Book review: Dog Treats by Christopher Matthew

Dog Treats by Christopher Matthew

Dog Treats by Christopher Matthew

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Ask any dog lover and they’ll tell you that their adored pet is poetry in motion…

So what better way to express your affection for man’s best friend than a book of fun, funny, versatile verse that celebrates a very special relationship and the charismatic canine world in all its rich and life-affirming diversity?

Christopher Matthew, the comic genius behind the Now We Are Sixty and The Man Who Dropped the Le Creuset on His Toe, knows all about the bond between a man and his dog.

A lifelong dog devotee and one-time owner of an adorable Kerry Blue terrier which a friend believed was ‘really a human being wearing a dog outfit,’ he has been performing a labour of love to bring us this warm and wonderful collection of pooch poems.

From Ozymandias, the Steve McQueen of Springer spaniels whose acrobatic sex life rivals Errol Flynn’s to terrier Ted whose Falstaffian appetites and over-indulgence following the loyal toast lead to a shameful bender followed by a spell in rehab, dogs come in many guises… and not all of them benign.

Travelling from Camp Bastion to West Wittering via a sunlit Greek island, Matthew’s compendium embraces comedy, tragedy, personalities and egos great and small.

Meet Hieronymus, the television-addicted pug with ambitions to be a sheepdog, enjoy exuberant, rear-fixated puppies and Hollywood fashion accessory pets, mingle with world-weary but dignified strays, neglected latch-key dogs, war heroes and fall for a psychotic Great Dane called Cher Bébé and a spaniel of distinguished theatrical lineage suffering from Uggie-envy.

And then of course, there is man, with his cowardice, his commitment issues, his short attention span and his propensity for very silly names... because the really big question Matthew asks in this outlandish outing with dogs, dupes and divas is not so much who is the master in this time-honoured animal-human relationship, as who is the mutt.

Tony Ross provides the brilliantly expressive and quirky illustrations for Matthew’s acutely -observed, wickedly funny verses which paint memorable word portraits of thirty-six assorted denizens of the canine community, and take a sardonic sideways glance at some of their owners.

Dog Treats is a real doggie delight, a gloriously affectionate and entertaining tribute to a friendship that has had a special place in men’s hearts since the dawn of time. As Josh Billings, pen name of 19th-century American humourist Henry Wheeler Shaw, observed: ‘A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.’

(Little, Brown, hardback, £12.99)

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