Portland dog Buddy, whose mother was rescued from the streets in India, is featured in Aliza Eliazarov’s “The Best Dog.” Contributed / Aliza Eliazarov

Photographer Aliza Eliazarov expected she’d have to travel all over the country to find the right mix of subjects for her new book, “The Best Dog,” but once she and her husband got started on the project, they didn’t have to look far from home.

“We found every kind of dog and story existed right here,” Eliazarov said.

The book, published last month by Ten Speed Press, features dozens of dogs from Maine and the New Hampshire Seacoast area, their stories and their personalities. Eliazarov will hold a dog-friendly book signing at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Print: A Bookstore on Congress Street in Portland.


“My own dog is an inspiration for the book, and seeing how much better having a dog made life in every way,” Eliazarov said in an interview from her Kittery home.

“The Best Dog: Hilarious to Heartwarming Portraits of the Pups We Love” is the award-winning photographer’s second book. Her first, “On the Farm,” is composed of portraits and stories of rare heritage farm breeds. She specializes in animal photography with the goal of capturing the personalities of each animal she works with.

“The idea for the book crystalized during COVID, when a record number of people were getting pets to comfort them through a lonely and scary time,” Eliazarov said.


Throughout the pandemic, her border collie/Great Pyrenees mix helped her to connect with other dog owners in the area and motivated her to get outside and stay active.

For the book, Eliazarov sought out a diversity of breeds, joining Facebook groups for enthusiasts of specific dog breeds in different communities. “We wanted dogs with a variety of stories,” she said. “Every story in the book is a standout story.” 

She put out calls for possible subjects through social media and reached out to people she knew with dogs, including Isaac MacDougal, owner of Cocktail Mary in Portland.

Boomer, an Old English sheepdog, lives with Lauren Kohlhoff, in Portland. Contributed / Aliza Eliazarov

MacDougal wanted his dog, Buddy, in Eliazarov’s book. The runt of a litter born to a street dog rescued from Mumbai, India, Buddy’s lineage sets him apart from typical dogs – and typical dog personalities – in the U.S., he said.

“They had bred them 10,000 years ago to guard temples, and they’ve been street dogs ever since,” he said.

“He’s like a cat trapped in a dog’s body,” joked MacDougal. “He doesn’t like that much affection” and isn’t food-motivated, which makes training difficult. “He’s mistrustful of other dogs,” but “he’s very sweet and really empathetic.”


When MacDougal’s mother, who lived with him, was dying from cancer, Buddy’s behavior changed when her condition worsened, he said, and it was clear Buddy was communicating that something wasn’t right.

“He has an extra sense and an ability to figure out that something is going wrong,” and Eliazarov captured that trait in her photo of Buddy.

“The photo is a testament to her ability to understand the animal she’s working with,” he said.

Caper lives with Kirsten Lie-Nielson in Liberty. Contributed / Aliza Eliazarov

The book speaks to the importance of non-human relationships, and what animals can teach humans about communication, he said. “Having pets and dogs helps us be more intuitive and communicate better,” he said.

MacDougal said he still keeps in touch with the owners of Buddy’s siblings across the country. Buddy turns 11 this month.

The book also introduces readers to “Frank, the bulldog who loves a tire; Maggie, the Jack Russell terrier who delivers homemade cookies to lobstermen; Eddy, the hero mutt who saved her farm from a fire; and many more soulful, funny, and downright adorable pups,” according to Eliazarov’s website.


Ed Doty, Eliazarov’s husband, co-authored the book and helped with research. He also helped out during shoots and was her “dog wrangler,” holding treats and helping position the pets for the photos.

Every dog lover will find something in the book to connect with, said Eliazarov, whose work has appeared in exhibits around the world and in numerous publications.

“Even if their ‘best dog’ isn’t in it, everyone will see elements of their dog in the book. It’s a book for every dog lover filled with beautiful portraits and moving and funny stories,” she said.

Saturday’s book signing will include free dog portraits for anyone who purchases the book.

More information on Eliazarov’s work and the book can be found at alizaeliazarov.com.

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