Carolina Dogs, The American Dingos
Perfect Dogs: Remnants from Ages Past
My Canid Odyssey
By Jane Rittenhouse Gunnell, JD
This perfectly charming book is heartfelt testimony to the timeless phrase-"a dog is a man's best friend." The moment Jane Rittenhouse Gunnell set eyes on fourteen, feral, reclusive "Carolina Dogs" (also called American Dingoes) her life changed dramatically-and so too, did the lives of this ancient, rapidly vanishing species of the canine family. Her remarkable odyssey is related in such a down-to-earth way that one is swept along with her on a journey of self discovery, surprise, laughter and tears.
The book is not a literary marvel but rather a heartwarming study that leaves the reader with a true appreciation of Gunnell's relentless and wholly passionate dedication to saving this ancient breed from extinction. She forgets to identify some of the people involved in her story-who are mostly her own family-however, it is a minor detail, for as one is drawn into her remarkable story, her genuine love for these creatures is as engaging as the story itself.
One day, while she was visiting the Topper Dig on the Savannah River, two clay pots were carefully opened and much to everyone's surprise they contained the bones of primitive dogs-ancestors of the feral Carolina Dogs of today. "Here were the remnants, and perhaps even the spirit of two ancient dogs-whose people had loved them enough to bury them as if they were children." Gunnell wrote. Then she added, "I looked across the river at the sunset. The same river and the same setting sun those ancient people had seen thousands of years ago when they buried their dogs. I had to be there-to see and feel and touch-to reach back in time…"
There is no doubt of Gunnell's passionate resolve to find legitimacy for this lost canine species. And if the reader is as impressed as I was, after the last page is turned he/she will go immediately and put their arms around their own canine species and hold them close with a whole new understanding and appreciation.
The book would make an excellent Christmas gift for both children and adults. It is a short, two-hour read for the average reader, in large print with lots of colored photographs. Furthermore, Gunnell's odyssey is an important history lesson. Who knew that the brown/gold dog with large eyes, black noses, fox-like faces and fish-hook tail one sometimes views hiding out in old barns and under decrepit porches are actually remnants of the first dogs that crossed the Bering Land Mass with Paleolithic Man thousands of years ago!