At eight weeks, Horowitz chooses a puppy and takes her home. Why is eight weeks the optimum time to separate a pup from its mom? What is the age at which puppies are deemed (by scientists) to be at their peak cuteness and why? Why do puppies fit so well into homes with humans? Why do they bark, and what do barks mean?
Any puppy questions you might have, Horowitz has answers in real time, as Quid grows.
This is a book to learn from, for sure, but it is also a book to save; Horowitz’s loving descriptions of Quid sleeping, “melting into a cushion,” are adorable. And despite Quid’s habits of barking, running away, chewing unchewable things, and all the other normal puppy behaviors (at one point Horowitz lists the contraband that Quid has tried to eat, beginning with rocks), I defy you to read this book and not feel, with a pang, that you too need a puppy.
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune. @StribBooks.
The Year of the Puppy
By: Alexandra Horowitz.
Publisher: Viking, 306 pages, $28.