THE PAWPRINTS OF HISTORY by Stanley Coren

THE PAWPRINTS OF HISTORY

Dogs and the Course of Human Events

KIRKUS REVIEW

Coren (Why We Love the Dogs We Do, 1998, etc.) argues, with no discernible irony, that events and people as disparate as Waterloo and Richard Wagner would have been very different without the influence of dogs. When Napoleon was escaping from Elba, he fell into the water, a dog jumped in and began the rescue effort, and the diminutive Corsican survived to meet his Waterloo. Just think . . . if he had only drowned that day! That is the level of analysis in this truly dreadful example of what-if? history. If the author had adopted a lighter tone and confined himself to amusing stories, odd coincidences, and the little-known obsessions for dogs held by some of history’s more engaging figures from Cromwell to Custer, this volume might have been mildly entertaining. Instead, we get solemn pronouncements such as: “Dogs do have a way of weaving their influence through human events and subtly altering the course of history.” This is not to say there are no chewy biscuits in the bowl: Florence Nightingale may indeed have been inspired to become a nurse by the sight of an injured dog, and it is interesting to learn that Alexander Graham Bell taught a dog to say “How are you, grandmamma?” But it’s quite a stretch from there to speculate that dogs played a significant role in the development of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories.

All bark and no bite. (line drawings)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7432-2228-8
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2002




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