MEMORABLE DOGS: AN ANTHOLOGY, edited by Benjamin T. Spencer (Harper & Row: $16.95).
THE COMPLETE DOG BOOK compiled by the American Kennel Club (Howell: $16.95).
THE COMPLETE BOOK OF DOG HEALTH by the Animal Medical Center of New York with William J. Kay, chief of staff, and Elizabeth Randolph (Macmillan: $19.95).
"Memorable Dogs: An Anthology" explores in selected narratives and verse the enduring relationship between humans and dogs. As the writings spanning three centuries indicate, it has been a very special relationship, prompting in many animals an unquestioning love and sacrifice unmatched but appreciated by their masters. "Beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man, without his vices," wrote Lord Byron of his faithful Newfoundland. Sir Walter Scott claims never to have sat down to write without a dog at his side, his favorite being Camp, a black-and-tan English terrier. Included in the 50 selections are many sure to bring tears to the eyes of any dog lover, such as Charles Dickens' sad tale of Bull's-eye, who belonged to the ruthless Sikes in "Oliver Twist." There also is Jack London's Buck, John Steinbeck's Charley, William Faulkner's Lion, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Flush, who fled with her to Italy, and my favorite, James Thurber's Rex, an "American" bull terrier with "one brindle eye that sometimes made him look like a clown and sometimes reminded you of a politician with a derby hat and cigar," yet possessing a dignity he never lost. We do venerate our pets. For those who want to know more about dogs, the American Kennel Club has come out with its 17th edition of "The Complete Dog Book," featuring the latest standards for each of the 129 breeds registered by the organization. There are also new sections on health care and training, though "The Complete Book of Dog Health" by the Animal Medical Center of New York is more thorough. The comprehensive review should be helpful to those who want to return in some form the love of their pets.