Dogs are everywhere

I’m a fan of a certain type of book, the ultra-local nostalgia-fests that have names like “Memories of Ward End”. They’re not heavy with detail, not well put together normally, but they’re beautiful in their sheer ordinariness. They provide the wonderful mundanity to go with the pompous history of the rich, but there’s absolutely no reason why you should care if they’re not of a place you care about. Alton Douglas has long been the Birmingham master of the “photocopied old bus ticket anthology” market, his books have a careful artlessness I enjoy. They seemed to have started quite wide a “Memories of Birmingham” and got progressively more niche, down to “Memories of Erdington Shoe Shops Between the Wars” (well almost). Which is why I’ve just spent far too much money on one on ebay:

Cover of "Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas

Yes, “Dogs in Birmingham” (worryingly I discover available for 7p on Amazon) a book containing photos of dogs, in Birmingham.

Now the usual format of these books is a scrapbook-style rampage through the archives at the Post & Mail for pictures of an area of subject. Areas work best, everyone goes “ooh remember what Small Heath used to look like” (pretty much as it does now it turns out), but dogs — how does dogs work? How many dog stories are there to felch?

Not many it turns out. Virtually anyone who collected silver foil in the 70s and 80s is here, holding a big cheque:

"Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas

BUPA employees with a photo of a guide dog they’ve collected money to pay for, and another dog.

Then there are celebrities with dogs:

"Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas
Left: Alton and some dogs.
Right: Crossroads’ Miss Diane (Sue Hanson) and real-life husband singer Carl Wayne and some dogs.

Then there are dogs in community news:

"Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas

Top photo, a police dog at Perry Common School (and not for the last time, I’d guess ;) ).
Bottom: Miss England, Tracey Williams, a boy and a dog open Selly Oak Do-it-all in 1988

But then, in between the reprinted adverts for pet food (and the very tenuous “celeb” stuff that wasn’t shot in Brum – Hancock and a poodle), they seem to run out. I’m sure these dogs are from Birmingham, the captions say so — but the photos offer no evidence of that. They’re just old back and white photographs of dogs, like these ones – “from Hall Green”:

"Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas

The point being, dogs maybe you recognise? I dunno.

My book of the year.

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