Rating: ★★★★★ 

The Best Dog in the World, by Donna Long. Ten Speed Press (2007), 128 pages.

This charming and informative work is a collection of 111 vintage portraits of children with their dogs. The photographs are all from 1875-1925 and include fascinating information about the dog breeds that were being developed at that time. Many of the images were printed as postcards and Long includes the hand-written messages on the back side of these cards, which allows us a brief glimpse into the lives of the people we see on the front.

There are many coffee table/photography books available about dogs, but Long has created something really special here in her decision to keep the relationship between children and their dogs at the center of The Best Dog in the World. The love and devotion between child and dog shine through in every photograph and remind us that this connection is not just an artifact of our time, but has always been enormously important to us.

There are several photographs in particular of pit bulls with their toddler owners’ arms wrapped around them that I found especially endearing. I was so pleased that Long was able to find photographic proof that the beleagured pit bull is, and has always been, one of the sweetest, most well-adjusted of breeds.

This is truly a beautifully designed book with the cover itself easily worth the price of the whole book. I can’t imagine a dog lover anywhere who will not want to own this.

At the turn of the twentieth century, pit bull-type dogs were immensely popular companion dogs and never considered untrustworthy around small children. In fact, the breed standard for American pit bulls, written in 1898, observes that these dogs “have always been noted for their love of children.”

This review first appeared in March 2007