Today I will be looking at The New York Dog by Ms. Rachel Hale McKenna. My People tell me that this book was published last March, so I guess I’m a little tardy in getting around to this, but it’s not my fault I didn’t have a blog back then. Besides, if The New York Review of Books can run reviews eight months late, so can I.
This is a large, handsome book suitable for your coffee table (a/k/a the place I like to sit when my People are out of the apartment even though I pretend to follow their rules about not sitting on it when they are here). The author is a well-known human New Zealander female photographer whose previous books include The French Cat and The French Dog. Perhaps like everyone else in France a few years ago, Ms. Rachel then realized le epicenter of cool was in Brooklyn. In any event, her next project brought her to New York, where, as she describes, our strict leash laws made it a little more difficult for her to capture her subjects on the spur of the moment. Instead, she had to arrange photo shoots with the dogs’ human companions.
There is one major problem with Ms. Rachel’s book:
There are no pictures of me included.
I now present two incontrovertible facts:
- I, Albert, am a dog.
- I live in New York.
I refer you once again to the title of the book in question: The New York Dog. Given points 1 and 2, we must logically conclude that I, Albert, am a “New York Dog.” Why I am not included in this book thus remains a question that only Ms. Rachel or perhaps her publishers, Messrs. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, can answer. Perhaps my invitation to participate was lost in the mail.
Setting aside my dismay (I’m not one to hold a grudge) I have to say that I otherwise enjoyed this book very much. It has many photographs of all different sorts of dogs in a variety of New York settings—from the swank New York Palace hotel to the late, graffiti-decked 5 Pointz, from Chihuahuas who are carried around in handbags to pit mixes rescued off the street. You’ll see dogs of all stripes romping off-leash in the snow in Central Park and posing on brownstone stoops. Even Mr. William Wegman and his famous Weimaraners make a cameo appearance. You’d think with this range, there’d be room for a scruffy yet sophisticated, diminutive yet tough Manhattanite…but I digress.
Although this is mainly a photography book, there are some brief stories and quotations about New Yorkers and New York dogs scattered throughout. Ms. Rachel also shares a few behind-the-scenes notes about how she took some of the photographs. These narratives are brief yet evocative; if there was a “talks least, says most” award for dog books, this would be a worthy candidate. In particular, Broadway animal trainer Bill Berloni’s story about finding the first “Sandy” for the musical Annie and a Queens resident named Bobbie’s portrait of Oscar, the street dog who found him, pay touching tribute to rescued dogs and may have you humans reaching for your handkerchiefs.
With these well-chosen stories and artfully staged photographs, Ms. Rachel has managed to capture the spirit of the city and of its canine inhabitants and to show just how much we ennoble the lives of the bizarre humans who choose to live here. This is a worthy addition to any dog lover’s library.
I’m sure when she releases a second edition including me, this already remarkable book will be even better.
Ways in which this book is good: Beautiful photographs, variety of dogs and settings, not too many words, moving stories
Ways in which this book could have been better: Pictures of me, scratch-and-sniff inserts of important New York landmarks (highest garbage bag mountain, largest hot dog-water puddle, most-marked fire hydrant)
The New York Dog ($29.95 hardcover, Stewart, Tabori & Chang) is by Rachel Hale McKenna, foreword by Georgina Bloomberg.