What’s In Your Library?

Now that winter is here, it seems like a good time to talk about some good books and DVDs to keep us busy during those long, dark evenings. Here are a few books and DVDs that I’ve enjoyed, some dog related, some not.

AWAY TO ME DVD: First, check out the trailer for a new DVD that has just come out, Away to Me! Anyone who works sheepdogs or likes to watch them will be interested in this video. I got to see the entire thing before it was finished, and it has some of the best scenes of close up interactions between dogs and range ewes I have ever seen. it follows three handlers as they compete in the well-known Soldier Hollow Classic sheepdog trial in Utah. Here’s the movie’s website where you can order it.

UNLOCKING THE ANIMAL MIND, is a great book by Franklin McMillan. Subtitled How Your Pet’s Feelings Hold the Key to His Health and Happiness, the author combines his experience as a veterinarian and work at Best Friends Animal Society with research on the biology of emotion. I tend to read it a chapter at a time, right now I’m enjoying the chapter on “A Long and Happy Life.”

PUKKA’S PROMISE: I was motivated to go back and read McMillan’s chapter on long-lived pets after finishing a pre-pub copy of Ted Kerasote’s new book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer Lived Dogs. It won’t be out until February, but I can’t wait until it comes out. I’ll write a substantial review of it closer to the publication date, but put it on your list of ABSOLUTE MUST READS right now. It’s beyond fantastic.

OTHER BOOKS: I love reading books of all descriptions (except: Badly Written). Here are some I have especially enjoyed lately: the novel The Light Between the Oceans by ML Stedman. This is what one review said on Amazon:Β  β€œAn extraordinary and heart-rending book about good people, tragic decisions and the beauty found in each of them.” (Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief). I couldn’t say it any better myself. The book is heart rending and still uplifting and written so beautifully it made my heart ache.

Some other good novels are The Art of Fielding and Gone Girl, might be worth checking out if you are looking for some good fiction. If you’re looking for what I call a great “popcorn” book, (something to be done somewhat mindlessly, but still enjoyably) try Grisham’s new novel, The Racketeer. Both Gone Girl and The Racketeer will keep you up reading past your bedtime, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

One more non-fiction book that, you will not be surprised, appeals to the cook (and enthusiastic eater) in me: Consider the Fork, by Bee Wilson. It is a fascinating history of not so much what we eat, but how we eat it. Who knew the history of silverware could be so interesting?

Last but not least, is a book some readers will love, others not so much. It is titled Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, a collection of advice columns by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl is the author who wrote Wild, which I mentioned earlier this year. Cheryl’s answers to people’s questions are both so benevolent and yet so bulls-eye honest that sometimes it takes your breath away. Some people would NOT like this book, Cheryl can talk like a sailor and is flat out honest about many of the bad choices she made when she was younger, but as one reviewer said, the advice within is “charming, idiosyncratic, luminous and profane.” I re-read the book when I need to be inspired about the value of honesty and forgiveness.

Your turn! What are you reading or watching? I’m all ears (well, okay, all eyes…but still, I am looking forward to hearing from you.)

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: King Charles the ram goes back to his other home tomorrow and Willie gets to work sheep on another farm. Tootsie is learning “Stay” and to not bark in her crate when I am in the house, and Nellie and Polly are struggling with an up and down relationship. They are best friends, unless a stray cat (orange and white, father to the litter that was born this summer in the barn?) appears. 95% of the time they get along beautifully, but I assume that the stray is the trigger for Nellie hissing at Polly one night, and Polly hissing at Nellie on some others. I’ve only seen the stray once (he darted out of the barn as I walked in), but other times Nellie has entered the barn cautiously, sniffing and looking around with vigilance. The only times I have observed the two cats hiss or growl has been either when Orange/White scampered out of the barn or one of the cats entered the barn as if something or someone unfamiliar was inside. Aggression between ‘best friend’ cats in the presence of a third, unfamiliar cat is common, it was no small part of my case load, so I suspect the the cats are exhibiting redirected behavior. My first job is to gather data…

And so, the great Lord of the Barn saga continues. I borrowed the motion sensor camera that I bought Friends of Ferals and hope to get it set up this weekend. Is, or is not, the orange and white cat coming into the barn and helping himself to the kibble in the self feeder? Is that what is going on with Nellie and Polly? Stay tuned, the chapters continue to unfold.

In keeping with the random nature of the books and videos I mentioned above, I’ve served up a random sample of photos. First up, here are some nibbles I made for a good friend’s birthday party (congratulations Harriet!). The roll ups on the right are pastry stuffed with chard and extra yummy cheese, the pinwheels on the left are made with a cherry marmalade made by good friends. It took me about half of the dough to figure out how to make pinwheels, I should have taken pictures of my failed attempts, it would have made quite a progression.


Here’s Katie’s new pup Leo greeting our official Stuffed Stimulus Dog, Roger. Roger has gotten the attention of many a visitor, including a delivery man who almost wet his pants one day. We have learned to be careful about where we put him!

And last but not least, here’s the garden behind the famous Alamo in San Antonio. It was interesting touring the building, but I’ve never been a big battle buff, so although what happened inside is an important event in American history, I could have spent a lot longer in the gardens behind the Alamo itself. Some gardener is doing a truly lovely job…


  1. Debby says

    I have listened to Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers.
    Batterson-Horowitz is a human cardiologistand psychiatrist who is called to consult on zoo animals. She was struck by the similarities of illnesses and and conditions that crossed many species and not just other mammals. She realized that while a lot of vets read medical journals, medical doctors did not read vet journals… much to the detriment of human medicine. The book looks at a number of these cross species conditions and then argues for more cooperation. There is nnow a nice Zoobiquity website too. I highly recommend it.
    Thank you Trisha for inviting us to share, I always learn so much and have a reading list for the long winter!

  2. Trisha says

    Debby: How ironic the timing. I am listening to Zoobiquity (thanks to a Debby who sent it to me. :-) right now and it is great. I was going to add it to the list but didn’t think of it this morning!

  3. says

    I always love it when you recommend books! I have tried many that you have suggested and am almost always glad that I did! Thank you for the good reads!

    Happy Holidays to and yours!

  4. glauber says

    I recently got addicted to the “Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series. I confess i stayed away from these books when they were new because of the Oprah connection, but they’re surprisingly good. Big-hearted characters and an incredible location. The author — Alexander McCall Smith — wrote several other series (prolific guy!) which i’ve been told are just as good (but i haven’t read them yet).

    Right now, i’m reading “Infinite Jest” (David Foster Wallace). A hard and long book, but very rewarding too if you can afford the effort it takes.

  5. Jazzy's mom says

    I didn’t realize Roger was a stuffed dog at first. (Either I suck at recognizing or the dog looks pretty realistic at least in the picture) I thought what a poor dog! His eyes look worried… but then the ears don’t match. I need to get one and add to my fake dog collection.

  6. Alexandra says

    Thanks for the recommendations as always! I had been waiting for that Away to Me movie to come out and have ordered the DVD.

    I had a question about those stuffed stimulus dogs – do you find that the dogs really react naturally to them and that the information is helpful? I would think that the stuff, unmoving dog would be a bit strange to them until they sniffed it and then realized it wasn’t a real dog. I guess I am not understanding how reactions to a stock-still toy (however realistic) equates to evaluating dog-dog interaction potential.

  7. Annie R says

    I am about to buy a book that has been recommended by several friends and also on another blog (focused on positive-minded spirituality). It’s called “Quiet: the contribution of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” (or something close to that.) As someone who can spend days without really chatting with anyone except my dogs, and come out of that period feeling more renewed and rested than lonely, I look forward to hearing from an author who can express what’s good about that.
    I also plan to finally actually read, rather than just browse through, “Inside of a Dog” by Alexandra Horowitz. My reading time should go up in the winter, but I’ve had many competing projects & priorities recently.

    I am howling with laughter at the story about Roger and the delivery man, as it brings to mind something that happened with my very large, confident and therefore quiet Rottweiler/Lab mix several years ago. I lived alone in a small condo in the city, and one day the UPS man knocked on my door; I opened it and was just reaching for the electronic tablet in the guy’s hands in order to sign for the package, when Trooper, having just been woken up back in the living room, came up from behind me to investigate who might be coming to visit (all visitors came to our house to become HIS friends, in his opinion). So, from the poor UPS guy’s perspective, a huge black and mahogany dog-head suddenly appeared beside my left hip and was coming up and around me, towards him. The poor fellow literally jumped back about 3 feet, fortunately still hanging on to the tablet which I hadn’t signed yet. I bet he was seeking a restroom shortly after that encounter also! Ah, the joys of living with a big black dog!

  8. says

    One of the best books that I have read that brings tears of joy and laughter to ones heart is Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson ‘s book “DOGS NEVER LIE ABOUT LOVE”. I assure it will keep you warm during any cold winter night!

  9. LunaGrace says

    I feel like I was looking over your shoulder at your snapshots with you. How fun to see what other people are trying their hand/eyes at! “The Light Between the Oceans” has been on my “to read” list (sounds intriguing) but, being a fan of historical fiction, my Nightstand book right now is “One Thousand White Women”. An interesting premise. Also reading up on American Eskimo Dogs to consider if I want one added to my single-dog, dual-cat household. Anyone every trained one?
    Your pinwheels look great! I attempted homemade biscotti for the first time a couple of weeks ago and they weren’t nearly as pretty. Quite a bit mis-shapen, but actually tasted just fine.
    New Pup Leo’s tail and stance is saying “WHOA!” confronted with “Roger”. I used to have a stuffed, sitting, life-sized husky that every dog (including mine!) who came in the house either play-bowed to, barked at, tried to breed, or all three. He’s moth-eaten and sitting way up high on a shelf now but every once in a while, one of the critters catches sight of him and does the same Leo “WHOA! What is THAT up there?!?!?” action pause.

  10. Sue says

    Yes, read anything by Alexander McCall Smith. My cuz tipped me to Colin Cotterill’s Dr Siri series. The Last Stand of Major Pettigrew!

    If indeed it’s the orange and white, you could give him the gift of live-trap and neuter. He could then become a dependent and, possibly, another vermin catcher. No guarantees; some of those old fellas prefer to lounge.

  11. Harriet Irwin says

    Oh, Trisha, fiction does not turn me on as much as biology/non-fiction but right now I am delving into The Labador Pact, by Matt Haig, a novel recommended by a friend. We will see. But I am delighted to begin “The Art of Fermentation” (food you know….)by Sandor Katz. If you love sauerkraut, as I do this will be a tome, but full of info.

    On a lighter note, I am reading slowly and deliciously “Bright Wings” a collection of poems about birds, edited by Billy Collins, with illlustrations by D.A Sibley. Very lovely. H

  12. says

    I quite enjoyed Gone Girl (and Gillian Flynn’s very first offering, Sharp Objects). There were things that bothered me profoundly about Merle’s Door, so I’m not sure how likely I am to read more of Kerasote’s offerings.

    Currently, I’m reading an interesting mix of things. I work at a library, you see, so constantly have books of varying interests passing through my hands. I’ve got “On Killing: the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society”, by Dave Grossman and also “The cello suites : J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals and the search for a baroque masterpiece” by Eric Siblin. Additionally, though I haven’t started it yet, I’ve got “Training for both ends of the leash : a guide to cooperation training for you and your dog” by Kate Perry.

  13. kecks says

    a book i just reread after some years was “never let me go” by kazuo ishiguro. it’s also a “can’t put it down”-kind of story, science fiction, but not the space and technology and alien-kind. it was one of the few fiction books that ever (!) made me cry. very sad. and very true. and a absolut fabulous read!

  14. says

    Thank you. I loved McMillan at IAABC and when he spoke for the puppy mill adopter group I work with here in Maryland. Just ordered book and will order the herding movie for sure. Have to say I found Girl Gone really dark and a downer so not sure why it is on all the lists but different strokes.

    I just started Barbara Kingsolvers new fiction Flight Behavior. I love her books and so far it is a great read.

    Jeni Grant , BA, CPDT-KA, Fiction Lover :-)

  15. says

    I love it when you do books!!

    Some recent favorites of mine: The Age of Miracles (thought provoking, for sure), Left Neglected (I love neurological fiction and non-fiction; Still Alice was even better), Where’d You Go, Bernadette and What Alice Forgot.

    For mystery popcorn reads, try the John Ceepak series starting with Tilt-A-Whirl.

    Totally enjoyed Gone Girl, Tiny Beautiful Things, and Quiet (lots of good things about introverts, we just need better PR). Just started reading A Grave Talent by Laurie R. King and downloaded The Beekeeper’s Apprentice to listen to in the car. She writes beautifully and the female characters are strong and interesting.

    Can’t wait to see what everyone else is reading!

  16. Jeff Line says

    I am currently reading Archeology of the Mind by Panksepp. Billed as Affective Neuroscince for the general public I find it a challenging but very worthwhile read. I also think Ignorance, How It Drives Science by Firestein is an essential read for the science reader.

  17. says

    I always try to alternate a dog book & good fiction. Right now I’m reading Jessica Pierce’s “The Last Walk – Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives” as my older Weimaraner turns fifteen this week. Before that it was Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior”, before that Ted Kerasote’s “Merle’s Door” at your suggestion, & before that Julian Barnes’ “The Sense of an Ending”.

  18. Elizabeth2 says

    Right now I’m reading J.M. Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello, whose novelist-protagonist uses acceptance speeches to advocate (to the dismay of those awarding her various literary prizes) for, of all things, animal rights. We’re wrong to reckon the value of animals by how closely their thinking resembles ours, says Costello. Reason is an inadequate metric. Instead: “To thinking, cognition, I oppose fullness, embodiedness…the sensation of being alive in the world.” This novel sets out to shake you up and it’s doing a good job with me.

    I’m also into Susan Garrett’s Shaping Success: The Education of an Unlikely Champion, fun because in with the story of her relationship with her high-strung BC Buzz are tips and step-by-step descriptions of how Garrett dealt with problems, so you feel you’re right there with her and with her dog as they figure each other out.

    In our house we’re addicted to the BBC series Foyle’s War and Criminal Justice (dark!). I wait for a freezing, stormy night to make everybody watch the Christmas movie Mixed Nuts for they claim is the hundredth time.

  19. Kat says

    I’ll second the recommendation for Quiet it’s one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. I’ll recommend a couple of authors if I may. Sarah Vowell for history/cultural musings. She has a delightfully quirky way of observing and a wonderful way with words. My favortie is Assassination Vacation. I kept reading bits aloud to my family. And Jasper Fforde is my other new discovery. He’s not for everyone–you’ll find his books in the fantasy section. He writes the most absurd, over the top, erudite, creative, brilliant nonsense you could ever hope to find. Thanks to his book The Fourth Bear I now have answers to the things that always puzzled me about a childhood classic. And the description of a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III performed with audience participation much like a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture show that’s a brief bit in the Eyre Affair. You’ve got to love anyone that can imagine Richard III as an audience participation piece. “When is the winter of our discontent?” shouts the audience just before Richard announces “Now, is the winter of our discontent.” Brilliant but quite mad really and definitely not for everyone but if you have a good sense of the absurd and a wide knowledge of literature you’ll love Fforde.

  20. Annie R says

    @Susan S. — my heart cracked open a little wider than usual at the mention of your older Wiemaraner; and interestingly, I was just looking at that book yesterday in the fabulous bookstore “Powells Books” here in Portland, Oregon. I will be interested to hear what you think of the book — please share when you get through!

    I currently have an aging Sheltie/Husky who fortunately seems to be in great shape for her 14+ years; and one of my first dogs was a Wiemaraner/White GSD mix who lived to be within 2 weeks of her 15th birthday (as an adopter of mixed breeds, I rarely know my dogs’ real birthdays, but she was born on a farm and I got her from that family at 4 months old). She was a lovely dog as she aged; an elegant old lady who delicately tottered along on walks during her last few years. I hope your girl reaches 15 and beyond with some ease and grace, and that when she leaves it is with ease as well.

  21. says

    @Jeff Line – thanks for the Panksepp recommendation! I’ve been inching my way through his Affective Neuroscience textbook and eagerly anticipating his promised book for lay readers but didn’t know that it had come out. Now I know what to get myself for Christmas. πŸ˜‰

    I’d enthusiastically second the recommendations of Zoobiquity on the non-fiction side and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand on the fiction side. Also Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar collection, along with her memoir, Wild.

    A couple more:

    Anna Karenina remains to my mind the best book ever for a long winter read, preferably next to a warm fire with a Tootsie or other small creature vying for space on your lap, and snow falling softly in the blue twilight beyond your window.

    Deborah Blum is a wonderful writer, and her Love at Goon Park is a fascinating, heartbreaking account of the life and work of Harry Harlow (infamous for his research into attachment and isolation with baby macaques).

  22. Trisha says

    Alexandra: (Thanks for waiting for a reply, I got enmeshed in farm chores and being lazy this weekend!). Your question about stuffed dogs as stimuli for dog-dog reactive dogs is a good one. Here’s what I have found: dogs do indeed appear to respond as if it were a real dog, at least when they first see it (as do people, and we know all about stuffed animals, right?). In some ways their responses are not “typical,” in that dogs often react “excessively.” (For want of a better word.) In other words, I’ve seen many dogs either go stiff themselves, or begin to bark or growl when they don’t normally when they see dogs on the street. I have always attributed this to the fact that the stuffed dog is inherently in a threatening posture: Stiff, immobile, with fixed eyes. Thus, you can use them at a distance to judge dog’s reactions (anywhere from running up and groveling to barking bug-eyed from a distance) and to work on conditioning a reactive dog before you begin with real dogs. Somewhere I have a old video of 3 or 4 of my dogs responding to Roger and it is fascinating. Luke runs over, tail circle wagging, Pip throws herself to the ground in her usual appeasement posture, Tulip the Great Pyrenees trots over tail high, neck arched like a stallion. They all eventually do figure it out, but it takes no small amount of sniffing for them to do so.

  23. Trisha says

    To Annie R: Loved your story, made me laugh out loud. My favorite related story is a UPS man who probably should have been fired. He began asking me inappropriate questions when he delivered packages, and then one night, he arrived at midnight, parked far away from the house and began walking up the driveway. By this time the dogs were barking, I looked out the window and saw who it was and opened the door for the dogs, all 4 of them. I had ensured that they got treats whenever the truck pulled up, so i wasn’t worried they would hurt him. But all 4 ran straight at him, led by 100 pound Great Pyrenees Tulip. He had a package in his hand which he threw into the air in response, and ran like hell for the truck. No more night time visits!

    And thank you for the recommendation of the book Quiet. I’d heard of it before, but forgot about it, and can’t wait to read it. I am a true introvert, in that I love being with people but get tired when I am. I love being alone and being quiet… so this book and a quiet snowy night at the farm sounds like heaven!

  24. Trisha says

    Thanks to everyone above for your recommendations. I have taken notes, quite literally. Oh oh oh, aren’t we lucky to be able to read? I remember my father, who also loved to read, telling me that having books on your book shelf was like having a treasure chest of jewels. Through the books you could go anywhere, do anything, all from the comfort of your own home. What a gift from Dad, hey?

  25. Alexandra says

    Thank you for the reply, Trisha! I remember my reactive dog years ago on the first first time we had snow charging up to a “family” of snowmen and going completely ballistic barking in terror for a few seconds before realizing they weren’t actually alien snow people about to get her. And yes, now that you mention it I always do a half-freaked out double take when I open the storage closest at the place where I take agility lessons and run across the stimulus dog (a large Husky) that’s stored in there.

  26. Mia says

    I cannot recommend enough The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. I was skeptical that this would be a story about a vicious man-eating tiger who knew exactly what he was doing, but was pleasantly surprised (to be more accurate, I was blown away). The author doesn’t get in the way of the story, but rather collects the perspectives of the men whose task was to hunt down a serial man-eating Siberian tiger in the 90s. The book as a whole is such a humane treatment of both tigers and the humans who live with them. A wintry story for a winter night?

  27. says

    Currently reading a non-fiction, Brain on Fire, by a journalist, Susannah Cahalan, recalling and exploring her experience with her brain not functioning properly, with some brain bio stuff thrown in. Very interesting read!

    Looking forward to Unlocking, and also Pukka’s Promise. Very interested in longevity, and what we can do to promote it. When I bred Arie, I tested the sire (as well as Arie) to make sure he has different MHC types than she does, so that progeny will be heterozygous, in the hopes of increasing vigor and longevity.

  28. says

    I loved “Shaping Success” too. And I just added the Ted Kerasote book to my Amazon wishlist, so thanks for sharing that, it looks interesting. Loved “Merle’s Door.” I’m currently reading “Dog Detectives” by Kat Albrecht, all about how to train your dog to help find missing pets. It’s my current obsession, and I’m going to try out the training with Sienna, who loves to track stuff.

  29. Caroline says

    Don’t know if anyone is still following this thread. I downloaded Unlocking the Animal Mind after recommendation here and am sort of disappointed. Some seems so obvious. But I can see how this might be a useful and necessary book in the teachers library. I would like to see more vets reading it. But I am disappointed in his using dogs head out the car window as a source of happiness. Altho I realize it can be. Also, he has, apparently had only positive experiences at dog parks. Many people and dogs have not. Also did not like the way he proposed heirarchy in the home for dogs. Sounds an awful lot like Cesar Milan. See Plenty in Life is Free by Kathy Sdao (sp?) Maybe I am just overly sensitive. Nothing wrong with heirarchy, just that humans can implement it in ways that are not conducive to animal happiness.

    Along the lines of the book, I would recommend Hans Selye’s The Stress of Life. Haven’t read it in a long time, but I remember being impressed.

  30. Trisha says

    Caroline, thanks for writing. I hadn’t actually seen the part about hierarchy, I’ve only read sections of the book, some of which I found helpful and am sorry to hear your report about his comments re hierarchy and dog parks. I’ll look at the book more carefully…. thanks so much for tipping me off. All of the other books I’ve read cover to cover, but not this one, so thanks again for keeping me honest.

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