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Book Review: The French Dog, Rachael Hale (McKenna)

the French Dog
The French Dog is an outstandingly beautiful book and you’ll excuse my pun when I tell you that my copy is somewhat dog eared thanks to the many hours I have spent perusing its lovely pages.

Rachael McKenna (née Hale) is a photographer from New Zealand whose work as an animal photographer is very well known – her images have appeared on millions of greeting cards, calendars, posters and stationery around the world.

The French Dog

Rachel loves to take photographs of dogs… in France which is where she now lives. You might be wondering what a book full of dog photos in France might be like – well I’ll tell you – its stunning.

As Rachel says “I set out to photograph the many types of dogs in France: Paris pooches, common village spaniels, Riviera handbag dogs and the well-bred guardians of grand chateaux”. Well she certainly did and the results are mesmerising.

It is said that stroking a dog can have a profound effect on one’s wellbeing. It promotes a feeling of calm and can allay stress – this book has the same effect, but without the hair and the need to feed or clean up after man’s best friend.

The French Dog

The book is full of anecdotes and facts – some of which are rather amazing. Did you know for instance that Josephine, the wife of Napoleon, had a dog that she adored so much that it went everywhere with her – including her bedroom? On her wedding night to one of the most powerful and feared men in the world at the time, the dog took umbrage to the presence of another and bit him hard on the leg. The infuriated emperor ordered his bride to remove the beast but she refused and the dog stayed. Napoleon appears to have given in rather gracefully – perhaps because he owed a debt of gratitude to another dog, one that saved his life. The Emperor could not swim and on slipping on the deck of his ship he fell overboard – it is said that he was saved by a dog who kept him afloat until Napoleon was rescued. Another fascinating fact I learned from The French Dog!

Rachel’s photographs of dogs of all shapes and sizes seen in repose or in action, in the streets of France or in a magnificent chateau are simply beautiful and really make you feel as though you can see those places, smell the blossom, feel the warm air and hear the dogs barking.

The French Dog

Even holding the book is a pleasure – it has a padded back and front so is tactile and soft on your lap while you sit and daydream looking at photographs and reading fascinating facts about dogs and the people who have loved them through the ages. This is not a read it once and put it away book, it’s a book for all seasons and seriously – try reading it when you’re feeling stressed – the effect is amazing! Just looking at the picture of Portia the dog above – you can tell the dog has a sense of humour and it just makes you smile…


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