There’s only one problem with having active dogs, doing a massive home remodel and a garden begging for attention–there’s not enough time in the day to read as much as I’d like. But I’ve still managed to enjoy some of the tsunami of books being released, and I thought I’d share what I’ve been enjoying lately.
First, on the canine behavior front, The Science Behind a Happy Dog by Emma Grigg, PhD and Tammy Donaldson, is a great addition to anyone’s library, whether a first-time dog owner or an expert in behavior and training. What I like about it especially is its unique perspective. Yes, the book contains a lot about who “dogs are” and how they see the world, how to read their visual signals and training methods that are based on good science. But what makes it especially valuable are its discussions about assessing the quality of life of any individual who can’t talk to you about it. How do we really know if our dogs are happy? Sure, sometimes it’s easy to answer that question, but when a dog isn’t wagging her entire body while grinning like a Cheshire cat, how do we know what she is feeling?
The authors attempt to answer that question by first asking how experts assess welfare and quality of life in other species. That leads to suggestions for us that we do”stress audits” on our dogs, and apply the “Five Freedoms” developed for farm animal welfare. There is a lot of value in this perspective and I love that they included it. Also, the last sections of the book are invaluable: Their discussions on wellness, good veterinary care and end of life decisions are fantastic.
I do have a few quibbles in the training chapters. When talking about puppy socialization, the authors say “During this period [7 days after first vaccination but before 3 months of age] ensure that your pup is introduced, in a controlled situation, to as many new people, places, dogs, etc. that you can.” (My italics.) Eeeps, not what I would recommend. In my experience, it is as easy to sensitize a young dog to new things, and make them more afraid, as it is to desensitize them. I’ve seen far too many young dogs overwhelmed by well intentioned efforts to “socialize” them that I would never suggest to “… introduce your puppy to as many new anythings that you can…”. I’m also not a fan of some of their training recommendations (they recommend head halters as some of their favorites). However, the book shines especially in the beginning and the end, is full chock full of photographs and visual illustrations, and is an important addition to anyone’s library.
Truth in advertising: I met both Dr. Grigg and Dr. Donaldson at the Animal Behavior Society Conference in Milwaukee last week and loved their presentations. They are articulate, compassionate and were great fun to spend time with. (Looking for new speakers on behavior? Just saying…) I talked to several people after my own talk at ABS about “reading dogs,” and that led to a discussion about my own rbook, For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend. If you’re interested in comparing the emotional life of people and dogs, you might enjoy it. (She said, feeling awkward about plugging her own book).
Speaking of quality of life, I’ve been reading a lot of fiction this summer. So many great novels out there! My absolute favorite novels of the summer are Beautiful Ruins, a love story described as an “absolute masterpiece” by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and The History of Bees, a spectacular and “deeply moving” story about three generations of bee keepers. They are both so well written that they remind me how astoundingly wonderful we humans can be when we are at our best.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Things are a tad crazy after four months of disruptive remodeling, but many of the flowers are still going strong.
And just to keep things honest, here’s the weedy mess on one side of the house that got trashed by the remodeling. Nothing but compressed clay, weeds and quack grass. This is a fraction of the mess I’ll be working on for the next five years. Good exercise, right?
Speaking of exercise, Maggie goes to get her hind quarters evaluated Thursday. We’ll get a better idea if she need surgery or just lots of rehab for her lame back legs. Cross your paws for her.
And you… what have you been reading this summer? Long nights and bitter cold are coming after all, gotta have some more good books to keep us warm!
Christy F Roberts says
I am glad you listed your book also! It (and several other books by you) have been life changing for me and my dogs :)!
Oh no, what’s up with Maggie’s legs? Both back legs? Knees, hips, muscles? You and Willie (and those that came before) have been through so many physical issues (not to mention all the other trials and tribulations). I’m so sorry to hear Maggie is having troubles. All paws crossed for a non-invasive, effective treatment plan.
Phoebe was recently diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis, and at her age with all her other physical problems, surgery isn’t an option. It’s been a challenge to keep her cool this summer, but so far, she’s doing well. The sounds that come out of her are alarming, but she is actually holding her own for almost 13 with no hips and bad teeth.
We tried to start a new garden this year, and between the heat, drought, squirrels, and birds, it’s looking pretty grim. If you stand back in the yard and view the garden from a sharp right angle, it looks okay 😉 Oh well, maybe next year (or maybe not; gardening seems to be one of the things I can let go of with very little regret).
I am just finishing Calypso by David Sedaris. It’s poignant and funny and crazy! On my list to read: Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires and Educated by Tara Westover.
Sending good thoughts to you all.
So sorry to hear about Phoebe, but she is so lucky to have you! Thx for the Calypso referral, I’ll read it soon, and educated us fantastic.
Jill Leggio says
I would recommend Flat Broke with Two Goats, a memoir by Jennifer McGaha. It was a mostly fun, quick read written so clearly that you are hanging out with her for the ride.
Positive thoughts are with Maggie.
PS. Weeds…we’ve got a few in SW FL where it’s too humid and hot to care if they get pulled!
Barb Stanek says
All good energy and thoughts coming your way, Maggie, on having your back end checked. My first PWD had both hips fixed at under a year and a half! After the 6 week (did you say 6 weeks!!!) recovery period on a leash and in a crate for each hip, Rudy was just fine, thank you very much! So all good thoughts and energy for all of you!
Laura Lawrence says
I love the way you write! The first book of yours I read was the other end of the leash. I do dog training and behavioral work. And it’s true,most of the problems pets have are created by the people they live with. One of the things I’ve always been passionate about was the fact that choke,pinch,shock collars are not anything I agree with. And when I LOOKED up your feelings on shock collars I loved what I read. Shock collars are a lazy way to control your pet. I’ve proven this over and over. I literally buy extra copies of your books so that I can hand them out to my clients. Keep writing and also LOVE your DVD’s. Laura Lawrence of Warrenton Mo.
Alice R. says
Don’t know how you’ve done it on the “massive renovation”. We are mid-process of tearing down a deck, and putting up a screen room plus deck, and I’m about to go crazy! I didn’t know so many things would come up to be handled mid-process, and didn’t know how hard it would be for me to deal with the conflicts when things aren’t going well. My worn out kitchen is starting to look better to me now.
Poor Maggie, poor you! I will pray for a good, not too tough, solution.
Oh, and on that gardening front: I’ll be right there with you. Every bit of grass is gone in the back now due to packed clay and trampling from the project and materials storage, but the wooded area behind that now has very thick weeds , vines, and shrubby things up to my waist. Another multi year project.
I read For the Love of a Dog LAST summer and learned so much about….my own brain!
Cried like a baby when I learned of Luke’s passing. (Previously I had fallen in love with him during my reading of Other End of the Leash)
Whatever did you decide to do with that nasty sheep that attacked…was it Lassie?
Lynn Haughwout says
Well, I just finished The Education of Will. How I wish I could talk to you in person about your experience as I have lived a mini version of it. Reading it began a healing in me that I am so grateful for. I am crushingly sorry for what you endured, but so grateful that you shared it. It was so painful to read as memories flooded my soul. Just knowing someone out there understands lifts the burden a bit. Love you for that. Your trials with Will also encouraged me as I have a 1.5 yr old male Lab who is the most challenging dog I have ever had in my 45yrs of dog training. He is a smart and easy/willing to train fella, but his every day manners are very difficult to deal with. Especially when other family members will not back up my work. You are an amazing woman and have given me strength, hope and direction. Kind of a restart button. Bless you…Bless you Trish.
Thank-you for pointing out how pups can be overwhelmed by good intentions of overdoing it with “socialization”. It backfires more often than one can imagine. Live a regular life with your dog, observe their sensitivities, don’t over expose them to the world. Balance their lives with good exposure, and sometimes less exposure.
Maureen Finn says
Will definitely check out these books. As a beekeeper myself, I love reading books about them. And I have to say, I just finished your memoir last week, after starting it 18 months ago! (?!) I purchased it shortly after it came out, started it, then life intervened/I got busy, distracted, etc. (I also have a bad habit of having 3 or more books going at the same time in the reading stack.) All this to say I LOVED “The Education of Will” – so many things I was nodding my head over, and places where I wanted to weep for you, and Will. Your writing is magical, and so aligns with my feelings around my dogs, especially regarding training. I learned even more about this, and am grateful. Toward the end of the book you describe your love for Willie, and how you wish you could express to him in a way he’d understand, how deep your love is for him. As I read this sentence, surrounded by my own three darlings, snoozing away on a beautiful, sunny summer afternoon, I think I said out loud: “He knows.” Trisha, he knows. Thank you for all you do for dogs everywhere.
I’m very much enjoying ‘Raccoons Stole My Baby Jesus’, A look at the life of a not so traditional veterinarian by Jennifer Doll DVM. It’s a funny, quick, easy read. She has quite the adventures and having been a country kid who loved all animals and an adult volunteer at a high volume shelter, I can relate. She sounds like someone I would enjoy getting to know.
Which books do you recommend on how to properly socialize a puppy please?
I just finished an old memoir by Pat Conroy; The Water Is Wide. Very good. About his year teaching children in a school on Yamacraw Island. Also, books by Mala Nunn and Don Winslow’s The Force.
Nancy Perry says
Thank you for the recommendations. My husband is a bee keeper, and gives bee tours of his apiary… so I bought the book immediately. Love your work, -Nancy
Roberta R Beach says
On Monday, I sent my foster hound back to her rescue and on to her own home – after eight months with me, having been pulled from a nasty situation in TN, she confidently walked up to a stranger (Patty does adoption coordination for Greyhound Rescue in West Memphis, AR), soundly sat, and gave her wonderful eye contact. Her rescuer saw this and knew she was ready. I can hardly wait to hear from her new family.
On the book front, I’m thoroughly enjoying working my way through Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series of detective novels (just finished “F…..), and am now reading “Spying on Whales.” Heard the review and author interview on NPR. Fascinating.
I’m no gardner, so your efforts are quite impressive to me. Happy reading!
Margo Harris says
I LOVED For the Love of a Dog!!!
Paws crossed for Maggie, for sure.
You’re right about the “weedy messes” giving us good exercise!
And, re good books…. I just finished “I Contain Multitudes…” by Ed Yong, and it was super interesting.
I agree with the book with getting as much socializing in a CONTROLLED situation which then you have control to deal with the situation if something did start to affect the puppy in a negative way and make it more of a positive one. I’m a puppy imprinter and have done this method with a very large number of puppies now and have yet to have any negative from it since I’m able to redirect any times that make the puppy uncomfortable. Hence the Controlled over the take a puppy to a puppy social where you don’t have control over the other owners and how their puppies are or people just randomly walking up and being over excited dealing with the pup.
But I totally agree with you with not using a head halter since your unable to teach proper leash pressure to the puppy at that perfect age.
Thanks for the write up of the book I think I will jump on Amazon now and check it out.
I’m reading “How Dogs Love Us” by Gregory Burns about traing dogs to lie still in an MRI. Interesting read with some great science boiled down for us non-nueoscientist.
I just finished “The Education of Will” and it has really helped with my anxiety and depression. I’ve been told so many times that I’m too hard on myself, and I never really understood how to change that until reading your book. I’m working on self empathy, and sleeping better because of you and Willie.
Chris from Boise says
Hoping that Maggie’s hindquarter issue resolves easily. Any idea what happened? Glad you have excellent veterinarian care at hand for whatever it turns out to be. And LisaW, sympathies for Phoebe, who sounds like a real trouper. Senior dogs are the best.
The un-mashed parts of your garden are beautiful (and our empathy on all the mashed parts!). We’re enjoying huge flocks of goldfinches in the hundreds of sunflowers that survive in the completely unirrigated corners of our back yard (Boise is high desert, with 12 inches of rain in a good year, none of which falls in the summer).
We always love your reading suggestions. These three (not including yours) are all new to us; I’ve added them to the library list, and looking forward to other reader suggestions.
We’ve read two great books recently:
The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore: This gripping historical novel is based on the titanic battle between Edison (who promoted DC) and Westinghouse (who promoted Tesla’s AC) over the invention of the lightbulb, an object that we today take completely for granted. I picked this up because I had nothing better to read, and couldn’t put it down. Melodrama! Murder! Mayhem! Who knew electricity could be so electrifying!
This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
A novel about a family whose son, Claude, as a preschooler prefers dresses to pants, and the family’s exploration of transgender issues. As I’m fairly ignorant about that subject, it was fascinating in its own right, but even better, the family itself is drawn beautifully, in its chaotic, often hilarious, and warm and loving entirety. A heartwarming, fun read that gave me lots to think about.
Jann Becker says
“The Speed of Souls” by Nick Pirog; it’s the story of a dog who’s hit by a car and comes back as… a cat. Short, funny, not too serious (obviously.)
Mary Larson says
I have discovered author Gayle Leeson. Her books are cozy mysteries starting with The Calamity Cafe. Take place in Virginia. I like how the series moves on from getting to know the characters to how they develop. I also like the Hamish Macbeth series, which takes place in Scotland. There are 25 books in the series, so lots of reading there. It is another mystery series. If you like dogs, Laurien Berensen has 22 books up your alley. Another mystery series, I have read them all and most of them a second time waiting for the next installment! Her breed is Standard Poodles, and I learned a lot about conformation dog shows through these books. Happy reading, and thanks for the other suggestions.
Sarah Ponce says
The Poisonwood Bible and The Berlin Game are on my currently reading list.
Hope Maggie bears up. Best wishes for her. I just finished The Education of Will, thank you for such a great book! I recommend Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman.
I’m currently starting on Behave, the Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert Sapolsky. He’s a riot, which makes this rather technically dense book quite amazing.
Refreshing to read your post, on the book front I have enjoyed YA this summer YOUR ROBOT DOG MUST DIE – satirical look at big business, science & dogs. It gives an excellent perspective on just how wrong humans are when treating any animal. Good age to hit with this social issue.
Currently reading, THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG AT NIGHT, if you haven’t read it .. Do so! It’s told from the perspective of a teen with autism who discovers his neighbor’s beloved standard poodle murdered. I am a shameless, proud poodle lover.
Tina, thanks for the rec for Curious Incident of the Dog… I picked it up but never finished it. You’ve inspired me to try again.
Thank you Shel for the comments about The Education of Will! And I too recommend Trauma and Recover; it became my bible for a couple of years. And I too love Sapolsky and Behave! His writings are pricless–informative, wise and funny funny funny. How could you not love that?
Oooo, The Berlin Game? Don’t know it. Thanks!
Cathy Goody says
Regarding the ‘weedy mess’ – put a small border round it an announce it as your new wildlife meadow 😎
Ha! Good plan.