A lighthearted account of a year in the life of a show dog.
Dog shows may appear inscrutable to the outsider due to the amount of time and money devoted to promoting and showing animals that, to an untrained eye, appear equally attractive. Former Men’s Journal editor Dean’s major achievement is his effective demystification of this world. The author demonstrates to readers how easily one can become invested, emotionally and financially, in the success of a show dog. The author focuses on Jack, an Australian shepherd who enjoyed early success in the ring. However, when readers meet him, he is struggling to fulfill his potential. Dean also profiles Jack’s entourage—including his fretful but proud owner, Kimberly, his tough but effective handler, Heather, and many other strong personalities who inhabit the dog-show community—and ably explains the motivation behind dog shows: the recognition of dogs who are nearly flawless representations of the exacting standards of their breed. This recognition helps keep these breeds alive, but, writes the author, it also leads to cheating and overbreeding. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t seriously examine these problems, and he only mentions—but never develops—his provocative theory that dog-show judges are so influenced by the decisions made by other judges that once a dog gets on a winning streak, few judges want to be the one to break it.
Light on investigative journalism, this book will be an amiable companion for those looking for a sympathetic and educational look at the dog-show community.