One Nation Under Dog by Michael Schaffer
Thanks for visiting my website, where I’ll be posting some of my work and publicizing my forthcoming book, One Nation Under Dog.
What’s One Nation Under Dog? I’m glad you asked. It’s what I hope is a simultaneously hilarious and insightful journey through the world of pet fashion shows, Chihuahua social networking, veterinary antidepressants, ambulance-chasing animal lawyers, hypoallergenic kitty breeders, leash-law political activists, puppy-training ideologues, chew-toy industrialists, pet bereavement counselors, organic dog foods, and other corners of our pet-crazed country–a book that is intended to say as much about how contemporary humans live as it does about the modern lives of dogs an cats. It was published April 1, by Henry Holt. Initial reviews have been strong: I hope you’ll check it out. Read more about my book here, check out my blog on the subject here, or visit the One Nation Under Dog facebook page here.
When I’m not finishing and flogging books, I also write about all kinds of other things having nothing to do with pets, pet spas, or pet acupuncturists.
One Nation Under Dog
Everyone’s heard a zany pampered-pet story: The dog who only eats home-delivered organic meals, the cat who gets an $18,000 kidney transplants, the pet-sitter who draws a six-figure salary thanks to a neighborhood full of obsessed pet owners. But what does all of this mean, and why is it happening now? Americans spend over $40 billion a year on pets, twice what they did a decade earlier. But the dollars are only one small part of the vast changes in America’s pet kingdom: Dogs have moved from backyard doghouses to their owners’ beds; veterinary practices have evolved from neutering and de-worming factories to corporate medical chains that offer arthroscopic surgeries and prescribe animal antidepressants; simple tennis-ball chew toys have given way to high-tech learning gadgets that promise to entertain a nation of latch-key pets. Man’s best friend has become America’s ersatz child.
One Nation Under Dog is a voyage through this new world of American petkeeping—the absurd, the touching, the horrifying, and the comic. I visited with a Chihuahua social networking group in New York, reported on pitched political battles over dog-friendly laws in San Francisco, watched lawyers wrangle over pet lawsuits in Chicago and sat in on pet-loss bereavement sessions in Philadelphia. It turns out the pet boom is about more than plain old over-the-top consumerism. Take a peek at how your pet’s life has changed and you’ll find the modern history of our society—one that covers everything from our ideas about family to our growing social stratification to our long commutes to our endless technological wizardry. Not to mention culture wars, nutritional neuroses, and the rise of globalism. And, okay, some over-the-top consumerism, too.
One Nation Under Dog shows just how contemporary pets explain contemporary America. And with tail-wagging guides like Jade the Rottweiler, Ben the Beagle, and Murphy the Saint Bernard, the journey through modern society is also a lot of fun.
Enough About Me
Michael Currie Schaffer was born in Washington, D.C., but spent much of his youth shuttling between the various distant and humid and wackily-accented countries where his parents’ work took the family. All the moving left him with a sense of curiosity about the zany world back home.
Schaffer graduated from Columbia University in 1995, then spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Sri Lanka. He worked as a writer and an editor at Washington City Paper and as a reporter at U.S. News and World Report and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Over that time, he has covered two wars, one recount, and the still-unresolved question of whether the head of the Philadelphia cement masons’ union pulled a gun on a Republican mayoral candidate, or whether the candidate was just being a sissy. He has been singled out for his work by no less an authority than former Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano, currently an inmate at Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution, who said Schaffer “gnawed at me for days and weeks…following me down every pathway, hovering that damn tape recorder at my neck. I usually cast a blind eye, but blindness only masks disgust.” Schaffer’s writing has also appeared in publications including The Washington Post, Slate, and The New Republic.
Schaffer lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Keltie Hawkins, their daughter, Ellie, and their pets, Murphy the Saint Bernard and Amelia the black cat.