Fred the dachshund was an important character in E.B. White’s essay “Death of a Pig.” He stood at White’s side during the pig’s treatment and burial, serving as a silent witness to suffering and adding, oddly, a grave dash of humanity. But this isn’t surprising, since dogs were some of White’s most memorable characters.
In this new book, White’s granddaughter, Martha White, has pulled together a mixed bag of his writings on dogs — but a delightful mixed bag, including personal letters, New Yorker casuals, essays and silly poems.
Dogs are the common denominator here — the famous Fred, the ill-fated Daisy (she was run over by a taxi), Minnie and Raffles. If you’ve read much White, you know these guys.
Dogs often served as a prism through which White viewed the world, and yet in his writing they never lost their essential dog-ness: Yes, they were sardonic and wry and occasionally had interior lives, but, like any dog, they also sniffed and dug, they ate vile things, they were deeply indulged.
In one piece, a response to the ASPCA, White notes, “I have received your letter, undated, saying that I am harboring an unlicensed dog in violation of the law. If by ‘harboring’ you mean getting up two or three times every night to pull Minnie’s blanket up over her, I am harboring a dog all right. The blanket keeps slipping off.”
Oh, it is nice to hear White’s dry voice again, and to have these fine dogs live once more.