Conventional widsom says that a pet’s affection has healing powers. Professional dog behaviorist Patricia B. McConnell (The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs) knew and loved many canines before she met Will. While helping him overcome his anxieties, she identified and subdued her own. In the style of H Is for Hawk and Dog Medicine, The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog is an eloquent story of how the bond between human and animal uncovered the connection between McConnell and her deepest self.
Her zoology degree led to her studies of animal behavior, specifically how shepherds communicate with their working dogs. Eventually she co-founded a business helping dogs with behavior issues, relishing “acting as a translator between members of two different species.” As her memoir opens, McConnell recalls choosing Will, the black-and-white fluff ball who would join three other dogs on her Wisconsin farm. He looked at her with “soft, radiant eyes,” as if asking a question. “Somehow it seemed imperartive that I find the answer,” she writes. Will was sweet and responsive, yet excessively fearful of other dogs and sudden noises. “Willie desperately needed to feel safe and secure. The thing was, so did I.”
Human and border collie lead each other to peace. Through eloquent parallel stories, McConnell reveals her history of severe trauma and her patient and professional handling of Will’s behaviors. The Eduction of Will is part testimony to the pair’s healing process and part instruction guide to animal communication, with advice on how to listen and soothe your best friend.
—Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco