Skip this book if you dislike dogs, or even if you are indifferent to them, or echo an acquaintance of Brian Sewell’s who told him: ‘We expected better of you than such silly, sentimental anthropomorphism.’ If you are such a person, you will be horrified by Sewell’s habits — starting with the one of the title (sometimes he sleeps with four dogs together). He also feeds his dogs from the table, doesn’t care when they destroy his rarest books to devour the animal-based glue in the bindings, and dislikes being advised to ‘get another dog’ when one of them dies, About the death of one of his favourites, he has the following to say — and this really is pretty odd: ‘I wrapped her in a child’s blanket, put her in a wicker basket and exposed it on the flat roof of the house, where rain, sun and wind reduced her to a perfect skeleton.’
Sewell has owned 17 dogs over a period of almost 80 years, and here are some of his insights: ‘I am convinced that their daily walks are much more than physical exercise — that they are intellectual stimulus, too, the equivalent of our reading the morning newspaper.’ Don’t drag a dog away, he advises, ‘when it pauses for a snuffle’. He never does, and neither do I.
One of Sewell’s dogs was a whippet, and her twitches, restless sleeping habits, running in big circles and rolling in wild animal turds, the smellier the better, wholly resemble my own whippet’s ways. I know little of Sewell the art critic and historian, but far from being barking, he’s the real deal on dogs.
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