Philadelphia was once the center of publishing in the United States. That center eventually moved north to Manhattan and was further scattered with the advent of desktop publishing. Nevertheless, my hometown had long maintained its literary legacy through the many fine bookstores that could be found throughout the city and its surrounding communities.
Sadly, most of these mom-and-pop shops have been shuttered ever since online book-selling caught on with the general public. No longer can a bibliophile walk through one of the dingy storefronts and spend a couple of hours sorting through the dusty stacks in search of signed copies of first editions.
These establishments always had a nature section, where dog books could be found alongside the budgie and brown bear biopics. Titles by Lyon, Maxwell and Terhune sat quietly on the shelves, waiting to be rediscovered. Occasionally, a non-doggie book would even rival the value of a well-known breed publication. One such book that I found is titled, “Sportsman’s Guide To Game Animals” by Leonard Lee Rue III.
“Game Animals” is essentially a manual for those who like to hunt. It is, however, in the book’s format that dog fanciers may find interest. Written in 1968 and published by Harper & Row, the book provides written “standards” for most of North America’s game animals. Each one, from Prairie Dog to Pronghorn, is thoroughly presented by its own chapter with sections on its physical description, its distribution, travel patterns, habits, senses, communication, locomotion, breeding, life span, enemies and its relations with humans.
A section subtitled “Sign,” is especially interesting. Here the author takes a close look at the tracks each animal leaves, and examines how the anatomy of its feet enhances its chances for survival, whether predator or prey. Rue’s descriptions are exhaustive here, and impress upon the reader the essential need for correct feet in all animals.
The feet, of course, are the foundations upon which our dogs are likewise built. Without sound construction here, everything else is subject to enormous stress and limits a dog’s ability to perform its intended function. Without good feet, a Borzoi is just an icon and a Pointer is merely a statue.
Searching for a good book is not unlike spending the day hunting or finding the best dog in the ring. To be successful, a little bit of luck is needed, as is thinking on your feet.