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Culture Corner

Scribblings and Screenings for the Animal Set

A New and Improved Toolkit

How would you feel if a stranger came up to you on the street and started telling you how to drive a car, raise your kids, or brush your hair? You’d probably think it was weird, if not downright rude—and yet, all too often, animal welfare groups have tried to convey their messages to communities they don’t know with approaches that—unbeknownst to them—may come across as ham-fisted, awkward, and yes, even rude. The HSUS Pets for Life approach to messaging and outreach is completely different. It takes as a given that people are more receptive to messages they get from those they trust than from strangers. It’s an approach that you can put to work in your community by checking out the second edition of the Pets for Life Community Outreach Toolkit. Detailing the methods that have been getting results and building bridges in underserved areas, it’s been newly updated with expanded chapters on community cats, dog training, and more. The new version also includes an updated report with data from the program’s first year of mentorship grants to shelters, and two years of information from the four cities where The HSUS currently runs Pets for Life programs. It will be available at animalsheltering.org in March.


Man’s Best Therapist

Part animal primer, part detective tale, part existential treatise, veterinary behavioral medicine expert Vint Virga’s new book takes us inside the minds and motivations of our four-legged friends, and reveals what their actions can show us about ourselves (if we stop to pay attention). In The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human, Virga recalls a variety of challenging cases from his extensive veterinary career, from domestic cats and dogs who experienced sudden and dramatic behavioral changes to wild animals obsessively grooming and pacing. The author’s inclusion of elements such as Zen koans and meditative passages on forgiveness, mindfulness, and integrity make this book just as apt for the Personal Growth as the Nature section of the bookstore. Shelter and rescue workers will gain insight from Virga’s analysis of how the most basic aspects of human action and expression, along with environmental factors, can influence an animal’s attitude and demeanor.


From Plow Horse to Show Horse

But one of the horses stood quietly, crammed up against the truck’s side, seeming to pay no mind to the chaos around him. … Harry saw one eye looking at him. Asking.” Thus begins the relationship between an immigrant farmer and a beat-up horse who, rejected at auction, stands in the back of a truck bound for slaughter. In The Eighty-Dollar Champion, Elizabeth Letts recounts the true story of Snowman, the former plow horse who in 1958 wowed Madison Square Garden and became a national show jumping champion. It’s a heartwarming tale of a man and a horse who succeeded against all odds more than half a century ago. It’s also a reminder that too many wonderful horses, deserving of a second chance, are still sent to slaughter today.


The Puppy’s Progress

Sophia Yin faced a dilemma: Her dad wanted a new puppy, one just like the dog he’d had some 20 years earlier. But Yin, a veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist, knew that her dad’s training skills were less than stellar. Her goal: Instill good habits in Lucy, an Australian cattle dog, in the week before she gave the puppy to her dad. Yin recounts Lucy’s odyssey, and provides useful training tips, in the DVD Creating the Perfect Puppy: How to Start Off Right and Stay on Track. Under Yin’s tutelage, Lucy learns that sitting politely is the only way she’ll get rewarded with treats or petting. Yin preaches a full-body approach to dog training—one where body language makes clear signals to the dog, and people lead not like a mean boss, but like a partner in a dance. “When you finally get the timing and the movements correct, to your dog it’s like a breath of fresh air,” she says. Alas, Lucy’s good behavior erodes when she goes to stay with Yin’s parents and gets enrolled in an out-of-control puppy training class, where she becomes overly excited and aggressive. The second half of the video, which Yin titles “What to Do After Your Parents Mess Up,” shows how she stepped back into the picture to help Lucy recover her good habits. Yin says her method teaches impulse control in dogs and leadership in humans.

Read the rest of this issue from Animal Sheltering magazine


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