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Dogland

Passion, Glory, and Lots of Slobber at the Westminster Dog Show

About The Book

“Delightful.” —Town & Country “Extraordinary...Tomlinson’s book is a gem.” —Star Tribune (Minneapolis) “Moving...Really broke me.” —The Washington Post “This book wants to lick your face. Let it.” —Kirkus Reviews

Pulitzer Prize finalist Tommy Tomlinson explores the bond between dogs and their people in this irresistibly appealing, inside account of the Westminster Dog Show that follows one dog on his quest to become a champion.

Tommy Tomlinson was watching a dog show on television a few years ago when he had a sudden thought: Are those dogs happy? How about pet dogs—are they happy? Those questions sparked a quest to venture inside the dog-show world, in search of a deeper understanding of the longtime relationship between dogs and humans, and here, in Dogland he shares his surprising, entertaining, and moving adventures.

Spending three years on the road, Tomlinson goes behind the scenes at more than one hundred competitions across the country, from Midwestern fairgrounds to Madison Square Garden. Along the way he is licked, sniffed, and rubbed up against by dogs of nearly every size, shape, and breed. Like a real-life version of the classic mockumentary Best in Show, Dogland follows one champion show dog—a Samoyed named Striker—as well as his handler, Laura King, and his devoted entourage of breeders and owners as he competes in the 2022 Westminster Dog Show.

Striker’s whole career has been leading up to this moment. As Tomlinson writes, picking a top show dog is like drafting an NFL quarterback when they’re still in elementary school. Now Striker has made it to the Super Bowl. Tomlinson takes us on the long road to glory, bringing the dog-show circuit to life as teams scramble from town to town in search of championship ribbons. (Striker and his crew travel in a custom-built RV named after Betty White.)

Tomlinson’s limitless curiosity about people and dogs reaches far beyond the show tents and into the ordinary lives of dogs. We hear from experts who have discovered new insights into how dogs and humans formed their bond—and how that bond has changed over the centuries. We discover the fascinating origins of different dog breeds, learn about the elaborate breed standards that determine an ideal show dog, and consider the health issues that can arise in purebred dogs. We also meet dog lovers who applaud every dog, regardless of breed, simply for being themselves, such as WeRateDogs, the social media phenomenon with millions of followers, all for posts celebrating the day-to-day goofiness in most dog owners’ lives.

“A big ol’ slobbering smooch of optimism, laughter, and happiness” (Joe Posnanski) Dogland takes us on a rollicking tour through the rituals, tricks, and wonders of the dog-show world—and reveals what matters most for the happiness of dogs and dog lovers everywhere.

About The Author

(c) Jeff Cravotta

Tommy Tomlinson is the author of The Elephant in the Room, a memoir about being overweight in America. He’s the host of the podcast SouthBound in partnership with WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR station. He has written for publications including EsquireESPN the MagazineSports IllustratedForbesGarden & Gun, and many others. He spent twenty-three years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. His stories have been chosen twice for the Best American Sports Writing series (2012 and 2015) and he also appears in the anthology America’s Best Newspaper Writing. He teaches magazine writing at Wake Forest University and has taught at colleges, workshops, and conferences across the country. He also has a Substack called The Writing Shed. Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte with Alix’s mom and a cat.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster (April 23, 2024)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982149345

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Raves and Reviews

“Extraordinary . . . Tomlinson’s book is a gem. . . . We find out plenty of interesting stuff in Dogland—including why poodles are groomed to look like wedding cakes—but what’s best about Tomlinson’s book is its recognition that, regardless of what the Westminster folks say, every single dog is somebody’s Best in Show.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“I had a blast reading Dogland. . . . It examines the history, absurdities, vanities, and poignancy of our relationships with dogs, at times making the case that they’ve trained us every bit as much as we’ve trained them.”
Frank Bruni, New York Times

“Finally, a book to rival the movie Best in Show, the great dog-show movie from 2000. Tommy Tomlinson, who’s a terrific writer, went on the road for three years and chronicles the dog-show set superbly. . . . Like dogs? You’ll like this book.”
Peter King, 2024 Father’s Day Book List

“Tomlinson is a very funny writer, and he has the right relationship to his subject: equal parts dubious and generous, with a pleasing mixture of conviviality and comedic distance. . . . You get the sense, reading Dogland, that Tomlinson’s heart, too, lies with all things mixed and mongrel. . . . The most touching interlude in the book is an account of his own rescue mutt, Fred.”
Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker

“Moving . . . Dogland is no sarcastic takedown of a subculture apparently ripe for belittling. Subverting expectation at every turn, it is a wholly sympathetic portrait of people who love showing dogs, and of dogs in general. No cheap shots at loopy humans and their similarly vapid canine beauty queens. Only poignant celebrations of a cross-species romance that has defied not only full understanding but the march of centuries. . . . It was the story of Tomlinson’s own dog—just a stray mutt, Fred, no purebred show material—that really broke me. It is impossible to read his recollections of Fred without being airlifted immediately back into the surpassing sorrow of losing one’s own pet.”
Washington Post

“Charming . . . An ode to the dog-show circuit as well as an homage to the awesome wonder of plain old dogs, or, as the author rightly calls them, ‘dawgs.’ To me there is no better story than that of a ‘know-nothing’ tiptoeing into the closed world of a subculture. Such a fish-out-of-water tale is at the heart of Tommy Tomlinson’s book. . . . A star-spangled tribute to the enduring magic of dogs.”
Jane Stern, Air Mail

“An uproarious account . . . Mr. Tomlinson wisely breezes past the intricacies of dog-show judging (the rules are ‘convoluted beyond belief’) to dig up tastier morsels.”
Wall Street Journal

“Delightful . . . If you’re a dog person, have a passing interest in the world of dog shows, or even just really enjoyed the cult classic film from 2000, Best in Show: You won’t want to miss Dogland.”
Town & Country, “Must-Read Books of Spring 2024”

“As funny as it is poignant and, in many sections, educational, Dogland centers on Striker’s last hurrah as a show dog, but also mixes in a heartbreaking tale of the author’s own dog. . . . Made me tear up.”
Salon

“I teared up twice while reading Dogland. . . . It was Tomlinson’s recollection of his tortured decision to put down his elderly yellow Lab mix Fred, and his efforts to make Fred’s final days special, that moved me. He fed him bacon, took him for scenic car rides and reminisced with his wife about Fred’s finest moments (like the time he ate a burger off the grill). Fred is no show dog, but it’s his essential dog-ness—the way he hides behind the couch during a thunderstorm and sneaks bites of bathroom soap—that make him so loveable on the page.”
Financial Times

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