Culture & Literature



We love them, and they love us. Discover the meaning of the special bond between humans and dogs - delightful pets, dedicated workers, devoted companions - in this heartwarming new Special Edition from LIFE, Dogs: Why We Need Them. Why They Need Us. Filled with dozens of wonderful photographs and thought-provoking essays, Dogs showcases the best of our lives with these four-legged friends. In its pages, you'll meet both beloved family companions and the trained canines who work with us as service, therapy, bomb-sniffing, and police dogs, plus many more. A special photo essay shares memories of celebrities like Lassie, Balto, Laika, Bo, even animated dogs, including Scooby Doo and Snoopy! There are more than 90 million dogs in the United States, and many more millions of Americans who love them. Give the dog people in your life a treat, that's only second to their trusted pals, with LIFE's Dogs!

United States
Meredith Corporation
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$20.81(Incl. tax)

in this issue

2 min.

AMERICA IS HOME TO ABOUT 90 MILLION dogs, a sometimes quiet, invariably curious, and often rollicking mass of canines who have the essentials of life never far from mind: Love, food, fun, sleep. If there’s one thing about dogs, they know how to live. It’s not quite true that dogs rule the planet—though, as the Seinfeld bit has it, an alien observer might think so after watching humans bending to scoop up dog droppings. But it does sometimes seem that a pup’s outlook on existence, in its simplicity of wants and its simplicity of virtues (loyalty chief among them, empathy too), represents a life-form that has things figured out. There are exceptions. Dogs can be like humans. Some dogs are nuts. Some are skittish, or inappropriately exuberant, or lazy. They can…

1 min.
it’s a dog’s life

10 min.
dancing with wolves

In 1774, Lord John Murray Dunmore had a lot on his mind. As the new governor of Virginia, he had just championed the opening of the western lands and led a military attack against the Shawnee Indians, and he was awaiting the arrival of his family, who were en route from Scotland. He had also lost his dog. Glasgow, a brown-and-white bulldog known for snoozing and growling behind the walls of the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, seemed to have been stolen from the grounds. Lord Dunmore promptly advertised a reward in the Virginia Gazette, offering 20 shillings (more than a month’s wages for a farmer) for Glasgow’s safe return. Dunmore’s concern for his pet reflects the shifting view of dogs throughout history. The early days of the republic were at…

4 min.
puppy love in middle age

The way I see it, dogs had this big meeting, oh, maybe 20,000 years ago. A huge meeting—an international convention with delegates from everywhere. And that’s when they decided that humans were the up-and-coming species and dogs were going to throw their lot in with them. The decision was obviously not unanimous. The wolves and dingoes walked out in protest. Cats had an even more negative reaction. When they heard the news, they called their own meeting—in Paris, of course—to denounce canine subservience to the human hyperpower. (Their manifesto—La Condition Feline—can still be found in provincial bookstores.) Cats, it must be said, have not done badly. Using guile and seduction, they managed to get humans to feed them, thus preserving their superciliousness without going hungry. A neat trick. Dogs, being guileless, signed…

6 min.
at our service

Karen Shirk remembers well the evening that was nearly her last. Already suffering from the rare neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis and confined to a wheelchair, she was at her Ohio home following open-heart surgery, with her trusted service dog, Ben, a black Lab, by her side. “I was on a morphine pump and—though I didn’t realize it—a deadly combination of drugs,” Shirk told the New York Times. “I slipped into unconsciousness.” Then the phone rang. Sensing something was wrong, Ben picked up the receiver, dropped it on the bed, and started barking. The caller was Shirk’s father, who got Ben’s message loud and clear and summoned a rescue team to his daughter’s house. The rescuers later told Karen that without Ben’s quick thinking she wouldn’t have lived through the night. A…

6 min.
being there

Once it was illegal for dogs to enter a hospital. Today they are a welcome part of the healing process. Good Dog Foundation founder Rachel McPherson recalls when she put her own therapy dog, a tricolor papillon named Fidel, to work at one New York City hospital not long ago. A patient was recuperating from a stroke and had no movement on his left side. McPherson taught little Fidel to jump on the patient’s bed and drop her ball next to the man’s left hand. Little by little the patient was able to gain movement in his left hand to the point where he was able to toss the ball for Fidel to retrieve. “He was motivated by the joy Fidel brought him,” says McPherson. “When the physical therapists showed…