One Nation Under Dog by Michael Schaffer

One Nation Under Dog

NOTE: This domain was recently purchased. Its content has been rebuilt from other sources as well as the 2009 archived pages of the original site that Michael Schaffer created to publicize his book, One Nation Under Dog which was published in March 2010. It is stil available in a Kindle edition, hardcover and paperback on Amazon.com.

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Introduction by Michael Schaffer

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 or visit the One Nation Under Dog facebook page, whose last post was in 2012 announcing the premier on HBO of One Nation Under Dog.

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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.

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Enough About Me

Michael Schaffer

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.

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.

Schaffer lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Keltie Hawkins, their daughter, Ellie, and their pets, Murphy the Saint Bernard and Amelia the black cat.

An Aside: Schaffer is obviously a prolific writer. I sometimes like to imagine how a writer such as Schaffer would handle writing an article about a more techological subject such as what a progressive software firm offers high-growth companies. Just recently I was reading about the world’s #1 CRM platform that companies are flocking to. Called Salesforce, it is one of the most powerful cloud based platforms that businesses and organizations use to enhance relationships among their employees and customers. How does one explain Salesforce application development to the ordinary person? Or is this a subject that should only appear in business journals? Being able to tout that Salesforce is the #1 CRM (customer relationship management) platform is a pretty big brag. Perhaps it's just that I am fascinated by the technology used to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support via the "cloud". Well, this is all speculation as to whether Schaffer would even be interested in this subject.

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What Others Are Saying

 

“A Fast Food Nation for dog lovers, this astute and amusing investigative report offers a “journey into the $41-billion-a-year world of the modern American pet.” Each chapter focuses on “a different realm of the pet universe,” and the total effect is reminiscent of Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism essays on the sociology of pop culture. Schaffer explores baby boomers who devote themselves to “fur babies” after their children have grown up and moved out. He attends the 2008 Global Pet Expo to take stock of the 2,400 display booths of retail pet items. He observes New York’s “burgeoning canine social scene.” In San Francisco, he looks at how arguments over dog leash laws are case studies in how cities need to “navigate the controversies” of a new pet-friendly world. And his fascinating piece on the evolution of pet toys—from the first “purportedly educational” ones made in a Colorado garage in the 1970s to today’s “veritable arms race”—is essential reading for anyone whose dog has become hooked on Kong bounce balls.”
- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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“Doggone entertaining.”
- Kirkus Reviews
 

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“With perspicacity laced with humor, journalist Schaffer examines the sometimes over-the-top attention Americans lavish on their canines in the form of designer clothing, dog parties, cutting-edge medical treatments, mental stimulation toys, professional pet sitters, luxurious pet hotels, pet cemeteries with grief counselors, and superpremium dog food made with ingredients fit for human consumption. But this is no scathing exposé—Schaffer is a willing participant, an inside observer, forcibly immersed in the ethos by his adoption of a rescued St. Bernard who suffered from separation anxiety. Nevertheless, he offers a serious investigation of the human-animal bond and the forces that have driven “pet parents” to what some might consider extremes. Well researched with copious notes yet accessible to lay readers who will chuckle in self-recognition; highly recommended for public and academic libraries.”
- Library Journal

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“In a finely tuned voice full of wit and grace, Michael Schaffer takes an incredibly smart look at an important cultural phenomenon that too often is dismissed as a four-legged sideshow. I couldn’t stop reading, except to repeat to whoever was around some stunning fact or anecdote about Fur Baby America. If you want to understand how we live now,One Nation Under Dog is essential reading.”
- Benjamin Wallace, author of The Billionaire’s Vinegar

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One Nation Under Dog is a masterwork of comic sociology: The pooch set has found its Max Weber. With witty analysis, great storytelling and a generous spirit, Schaffer has done more than provide a window into our dog obsession; he has provided a portrait of American life.”
- Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the World

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“Michael Schaffer’s terrific One Nation Under Dog is long overdue. Schaffer understands that the mushrooming love affair between Americans and their companion animals - especially dogs - is one of the most fascinating cultural phenomena in recent history, and that this shows no signs of abating even in hard times. As pets have moved to the center of our families and our emotional lives, One Nation Under Dog - well written and thoroughly reported - explores how and why they have become mirrors of our society.”
- Jon Katz, author of Izzy and Lenore: Two Dogs, an Unexpected Journey, and Meand A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs and Me

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“Simultaneously amusing and eye opening, One Nation Under Dog holds a mirror to our pet-obsessed culture, wherein even we cat lovers will see ourselves reflected. Astutely illuminating the political, social, and economic aspects of our devotion to our animal companions, Michael Schaffer makes us chuckle – and sigh with recognition.”
- Kathryn Shevelow, author of For the Love of Animals: The Rise of the Animal Protection Movement

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“Michael Schaffer has written a thoroughly researched, jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud exposé of our love affair with the pets in our lives. Go find yourself in One Nation Under Dog!”
—Nick Trout, author of Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon

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