Is Anthropomorphism a Dirty Word?

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The short answer is no, not always. As a matter of fact, our ability to attribute human characteristics to non-human animals is an impressive ability that we should be proud of. In addition, it can make us better dog owners. Lest you think I've lost my mind, let me explain, this time with a longer answer. Go back to about 40,000 years ago, when people began creating figures that combined features of humans and animals. We don't know their purpose, but we do know that our tendency to combine human and non-human characteristics is ancient. Archeologist Steven Mithen argues that anthropomorphic art suggests that hunters were attempting to identify empathetically with hunted animals to "better predict their movements." The term was actually used most often in early history as imagining Read More

Things to do after your dog has died

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This poem was written by a friend and colleague, Catherine Young. I hadn't seen her in awhile, and then ran into her at a local coffee shop, where she handed me an envelope with a poem she'd written in it. Oh thanks, I said, focused on other issues at the time. I stuffed the envelope into my purse and thought nothing about it until a few days later when I dug it out to clean up my purse before traveling. And then I read it, and sat down and read it again and got all soppy-eyed and petted Willie and went to the couch and got Tootsie on my lap and read it again. It's the best description I've ever read of how many of us feel after we lose a beloved dog, and it seems especially fitting after so many evocative comments from last week's blog about "dogs as family." Here it is, with a Read More

Dogs As Family, People As Packs

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It's not just us that sees our dogs as family; apparently, dogs see us as family too. This may not be shocking news to many of us, but it is always good to look at our beliefs objectively. An interesting study was recently published on Plos One about whether dogs are attached to their owners in a similar way that children are attached to their parents. Done by Horn, Huber and Range, the study was based on the early work of ethologists Bowlby and Ainsworth, who argued that human infants require a "secure attachment base" to develop normally. Far beyond simple "affection," what they called true "attachment" included voluntary close proximity between parent and child, distress from the child at separation, seeking out the attachment figure for contact and reassurance if stressed, and most Read More

Pukka’s Promise: Book Review

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One of the best things about being an author is being sent pre-publication copies of books. It's great fun to see what's going to be out on the bookshelves and eReaders in a couple of months. (Of course, one of the worst things about being an author is being sent pre-pub copies of books. They pile up. They sit on your desk looking at you, begging in some passive, rectangular way for endorsements.) Most of the books are somewhat interesting, a few of them are downright, uh, horrible.  And every once in a while a truly great one comes along, that sucks you in and causes you to change your schedule and read, read, read until the last page is turned and the book closes and you are mad at yourself for staying up so damn late. That describes Ted Kerasote's new book, Pukka's Promise: The Read More

The Black Dog Syndrome – Fact or Fiction?

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We all know about the "Black Dog Syndrome," the belief that all black dogs are harder to place from shelters and rescues than dogs of other colorations. I'll admit that when I first heard about it I didn't question whether it was true. For one thing, when I bred Border Collie puppies I saw a strong bias for pups with white on them and against all black pups. Every once in a while a buyer would tell me that they especially loved the looks of the "plain," all black pup, but they were the exception, not the rule. The second reason I assumed the Black Dog syndrome was true was that so many people in shelters told me they experienced it at their facility, that indeed, in their experience, all black dogs were harder to place than others. However, I just read an interesting blog on the ASPCA Read More