Advice from the Experts

New pet books make ideal gifts

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Reading about their best friends is something pet lovers crave. Here are seven new pet books, covering everything from pet portraits to a controversial approach to pet care.

"Puppyhood: Life-Size Portraits of Puppies at 6 Weeks Old," (by J. Nichole Smith, Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York, NY, 2012; $29.95). Talk about a coffee table book! This giant tome features pix of 25 breeds (well, in truth, Yorkipoos and Labradoodles are not breeds). It's interesting to look at the wide range of puppies and see that there are common features in all (which we bred for), from their doe-like eyes to an expression which sees to plead, "Take care of me." Want cute? Here's cute on steroids.

"What's a Dog For? The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy and Politics of Man's Best Friend," by John Homans (Penguin Press, New York, NY, 2012; $25.95). Executive editor of New York Magazine, Homans' text is incredibly readable, though he offers lots of scientific facts. The connection between people and dogs may be innate in both species; Homans offers evidence that both species co-evolved. As evidence, he notes that though chimpanzees aren't as bright as dogs, canines pick up on our cues far more quickly (without training). Homans even tackles controversial topics from American Kennel Club breed standards to the plight of dogs referred to as pit bulls.

"The Divinity of Dogs: True Stories of Miracles Inspired by Man's Best Friend," by Jennifer Skiff (Atria Books, New York, NY, 2012; $24). Living in both the U.S. and Australia, the author offers a unique perspective. This is an uplifting book, perfect for this time of year. Many of these true stories are heartwarming and filled with pure joy - exploring the kind of innocent and absolute joy dogs offer and inspire.

"Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons," by Peter Trachtenberg. (DeCapo Press, Boston, MA, 2012; $24). This story begins as a soap opera. Their marriage failing, Trachtenberg's wife leaves for a residency in Italy. Then, his cat, Biscuit, takes off -- a loss the author just can't deal with. Then, on Christmas... No more will be said here for fear of spoiling the ending; let's just say it's not a sad one.

"Dancing Dog Stories," by Jon Katz (Ballantine Books, New York, NY, 2012; $24). This is the author's latest in a long line of dog books. Katz offers 16 short true stories about dogs and our relationships with them. The tales are rural in nature, about dogs (and in one case a barn cat) on the farm.

"Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man," by Brian McGrory (Crown Publishers, New York, NY, 2012; $24). Typically, man's best friend is canine, or certainly cats can be contenders, but a rooster? At first, the author is more a adversary of the rooster, who sees him as an intruder. McGrory moves in with Pam, a veterinarian with a menagerie. The city boy has to adjust, and it's not easy. A rooster rival doesn't make it any easier. In time, though, McGrory calls the rooster his mentor. This is a laugh-out-loud read.

"The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets," by Dr. Barbara Royal (Atria Books, New York, NY, 2012; $25). Controversial to be sure, it's unlikely most veterinarians will agree with much of Royal's approach. Press materials for the book highlight this statement: "It's hard not to feel frustrated with the pet food industry and the hidden dangers of ignoring our pet's dietary needs. We can certainly do better." Royal offers raw food diets in the book, though many veterinary nutritionists and studies offer concerns about such diets. The book is touted as Eastern meets Western veterinary medicine, but Royal leans East, and even more leans her own way. Don't assume the Royal way is the right way. Still, for those interested in alternative approaches to pet care, this former zoo veterinarian may be a savior.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.