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Culture Corner

Scribblings and Screenings for the Animal Set

Decoding Kitties

Want to decrease shelter feline intake and euthanasia due to unwanted cat behaviors? So does Mieschelle Nagelschneider. The wisdom and advice in her book, The Cat Whisperer: Why Cats Do What They Do—and How to Get Them to Do What You Want, is drawn from Nagelschneider’s more than two decades of helping owners resolve the gamut of unwanted cat behaviors. Using real-life examples, Nagelschneider provides excellent insight into what she considers the main motivators for cat behavior—their need to feel safe and their intense territoriality and prey drive—which are often misunderstood or misinterpreted by people. A tremendously helpful book for those seeking to understand their own kitties—or those in the shelter’s cages—the book is exquisitely detailed, providing easy-to-understand-and-implement behavior modification plans that teach owners how to alter their own conduct in ways that will elicit the behaviors they want from their cats.

The Further Adventures of Earl and Mooch

The dog, Earl, writes a diary entry that says simply, “Howled at the moon—felt good.” His buddy Mooch, the cat, adds one that says, “Ran up and down the stairs again and again and AGAIN!!!—not sure why.” In one strip the two are lying on the beach, and Mooch remarks (in his slight lisp), “Being here, Earl, puts everything in pershpective,” to which Earl replies, “Yeh. Maybe the mailman’s not ALL bad.” As winter approaches, Earl asks a bird sitting on a tree branch, “Shouldn’t you be heading south?” “For what?” the bird asks. “Migration,” replies Earl. In the last panel, the bird, now in flight, says, “I have got to start writing things down.” And so things go in Bonk!—the latest collection of Patrick McDonnell’s delightful comic strip Mutts. Packed with puns and gentle humor, the strip often displays a deep concern for the welfare of animals. Bonk! (which takes its title from the sound made when squirrels drop acorns on unsuspecting noggins) includes an assortment of McDonnell’s “Shelter Stories” promoting adoption, as well as several strips that quietly call into question our treatment of our fellow creatures. A Thanksgiving week strip asks, “What are you thankful for?” Thomas the turkey replies, “Vegetarians.” Bonk! may leave readers marveling at McDonnell’s ability, with limited dialogue and a few simple pen-and-ink drawings, to make us both smile and think.

Love at Any Cost

Freelance writer and psychologist Lauren Slater’s new book, The $60,000 Dog—My Life with Animals, is a memoir about the intensifying bond she feels with other species, a connection forged during a troubled childhood, strengthened as a young adult, and sustained into her married life and parenthood. Along the way, Slater examines the almost instinctive impulse that many humans feel to be near animals, to witness their wildness, or to reach out and stroke the fur or look into the eyes of a beloved companion animal. “Animals sit on the edge of possibility,” she writes. “They imply—no, prove—that there are worlds outside our world, or worlds within our world—but beyond our grasp—and this fact is fantastic, and all one needs in order to experience enchantment.” The strongest part of the book is an exploration of her relationship with her two Shiba Inu dogs, Lila and Musashi, a bone-deep longing that often rivals (and, she fears, even fleetingly surpasses) her maternal instincts toward her children. The book’s title is drawn from her husband Benjamin’s back-of-the-envelope estimate that their aging dog Lila alone has likely cost them $60,000 in vet bills, medication, food, etc., which becomes a running argument in their marriage. Ultimately, she concludes, some things cannot be calculated.

From Rescued to Rescuing

Dogs have evolved to know us and respond to our behaviors and emotions in ways that most animals can’t. It’s an evolutionary wonder that drives the amazing stories in Susannah Charleson’s new book, The Possibility Dogs, which details her work selecting dogs from animal shelters, rescues, and breeders and training them to work as service animals, some performing physical assistance work and others serving as emotional support for people with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Charleson, a service dog trainer and the author of the New York Times best-seller Scent of the Missing, writes with an eye for detail and a great empathy for both her human and canine subjects. Drawn to the work after she experienced her own emotional crisis following a search that turned up a gruesome find, she began to fear for her own dogs. She writes that her issue “might have gone on longer, but ironically, as I obsessed about keeping my dogs safe, one of them saved me.” Hers is only one of the moving stories that make up this book about dogs who once were lost, but end up helping people find new ways of coping.

Read the rest of this issue from Animal Sheltering magazine

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