by Ernesto Bethancourt
Many children’s books revolve around animals personified as humans who have a problem and set out to solve said problem. Children like animals and, through the magic of writing, can relate to them because they speak and have feelings just like the reader. However, breaking down the barrier between true animal and human behavior is accomplished seamlessly in the 1976 young adult novel, The Dog Days of Arthur Cane. It is a necessary read for anyone over the age of 13 (there are a few “adult” themes, such as references to alcohol and drinking).
Arthur Cane is a typical upper-middle class teenage boy. When he gets into an argument with an African exchange student, James, about “witch doctors” and the existence of devils, James uses traditional African shamanistic chants to turn the arrogant and ignorant Arthur into a mutt for the summer. Arthur wakes up to find his life completely changed, starting with physical changes, then luxuries of everyday life as a human, to the inability to communicate with others, causing him to be very cautious and able to trust. However, as a dog, he still has human thoughts and feelings, which allows him to be a “special” and unusual dog,and the reader truly understands the life of a canine, especially a mutt who is homeless and trying to adapt.
Arthur encounters the best of people, like a musician who treats him as a friend, as well as the worst, including a man who purposely gave him poisoned meat and left him to die. It is not only a beneficial coming of age story for animal lovers, but for everyone. It teaches equality and tolerance, as well as shares the truth about cruelties of the world. Like many timeless stories, the philosophies shared in this text are still relevant today. It seems the author hoped that not only Arthur would walk away with a new outlook on life.
by Linda Atnip (Balboa Press, 2011, 120 pgs., $11.95)
Mr. Kiki has a lot to say. After he passed, his closest human companion, Linda Atnip, called an animal communicator who contacted her beloved pekingese from the beyond. In Conversations With Mr. Kiki, Atnip asks Mr. Kiki many questions that deal with both the world and Atnip personally.
The author takes the reader through her life after she lost the physical Mr. Kiki but gained from his spirit and insight. Though Mr. Kiki has a few nuggets of enlightenment, if the reader has followed the world of animal communication and has listened to what other animals have to say, they will find few new bits of knowledge here. It is a fairly uneventful journey through Atnip’s hits and misses that we call life. Near the end, Mr. Kiki states, “With this book, we will show that love between species lives on between lives and never diminishes. The light of our love will never die.”
by Pea Horsley
(HarperElement, 2010, Softcover, 304 pages, £6.99)
Nothing can truly convince a skeptic like a skeptic. In Heart to Heart, Pea Horsley really pulls you into her discovery of animal communication with her initial unabashed skepticism as she stumbles into the world. This book chronicles her development as Horsley evolves both as a telepath and a teacher.
Horsley tours you through her experiences with rabbits, geese, cats, and even insects. She helps animals find their way home again and assists people in making peace with the passing of a beloved animal friend. Each of the animal encounters are brief making for a quick read, but captures the essence of the furry characters involved with quirky detail. Her prose is focused and witty leaving you with stories that stick with you long after you finish the last page.
by Carole Devereux
(Windhorse Press, 2009, Softcover, 272 pages, $20.00)
This is the most eloquently written textbook I have ever read. In it Carole Devereux describes the evolution of horses as a species and spiritual icon in human theology. Delving deep into our co-evolution, she reveals through careful research and first hand experience why we love these creatures, showing us how much there is still to learn about them. Photos in the book help to illustrate and flesh out some of the facts she found in her research. However, more would have been greatly appreciated during the myths section to add a little flair and culture to each of the stories.
Though I generally like nonfiction books, I would have found more visual aids helpful to break up the text heavy pages. Citing the dictionary for anything other than a rare or complicated word is boring, causing the reader to lose interest, which unfortunately she does quite a lot. Otherwise, the book is a wonderful work that captures her thoughtful investigations as to why we see the horse the way we do today.
by Alexandra Horowitz (Scribner, 2010, 384 pgs., $16.00)
What is it like to be a dog? Well, you see everything from less than two feet from the ground in most cases, and your eyesight isn’t so great for objects right in front of you. Your primary way of sensing the world around you is smell. Odors undetectable by human beings form a rich and fascinating tapestry of data, interest, and delight to a dog. We gaze at a sunset; a dog smells a rock that other dogs have visited.
Dogs are extremely perceptive and can tell from the twitch of a finger that you are about to feed them or take them on a walk. They can smell your moods and ailments; dogs are sometimes used to detect cancer.
This is a remarkable book filled with good advice. For example, do not rush your dog through a walk; allow ample time for sniffing and smelling, because, for a dog, that is what going for a walk is all about: a fascinating olfactory tour of the neighborhood. Not allowing a dog time to smell is like making you go through the walk blindfolded.
If the book has any fault, it is that Horowitz relies too much on “scientific” experiments that are sometimes poorly designed or that do not take important factors into account. She discounts the idea that dogs will respond with helpful actions in case of an emergency because an experiment showed that dogs were unconcerned when emergency situations were simulated (a heart attack, falling shelves). But, after spending many pages explaining how perceptive and tuned in dogs are, it never occurs to her that a dog can tell quite easily that the experimenters are faking. Other than that, Inside of a Dog is a fascinating and informative read.
by Geoffrey Bain (Enchanted Forest Press, 2011, 276 pgs., $19.95)
When Geoffrey Bain had to say goodbye to his best canine friend, he was devastated.
He wondered at what point, when you have to put your animal down, should you choose to let go. He researched the matter and found varying viewpoints. Just One More Day is full of first-hand accounts from animal lovers who had to go through the heart-wrenching act of putting their animal out of his or her misery.
Keith L. tells of his horrible pet experiences—most tragically died, leading him to feel cursed and hesitant about adopting a new furry family member. Six years later, his dog is still around and spreading love. It is not just animal guardians who share their opinions, but doctors and children as well.
More importantly, there are several tools provided to help someone who has lost a dear animal companion, including tips for coping and a “Quality of Life Scale” with explanation and chart. Poetry, clever quotes, and funny anecdotes fill the remaining pages. Of the many books about loss, this one is definitely worthwhile.
by Brent Atwater
(Just Plain Love Books, 2010, Softcover, 36 pages, $12.95)
Everyone who has lost an animal companion would likely share the same sentiments Brent Atwater expresses in her book, The Dog with a “B” on His Bottom!!! The author shares her story of the loss of her dog and the renewal of happiness in the journey to find a new dog. She finds a new and wonderful companion in a puppy who has a “B” on its backside, “written” the same way Brent writes the “B” in her name. Though in this brief tale there are a few moments where the reader will “aww” and perhaps shed a tear, one might be better off reading I’m Home!, another book by Brent Atwater which not only has this story, but several other love stories from around the world involving dog reincarnation.
by Doug Koktavy (B Brothers Press, 2010, 328 pgs., $24.95)
Yes, Doug Koktavy’s book, The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer, is sad, but it is also full of strength, humor, and understanding. To love a dog as a companion, brother/daughter, and teacher is hard to understand for some, but this is how Koktavy felt about both Beezer and Boomer and later Coral, all diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
He shares his struggles from the beginning of this life-altering experience to the end, even though it is not the end at all. We walk with him through the steps of learning about these illnesses, gaining knowledge and choosing the right steps for the betterment of his dogs. Koktavy uses the guidance of veterinarians, specialists, support groups, and animal communicators, helping him and the readers gain knowledge along the way.
Writing letters to his dogs and remembering the good times are what kept him going through these difficult situations when it was hard not to think that someone upstairs had something against him. Beezer and Boomer themselves even offer insight beneficial for everyone’s quality of life. With compassion and enduring spirit, Koktavy eloquently reveals the lack of speech that most of us feel when we lose a beloved friend, whether human or non-human. Through the tears and battles, everything happens for a reason and legacies of amazing beings do live on through memorie
by Alana Stevenson (New World Library, 2011, 208 pgs., $14.95)
We all want to think that our animal companion is perfect, but the truth is they are only almost perfect—and sometimes it takes a while to even get to that point! Written by animal behaviorist and humane dog trainer, Alana Stevenson, this book is a great tool to have at hand. The book is a straightforward approach to training your dog, either as a puppy or an adult, through positive actions and rewards.
Chock full of information and illustrated instructions, it is designed so that you do not have to read through the entire book. You can choose the chapters that fit your needs. The index allows you to find a subject quickly. Stevenson tackles every problem imaginable from accidents, deafness, etiquette, fear, property rights, treat-dispensing toys to verbal signs and much more.
Helpful hints such as, “Use very small pieces of food as treats when training. The pieces should be small enough that your dog will want more when you are done. You can feed your dog meals through training exercises or treat-dispensing toys or use kibble for beginning exercises,” leave little confusion when attempting the tasks from the book with your dog. Even if your dog is perfect in your eyes, there may still be room for improvement.
by Lisa Ross-Williams (Talking Horse Publishing, 2011, 294 pgs., $21.95)
Lisa’s journey to becoming an expert on natural horse care began when she got an Arabian named Rebel. She couldn’t find a solution for his issues in the “normal” horse care literature, so she researched natural ways to help him and other horses. This book is a compendium of all her research.
She advocates creating a natural living environment for your horse—a common-sense approach that includes providing stimulating toys and turn-out time to roam the natural terrain with a companion horse. The book also covers natural hoof care and horsemanship basics. There’s a list of poisonous plants and photos of a few, though it would have been helpful to have photos of all of the plants listed.
An explanation of different types of hay and feeds and how they affect the horse’s well-being was fascinating, particularly how the thyroid and glucose levels are impacted. Complementary therapies including homeopathy, herbs, and flower essences are discussed—including dosages helpful to horse owners who prefer a holistic approach to their horse’s health problems. Continue reading