Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs, by David Grimm (Public Affairs [Perseus Book Group], 337 pages, 2014, $26.99)
The headlines shouted, “Leona Helmsley Leaves $12,000,000 for Her Dog and Nothing to Her Grandchildren!”
What does that tell us about our society today? Is that where we are headed? Is that where we really want to go?
Similar to One Nation Under Dog (by Michael Schaffer), Citizen Canine is easy to read, easy to put down, and even easy to pick up again. However, One Nation covers many dog topics while Citizen Canine focuses primarily on one: whether dogs and cats will ever become more than “just property,” along with the pros and cons and history (and stories) thereof.
Dr. David Grimm
David Grimm, the author, and I have a lot in common. He has a PhD in Genetics. I have an advanced degree in Genetics. He lives in Maryland. I live in Maryland. He is an editor (at the prestigious journal Science). I was an editor (in military intelligence and aerospace R&D). He teaches journalism at the college level. I taught college Biology and Scientific English at the graduate level. And, lastly, he is a good writer while I am a good reader.
In a Nutshell: Family, Person, Citizen (in that order)
Twelve chapters are divided into Family, Person, and Citizen (four chapters each), thus, easy for you to refer to the Table of Contents to refresh yourself on where you are in the timeline and what is yet to come.
Family. Person. Citizen. In that order and yet, a change in terminology is more than mere semantics (p. 150). The Family third is the most memorable with stories about Henry Bergh who founded the ASPCA, for example. Dogs and cats became family and moved into our houses as we left the countryside for the city and as flea and tick preventives and treatment came onto the market - even more so when we developed dog and cat food (kibble)
Story after Story to Entertain while Informing
Grimm toured the country, from Louisiana to Colorado to North Carolina to California to Minnesota and places in between. He was fortunate to be able to spend time with dog-people like Dr. Marc Bekoff* and Dr. Brian Hare**, fascinating, ground-breaking dog authors in their own right.
Volunteers of ARNO, the Animal Rescue of New Orleans, and LAPD’s Animal Cruelty Task Force (not just the Puppy Police) also received a visit from Dr. Grimm and his magic pen, along with several pages and stories in Citizen Canine.
Local Interest: “My Pit Bull is Family!”
Grimm, who lives in Baltimore and teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, spends a scintillating several pages on Maryland’s recent BSL (breed specific legislation) case: Citizen Canine also highlights one local Baltimore shelter, BARCS, and some pit-bull people I know who worked ceaselessly with the HSUS to overturn Tracey vs Solesky and, just recently (after publication) to implement breed-neutral dog bite liability law. “Ban the deed, not the breed.” (As a matter of fact, not even the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) endorses BSL.) I think we may be finally making progress!
And History Need Not Repeat Itself
Thanks to David Grimm, I will always have a warmer spot in my heart for the story of the ASPCA’s founder Henry Bergh. And, did you know that a study has finally confirmed that those who abused animals are five times more likely than non-abusers to commit violent crimes against people? This includes Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and nearly every other serial killer, all of whom started their infamous careers torturing animals.
And Now, Towards the Future. . . .
Service animals are close to becoming real citizens in that they are working dogs who are allowed to go wherever their person goes. So, too, law enforcement dogs have rights not given to family pets: just as injuring law enforcement personnel is more serious than injuring a member of the public, so, too, is injuring a member of the canine corps more serious than injuring a family dog.
But are we ready for another Leona Helmsley? Will we ever be? Should we be? That is the question in our future and the future of our dogs and cats.
Bonus: Citizen Canine also includes a Brief History of Cats and Dogs!
*Dr. Marc Bekoff, pony-tailed retired ethologist and author of 22 books (Colorado) including Wild Justice and The Emotional Lives of Animals, studies how dogs play.
**Dr. Brian Hare (‘Scientist. Author. Dog Guy.’), dog cognition (thinking and intelligence) professor at Duke in North Carolina and author of the very readable book, The Genius of Dogs