While we were writing Dirty Wow Wow, a book celebrating the threadbare love objects of childhood, it seemed that a well-worn bunny, blanket, or bear accompanied almost every child we encountered. It wasn’t until about a year after completing the book that our obsession with the Dirty Wow Wow sightings began to abate. And then, one evening around dusk, we were heading home from our design studio when we passed the dog park in Boston Common. Like many urban parks, this grassy patch of land had been allocated as a playground for the many canine residents that live nearby. We stopped to watch the dogs run and play until dark descended. Leashes came out, people called or whistled, and the dogs came running. It was then that we noticed that nearly every dog had a stuffed animal, squeaky toy; dirty tennis ball, filthy Frisbee, or frayed rope toy in his or her mouth. In fact, many people were carrying home canvas bags filled with all manner of well-loved things.

Just as a particularly fetching Boston terrier passed by, toting a thoroughly ragged Raggedy Ann, we looked at each other and the idea for Dirty Bow Wow was born.

This got us talking about the dogs we had loved growing up. Jeffrey’s family pet was, as poodles used to be called, a miniature French poodle named Pierre. Pierre was Jeffrey’s mother’s pride and joy, and like Jeffrey’s mom, Minnie, Pierre was stylish, well coiffed, and alarmingly manicured. Though Pierre didn’t have a standing Saturday morning beauty salon appointment like Minnie did, he did go to a pooch parlor on a regular basis. Just when Pierre would get scruffy to the point of almost looking natural, Jeffrey and his sisters would return home from school to find a powdered and perfumed Pierre, head and tail punctuated by pom-poms, toenails painted an embarrassing shade of pink, with a matching ribbon around his neck. The effect was meant to emulate a pedigreed champion ready for the show ring, but the result ended up with Pierre looking more like a life-sized figurine. Poor Pierre.

Cheryl’s family had a mutt—a cross between a Beagle and a German shepherd, as near as anyone could guess—named Happy. As her name suggests, Happy was given to Cheryl’s sister Leslie on her fifth birthday in the hopes that Happy would become a playmate for her. The family had recently moved from the city to what seemed like an empty suburban neighborhood devoid of other children. However, much as Cheryl and Leslie tried to win Happy’s affection, the dog preferred their dad, Joe. Joe took Happy for walks in the woods behind their house, fed and bathed her, and made sure that Happy had a bowl of corn flakes every morning for breakfast. Probably just as well. Had Happy spent much time playing with the little girls, sooner or later she would doubtless have succumbed to their favorite game of beauty parlor. Happy, too, would have ended up with an extraordinary hairdo and pink nails.

Alas, neither Pierre nor Happy had a Dirty Bow Wow, so during the photo shoot for this book, we were fascinated as dog after dog cavorted with their favorite object. We were delighted when we saw Halle’s feistiness when her Frisbee was in sight, the utter Bliss’s true bliss when Orange Horror was brought out of his bag of Dirty Bow Wows, and Seamus’s pure pleasure as he retrieved Bucky.

After spending many wonderful days in Rick and Sandy’s studio with these dogs and their toys, it made us wonder what our long gone pets would have adored. What if they had the good fortune to have been attached to something that gave them as much happiness as the stuffed monkeys and bears and gorillas gave the dogs? Pierre, the French poodle? He probably would not have settled for anything less chic than, like the toy poodle Annie Goodman, a satchel full of treasures. Happy? She was a simple soul. Like the French bulldog Diesel, she would probably have been attached to nothing fancier than a discarded water bottle.

And so it was with memories of Pierre and Happy that we embarked on this book, an effort to capture all these beautiful, good-natured creatures with the things that make them happiest—their Dirty Bow Wows.

Dirty Wow Wow

And Other Love Stories
Ten Speed Press

Available from Amazon