Book Review: Lessons from a Dog, Patrick Moberg (2014)

November 10th, 2014 10:04 am by Kelly Garbato

Do your dog a favor & pick up a “Mutts” treasury instead…

two out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program.)

“Take naps.” “When someone kindly prepares food for you, devour it smiling like it’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten.” “Let your friends know you miss them.”

Lessons from a Dog is a cute little gift book, filled with wit and wisdom from our canine friends. Illustrated with simple yet adorable drawings, some of the advice found in Lessons from a Dog is pretty great – “Your presence can help a friend more than you may know.”; “Bark as big as you feel, but know when you might be outmatched – and, if you’re really passionate, don’t let that stop you.” – and I was ready and eager to give it a smiley four-star rating. And then I spotted the page celebrating dog sledding, and my heart sank.

Dog sledding is most infamously associated with the death race known as the Iditarod, a 1000-mile marathon across the Alaskan wilderness, wherein dogs may be forced to run 100 miles per day for seven to ten days straight. The dogs are pushed to the limits of their endurance and beyond; “Rule 42″ states that “all dog deaths are regrettable, but there are some that may be considered unpreventable.”

Since the race began decades ago, more than 140 dogs have died during the event—from heart attacks, pneumonia, muscle deterioration, dehydration, diarrhea, and spine injuries. They are impaled on sleds, drowned, or accidentally strangled. According to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, during the off-season the dogs are crowded into small kennels with no state management or oversight. Many are tethered on short chains at all times, unable to play, forced to sit, stand, and lie in the same small area in which they eat and defecate. When the dogs are no longer profitable, they are destroyed.

Even those sled dogs not bred and raised to compete in such races suffer from cruelty, neglect, and exploitation. At its most basic level, the industry continues to breed more dogs, even as millions of dogs die in U.S. shelters every year. Underperforming dogs (“runts”) are “destroyed” (read: killed) – or, best case, dumped on already overburdened shelters. Sled dogs are commonly tethered or kept in small kennels, often outdoors or in the cold. They are not “pets” or family members, but means to an end.

Even if you want to argue that using dogs in this way may be morally permissible in some cultures, it’s a far leap between that and celebrating the practice in a gift book meant for dog lovers. Just don’t.

Besides, the exhortation to “work hard with others” might easily have been illustrated by a less potentially offensive drawing. How about a picture of two dogs conspiring to steal a tasty treat from the counter? Or maybe two adult dogs rescuing a curious pup who’s gotten herself stuck under the porch stairs? (True story.)

Better still, how about a couple of shelter dogs teaming up to find their friend a new family? Despite promoting an industry that creates and discards dogs like they’re consumer goods, not a single cartoon in Lessons from a Dog actively promotes animal adoption.

Also irritating is the lesson to “Be patient with little ones,” which shows a little girl hanging off of the family dog – who’s clearly loving this abuse – by his ear. Look, I get it. It’s supposed to be cute. Kids love dogs, and dog love kids. But I can’t even tell you the number of times my dogs and I have been chased down in the park by a screaming child as her indifferent parent/guardian looks on with disinterest. Literally. Chased.

Parents need to teach their kids to treat nonhuman animals with respect and compassion – for their sake as much as the animals’. This particular strip? Not exactly helpful in this regard.

Again, it’s a solid concept that could have been better conveyed through a more thoughtful drawing. Just switch out the human children for puppies. Done and done.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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One Response to “Book Review: Lessons from a Dog, Patrick Moberg (2014)”

  1. fuck yeah reading: 2014 books » vegan daemon Says:

    […] Lessons from a Dog by Patrick Moberg (2014); reviewed here […]

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