“The Dogs of Central Park”

ByFran Reisner. Universe. $19.95.

In fast-paced New York City, that concrete jungle of high-rises and bright lights, it takes a dog to put everything in perspective. And when that character is on its favorite turf, namely Central Park, you have all the elements for a delightful photo essay.

In 2008, an assignment took talented photographer Fran Reisner to the city. She found the park in full bloom and returned the following day to capture some of its iconic glory, from noted settings to a kaleidoscope of colorful backdrops. What she didn’t bargain on were the dogs, in all shapes and sizes, which were everywhere.  Hence this delightful and ambitious project quickly took on legs.

Over nearly two years, she returned to New York City seven times, spending 35 days in the 843-acre park, hiking hundreds of miles in conditions ranging from torrid summer heat to bone-chilling wind and snow, snapping photos.

Her patchwork of pooches varies from mutt to purebred, long- and short-coated, giant to toy, each the surrogate child of a nearby city resident or an out-of-town visitor. The noted settings are The Mall, Belvedere Castle, The Boat House, The Great Lawn, Bethesda Fountain, Conservatory Gardens, The Lake and Cedar Hill.

Reisner acknowledges the diversity of background for each subject, explaining, “I was very touched and often amused by the relationship between the dogs and their owners. All beamed with pride as they shared stories about these dogs, their silly antics, favorite things and how they found one another. In most cases it was clear that their lives were greatly enhanced by their beloved pets.”

For the reader, the focus is animated and engaging. For anyone who has visited Central Park with a dog, this vibrant portrait represents a memorable mix of passion, panache and play.