Eileen Key’s Dog Gone is about dogs disappearing from a boarding kennel. Cleaning lady Belle wants to help her friend, the kennel owner, keep her business alive so she enters the world of dogs and dog shows.
It’s a well-intentioned story about dog breeding and showing as well as dangers posed by a black market in purebred dogs. But I felt important issues about pets and show dogs and breeding were muddled in their presentation. Puppy mills, research labs and dogfighting fodder were mentioned as possible fates for stolen dogs. The value of microchipping was stressed, as was the fact that chips are not like a GPS that track the dog. You must have the dog in order to read the microchip.
My biggest problem was with the dog owners. All the dogs were from champion bloodlines. All were used for breeding and were beloved family pets. The expected revenue from the central dog’s puppies was the means for financing the college education of the dog owner’s daughter. Yick, I thought, are they concerned about losing their pet or an income source, one that they stress cost a huge amount to acquire? So visions of backyard breeders recouping the cost of an overpriced puppy danced through my head. The people who say “I paid $2000 for that dog, you know”, “I can sell those puppies on Kijiji for $800 each, you know”.
These owners enter their dogs in major AKC shows. But they all have just one or two dogs who are family pets. However, nice as that thought is, I’m not sure it’s realistic. The amount of money involved in dog shows is made clear by Key, both the outlay required to participate at the top level and the rewards for having a champion.
Ok, there are people in the hobby or business of dog shows and breeding that do not have large kennels. But they are pretty few and far between at the top championship levels. Living and breathing dog shows is what most reputable breeders do, and Key’s dog-owners don’t do that. So I wasn’t sure if I was being asked to care about pet owners who enjoy competing at dog shows or who see their purebred as a money-making machine.
Belle, our sleuthing heroine, is a self-confessed non-dog person. Ms Key does not mention any dog in her acknowledgements, which seems de rigueur in doggy books. But she thanks kennel owners and vets. I think they gave her a good crash course in dog shows and pet care.
There is a strong Christian message in the book. Rereading the publication details, I saw Barbour Publishing’s mission is to provide “inspirational products offering… biblical encouragement to the masses.” It fits in easily with Belle’s characterization as a Christian and pastor’s wife. It’s a good light read.
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 16, 2012.