Pulitzer-Prize winning science writer Jon Franklin delivers a thoughtful account of his search for the nexus of human and dog. His exploration begins with two events. First, Franklin sees a photograph depicting an ancient grave at an archaeological dig. A man’s skeleton reaches out to the skeleton of a small creature, perhaps a puppy. Secondly, Franklin proposes to his girlfriend, Lynn, who upon hearing it asks, “Does this mean I can get a puppy?”
Lynn accepts Franklin’s proposal after he accepts her counter-proposal. Charlie, a black standard poodle, becomes the third member of their new family. Soon, Charlie works his way into Franklin’s life. Their relationship triggers a decades-long academic and emotional search for how and when wolves became dogs – man/woman’s best friend.
Over many years Charlie and Franklin go for long daily walks in the Oregon woods exploring nature via Charlie’s nose, eyes and ears. All the while the image of the ancient man and his small companion lurks in the back of Franklin’s mind. As a science writer he has access to the best and the brightest, and makes very good use of this access through interviews with top-notch academics. He learns that, “While humans may be unique in some respects, we can’t afford to set ourselves apart from other animals. If we do, we’ll never understand ourselves, or what happened to make us what we are.” This lesson and others add texture and meaning to our otherwise everyday lives.
Rating: Four paws and a wagging tail!
Henry Holt, $25.00, 272 pages
Reviewed by Ruta Arellano. Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.