People who are interested in dogs are really interested in dogs. Nothing else will suffice. One sees the types, individual yet familiar: the elderly Chesapeake handler, hatband studded with field-trial pins, at his happiest in some rain-soaked tidal marsh; the petite lady bull-mastiff fancier, forever on the telephone to another fanatic, discussing Jeeves, a contented stud; the antique dealer transported by long-haired dachshunds; the alumnus whose profile now startlingly resembles one of his bull terriers.
For these dedicated dog fanciers, The New Dog Encyclopedia (Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pa., $24.95), a revision of Henry P. Davis' old Modern Dog Encyclopedia, should prove to be a bone worth gnawing. Aside from the three-volume Hutchinson's dog encyclopedia published in England, this is probably the most exhaustive canine work ever produced. It does justice to both browser and bowser. It will be of value to the newcomer with a pound mutt or the most experienced kennel owner. The hefty volume (it weighs approximately the same as a fox terrier) covers an unusually wide range of subjects, from choosing dogs to identifying them. There is a section on AKC recognized breeds and a well-done entry on little-known breeds outside the U.S., including the Catalan sheep dog and the Tahltan bear dog.
An assortment of information and interesting trivia is offered to enliven sessions of dogdom's hot-stove league: for instance, let's hear it for Richard H. Squier of Randolph, Ohio, who has eight of the 11 field spaniels extant in this country. And let us salute Adjutant, a Labrador retriever born Aug. 14, 1936 who died on Nov. 20, 1963, at 27 years and three months, the oldest recorded dog ever.
Occasionally the reader is treated to blunt commentary; of the wirehaired pointing griffon it is said, "...he is unable to compete on even terms with several other breeds among American pointing dogs. Most of them, in fact, can give him 'cards and spades' and still take almost every trick."
Inevitably, there are a few flaws. The photographs of dog crates and equipment have captions giving the names and addresses of the manufacturers down to the very zip codes, and this taints the book with an unfortunate commercial aroma. The description of retriever field trials is hopelessly out-of-date—probably a forgotten leftover from the original Davis book. Still, it is so innocently and charmingly done that it reads like a beguiling period piece.
Overall, The New Dog Encyclopedia may be for dog owners the handiest thing in print next to a pile of newspapers.