By Tom Davis
Chris Mathan is the creative dynamo behind Strideaway, the e-zine devoted to wild-bird field trials; the phenomenal canine athletes that compete in them; and the men and women who, in their various capacities as breeders, trainers, judges and so on, are the legatees and guardians of this grand tradition. My sense is that Strideaway is at best a break-even proposition for Chris and, while it’s customary to describe such endeavors as labors of love, I think it’s more accurate, in this case, to describe it as a labor of passion.
But here’s the thing: Years ago, in what amounts to a previous life, Chris worked in the UK as a publicist for an independent record label. One day traveling the back roads of East Anglia she found herself in a village with the delightfully unlikely name of—wait for it—Little Snoring.
Chris was so charmed that she appropriated Little Snoring as her umbrella name for various (little) business ventures. These include Little Snoring Books, whose most recent title is the Little Book of Bird Dog Names. About the dimensions of an index card, with a pumpkin-hued cover and 20 textured, cream-colored pages, the book has the feel of something handmade. Everything about it—the design, the typography, the paper, the choice of illustrations—bespeaks quality. The heart of the book, as the title implies, is its lists of hundreds of bird-dog names—one list for males, one for females—gleaned from dozens of sources. In this respect, the Little Book serves as a valuable reference for anyone wrestling with the happy dilemma of naming a puppy.
What makes it more than that, though, are the quotes sprinkled throughout—quotes about dogs named and unnamed from such revered writers as Gene Hill (“Just My Dog”), Ray Holland (My Dog Lemon), Dion Henderson (Algonquin), Mike Gaddis (Zip Zap) and James Street (“The Biscuit Eater”). Some are whimsical, others are poignant, one or two will shake you to the bone.
In this day and age when so much of our experience is digitally mediated and “virtual” (whatever that means), the Little Book of Bird Dog Names is a lovely exception. It is something to hold, to read and to treasure.