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Book Review
Mondo Canine by Jon Winokur
Review by: Kate Connick, April 2003

Good books can be inspirational, informational, or instructional. Or sometimes they can just be fun. Jon Winokur's Mondo Canine falls into the latter category. An anthology of quotations (ranging from brief quips to excerpts of a few pages in length), trivia, and black and white photographs, this book is a delightful celebration of dogs.

Although romantic and anthropomorphic, this book isn't soppy and cutesy. The author/editor - a young man who owns a golden retriever - embraces a "guy dog" spirit throughout. He disdains dog shows, the AKC, and food-based training:

"...I don't like show dogs. I don't like the fussy haircuts, the stuck-up parading around the ring, the bribe training. There's something deeply disturbing about animals who can look haughty and wretched at the same time... Show dogs are the antithesis of the open, genuine canine spirit. They're un-doglike."

With his reliance on quotes from the likes of Konrad Lorenz, Richard Wolters, and Donald McCaig, the author seems to appreciate a naturalistic model of dog as a tamed but spirited pack member and partner. He admires the outdoorsy, authentic animal nature of dogs. This may not be to every reader's taste, particularly those who view dogs as "fur kids."

I thoroughly enjoyed the almost haphazard juxtaposition of deeply sentimental hunting dog observations, mockingly silly Dave Barry quotes, and everything in between. Between testosterone-laden Jack London and Winston Churchill offering up goofy rhymes to his daughter, one truly gets a gut-level sense of the depth of emotion aroused by dogs. The breadth and variety of quotes is engaging. They are loosely organized by theme, and aesthetically arranged in a simple, white, black, and red color scheme.

Although charming and enjoyable, the book's strength is its entertainment value and not its factual content. For example, the author repeats urban legends about pit bulls' locking jaws and asserts that retired-from-racing greyhounds are insufficiently socialized to be readily placeable as pets. Quotations may contain information of dubious accuracy as well (often quite humorously), but that's okay if one accepts the book in the spirit intended.

One doesn't - and shouldn't - read this book for an education. It's not a textbook. It is instead a tribute to dogs and a testament to our relationship with them. And to that end, it is beautifully presented and great fun. This book would be a wonderful gift for a dog-lover, although it may not be an easy book to find as it is no longer in print.

Note: This book is out of print. You'll have to buy it used or find it at your local library.

Mondo Canine, by Jon Winokur.
Published by Dutton Books, 1991. ISBN: 0525933522

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