Henry Holt and Co.
A witty, insightful, and affectionate examination of how and why we spend billions on our pets, and what this tells us about ourselves
In 2003, Michael Schaffer and his wife drove to a rural shelter and adopted an emaciated, dreadlocked Saint Bernard who they named Murphy. They vowed that they’d never become the kind of people who send dogs named Baxter and Sonoma out to get facials, or shell out for $12,000 hip replacements. But then they started to get weird looks from the in-laws: You hired a trainer? Your vet prescribed antidepressants? So Schaffer started poking around and before long happened on an astonishing statistic: the pet industry, estimated at $43 billion this year, was just $17 billion barely a decade earlier.
One Nation Under Dog is about America’s pet obsession—the explosion, over the past generation, of an industry full of pet masseuses, professional dog-walkers, organic kibble, leash-law militants, luxury pet spas, veterinary grief counselors, upscale dog shampoos, and the like: a booming economy that is evidence of tremendous and rapid change in the status of America’s pets. Schaffer provides a surprising and lively portrait of our country—as how we treat our pets reflects evolving ideas about domesticity, consumerism, politics, and family—through this fabulously reported and sympathetic look at both us and our dogs.
From Doghouse to Our House
By the time we finally saw Murphy, we’d driven the two hours of highway from our house in Philadelphia to what felt like the last rural place in all of New Jersey. We’d nosed through the town—over a pair of railroad tracks, past a warehouse, down a short road. And we’d gingerly tiptoed past the chain-link fence that held Boss, the massive Saint Bernard at the shotgun-style home opposite the town’s small-scale animal shelter. My wife spotted him first, an oddly undersized example of the same breed running around the
"Informative, entertaining.... As the man says in this terrific book, it's not about the dogs, it's about the people."—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"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.’… Reminiscent of Tom Wolfe's New Journalism essays on the sociology of pop culture.… Essential reading for anyone whose dog has become hooked on Kong bounce balls."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Combines research and great … anecdotes for … sociological insight into the obsessive world of dog ownership.”—Philadelphia Magazine
"Doggone entertaining."—Kirkus Reviews
“What makes this book so great is that it neither preaches nor rationalizes - it just explains…. He alternates easily between research and laugh-out-loud tales of his runty St. Bernard, Murphy, and cat, Amelia. And with a historical sweep, he shows us how we got to this place. Ultimately, One Nation Under Dog is not about our pets - but about ourselves.” —The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)
“In the wake of Marley mania… Schaffer explores the rapidly expanding dimensions of America's pet mania - Mr. President, a must-read before you pick the pup!”—Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer
"A surprising, often hilarious view of the American pet scene."—Star-News (Wilmington, NC)
"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
"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
"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 Me and A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs and Me
"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
"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