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The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection between Humans and Dogs Hardcover – September 1, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist Franklin (Molecules of the Mind) draws on a slew of disciplines—evolutionary theory, zooarcheology, behavioral science, ethnology, bio-philosophy and keen firsthand observation—to formulate a challenging but enticingly plausible theory about the psychological leash binding humans and canines. His thesis: beginning about 12,000 years ago, as wild wolves evolved into follower wolves and were subsequently domesticated by early man, a kind of mind meld occurred. As this neurological attachment took shape, the dog shed 20% of its brain mass because, biologically, humans had agreed to do its thinking for it, while mankind lost 10% of its brain mass because dogs became our beast of emotional burden. Franklin buttresses his inventive assertion with a combination of absorbingly loquacious ruminations on the behavior of his own dog, Charlie, and a rigorous compilation of scientific facts rooted in a decade of study about the nature of wolves and dogs. As concepts of the canine go, Franklin's is notably audacious. And among a plethora of books on breeding, disciplining, loving and lamenting the loss of man's best friend, this thoughtful discourse is a best of breed. (Sept.)
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"As concepts of the canine go, Franklin’s is notably audacious. And among a plethora of books on bredding, disciplining, loving, and lamenting the loss of man’s best friend, this thoughtful discourse is a best of breed."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The result of [the author’s] obsession with discovering the root of the human-dog relationship in this impossible-to-put-down book, a peregrination through the personal, the historical, the ethological, anthropological, and ecological as Franklin discovers how dogs and humans changed each other in the thousands of years they’ve been together. A true gem."—Booklist (starred review)

"Smart and soulful and absolutely engaging, The Wolf in the Parlor is a sort of essay/inquiry that elegantly decodes the marvelous, mysterious connection between people and dogs."—Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

"The Wolf in the Parlor is the ultimate book about dogs. It is part science, part ?history, part personal journey -- and all magically written. If you have ever wondered why a dog is important in your life, this brilliant book is for you."—Gene Roberts, Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of The Race Beat

"A welcome--and surprising--view into the canine soul from somebody who clearly understands and loves dogs."—Jeffrey Masson, author of Dogs Never Lie About Love.

"Should delight dog-lovers and science buffs alike"—Kirkus Reviews

"Read this book and it will change the way you see dogs, and people.Jon Franklin, the dean of science writers, is doing more than reporting here, he is making an argument, a surprising and learned one, about the evolution of modern society. It is a story of deep co-dependence, a theory informed by science, by love, and by a ripening personal appreciation of mutual need. And, oh yes, it may make you want to get a standard poodle" —Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090772
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tom Dykstra on October 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was a disappointment. I knew enough about the theme - the symbiotic relationship between people and dogs - to know that a very interesting and enlightening book could be written on the subject. In this one I was expecting a fairly thorough review and presentation of the scientific evidence and theories on the subject, but that is not what I found.

If you are looking for nonfiction in the sense of a sober presentation and assessment of what scientific evidence there is on the subject, you will find informative writing of that sort only in relatively small snatches scattered here and there in the book. If you are looking for a personal story of the author's experience with his dog or other dogs, you will find writing of that sort only in relatively small snatches here and there. What the majority of the book consists of is the author's philosophical musings, and stories about his efforts to learn more about the origin of dogs.

An example of the "how I found it" material:
"Eventually I found an outfit at the University of Michigan that was pioneering the on-demand reproduction of rare books. I called them. We haggled, and I sent them a check. In due time my mailbox yielded up a very thin little volume of copied and bound pages. Olsen's book. Finally! I tore open the package like it was a Christmas present. It was just what I'd wanted; the book was packed full of detail."

If you want to read this sort of personal-quest narrative, you will not be disappointed by the book.

An example of the "philosophical musing" material, this one about how ancient humans invented religion:
"The knowledge of death was depressing. Depression made us less able to cope.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
As a librarian, I read tons of books; however, most of them tend to be either related to music, my specialty, or science fiction. I picked this up on a whim, because I love dogs and the author seems to have a fine pedigree (no pun intended!). After reading this, I am so thankful that I decided to go outside of my normal reading!

Jon Franklin, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning science writer, does an amazing job of exploring why humans and dogs have such an intense bond. Franklin takes us along on his personal journey as he changes from a man that doesn't particularly care about dogs to one where Charlie, his poodle, becomes an integral part of his life (thanks in large part to his wife). As time flows by and Charlie worms his way into the author's heart, Franklin, the ever curious science writer, tries to figure out exactly why humans and dogs seem to complete each other.

What impressed me most about this book was the author's ability to deftly intertwine his own personal narrative, along with both scientific research and his own theories. He adds just enough of a personal voice that one doesn't feel like they are reading a text book, but it doesn't devolve into a rambling diary. Franklin does an excellent job of explaining advanced scientific concepts and ideas, although he does assume that the reader has about a high school level knowledge of science.

I highly recommend this book to any dog people as it will definitely make them think a little (and hopefully appreciate even more) their relationship with man's (and woman's) best friend. Cat people, you should also pick this one up too and see how the other half of the world lives. To people who don't like any animals, read this and you might find yourself wanting to see what life would be like with your very own "Wolf in the Parlor."
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Format: Hardcover
This thoroughly enjoyable book shows the power and joy that can be had from well-written nonfiction. The author's search for answers to an enigma is as gripping as the "whodunits" that I like to read. Yet, truth is more fascinating than made-up stories. A photo of a 12,000-year-old skeleton reaching out to the skeleton of a small dog entices Franklin on a quest that takes him from ancient caves guarded by wolf skulls to his own hearth where a Standard Poodle puppy named Charlie turns his world upside down. In this nonfiction mystery, Franklin sets out to discover why dogs are such an integral part of all societies, not only here in the U.S. This is more than a book about dogs; it is a book about what makes us human. It will appeal to anyone wanting to learn more about the world in which they live.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It became our morning ritual during the 11 months I was unemployed.
First I felt a cold nose on my leg as I sat at the breakfast table. Next, I heard a faint whimper. Then ...WHAM! ... a dog's head crashed through my newspaper and came to rest on my lap.

The message was clear. "It's time to go for our walk."

Until I read the new book by Jon Franklin, The Wolf in the Parlor (Henry Holt and Company), I thought our walks were all to please Tyrone. Now, I realize that maybe he understood that I needed them as much as he did. If so, he was right. It was difficult to adjust after going into the office almost every day for 39 year. The walks focused my thoughts and reduced my anxieties. And I've lost 20 pounds.

But Franklin's outstanding book goes even further outlining the significance of this relationship between man and his best friend.The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author and University of Maryland professor spent more than two decades researching what he calls "the eternal connection between humans and dogs."

His conclusion: Dogs, or their ancestors, helped us become better people.

Just as Tyrone helps me.

I'm working again now. In fact, I now have two jobs. So I'm worried that Tyrone will be upset if that cuts into our walking time. Then, again, he may be having the same concerns about me.

"Just remember," Franklin said, "there's an animal on both ends of the leash."
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