Christmas is just around the corner, and while it is hard to believe another year has passed us by, it is once again time to start making a list and checking it twice when it comes to the dog-lover in your life. If you’re looking for a last minute gift idea or if you need some reading material for the long trip over the river and through the woods, as you travel back to grandmother’s house for the holidays, here are a few books that I think are worth the time to read.
“What the Dog Knows” by Cat Warren is phenomenal. Her writing is lush and vivid and her story-telling style will have you twenty pages in before you even realize you started reading. The book is about her foray into Search & Rescue with her German Shepherd, Solo. Warren takes us from her own beginnings, from her first steps into the SAR field to help keep her energetic pup engaged, to training, through her career, with detours into history lessons and mythology. It is a fantastic read and I highly recommend it.
“On Looking” is the latest from “Inside of a Dog” author, Alexandra Horowitz. It is a valiant sophomore effort tackling what would seem to most to be a pedestrian topic: a walk around the block. In her witty and insightful way, Horowitz takes the mundane task of walking the dog and turns it on its ear. She brings in experts in a wide array of fields to get their profession-skewed insights into the daily ritual many of us don’t give a second thought. While it doesn’t have quite the same resonance as “Inside of a Dog,” it does provide plenty of food for thought for those daily constitutionals
The story in “How Dogs Love Us,” is an amazing one; a scientist teaches dogs to hold still in an MRI so we can actually see what’s going on in their incredible doggie brains. Here’s the problem, it was written by a scientist. My significant other has an expression she uses when I get long-winded on a subject, “I don’t need to see you build a watch, just tell me what time it is.” I found that could apply to many of the passages in “HDLU.” Is might be my problem. I have read enough about classical conditioning and clicker training to fill a few books of my own, so I don’t need the background. I also don’t need to know what the dog trainer wore to his sessions with you. That aside, the story is a good one, and the dips into author, Gregory Berns, family life adds some character to the read, so in the end, it gets a thumbs up.
Still on my shelf, but getting a recommendation anyway: Brian Hare’s “The Genius of Dogs,” “Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of a Dog That Knows 1000 Words,” and “Decoding Your Dog.”
What I like most about al these books is the way they are taking the study of dogs seriously. Dogs have been at our side for so long that I believe in many ways, we forgot they were there. They became uninteresting to researchers and scientists because of their steadfast allegiance to us. They were boring. We began taking them for granted. This new crop of dog-loving scientists has taken another look at our best friends and we are all being amazed and fascinated by what they have found.