Seven reads for animal lovers of all ages and interests
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
We’re always on the lookout for great animal books. Whether your leisure reading leans toward mystery, feel-good stories or nonfiction, we've found some books that are perfect for curling up with your favorite cat or dog and getting lost in a world of words.
In “The Hiding Place,” Afghanistan veteran Mercy Carr is looking forward to her grandmother’s wedding at a tony Vermont inn -- until her mother shows up demanding that Mercy either take over teaching the promised yoga sessions at the wedding venue or find missing spa director Bodhi St. George, who vanished in the night. Mercy and her retired bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois, Elvis, succeed in finding St. George -- wounded -- before he disappears again. Author Paula Munier masterfully orchestrates suspense, danger, past crimes and family drama -- with Elvis playing a pivotal role -- to bring about a satisfying but perhaps not unsurprising resolution.
You know it’s going to be a good read when the dog has you laughing on the first page. I’m not always a fan of books in which the dog talks, but the Chet and Bernie series has long been a favorite. As Stephen King said, “Spencer Quinn speaks two languages -- suspense and dog -- fluently.” Chet (the dog) and Bernie (the detective) are partners in the Little Detective Agency, and their latest case, in “Bark to the Future,” has them seeking the whereabouts of a missing man who was Bernie’s high school baseball teammate, with only a mysterious switchblade as a clue. Murder ensues, and Bernie learns that the past isn’t dead -- it’s not even past. Will he and Chet be able to scent out the answers before it’s curtains for them?
Dogs are often a mystery to us, but in his new book “Dogs Demystified: An A-to-Z Guide to All Things Canine,” Marc Bekoff takes readers from A (starting with “abnormal behavior”) to Zoomies in an encyclopedic look at the whys and hows of dogs. It includes facts such as the number of living canid species (36); science, including the canine ability to do math; and answers to common and not-so-common questions people have about dogs. A foreword by Jane Goodall and whimsical illustrations by singer and dog lover Joan Baez complete the package.
Apparently, people have even more questions about cats because there are two new books on understanding our feline overlords. In “Being Your Cat: What’s Really Going on in Your Feline’s Mind,” authors Celia Haddon and veterinarian Daniel Mills take readers on an engaging tour of what it might be like to be a cat, based on the latest scientific research in feline cognition and physiology. It’s a valuable asset for both new and experienced cat lovers.
In witty, entertaining prose, cat-loving evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos looks at the rise of cats from the earliest feline ancestor to the saber-toothed tiger to the little lions who have conquered our sofas and hearts in “The Cat’s Meow.” “Cats,” he writes, “are a great example of evolutionary diversification.” Early domestic cats looked a lot like their progenitors, African wildcats, but starting about 2,000 years ago, they began showing greater diversity in appearance. Chapters address the differences and similarities between wild and domestic cats, social behavior, breed development, color genetics, tracking studies and more.
Old dogs are special, and in her award-winning book “Extraordinary Old Dogs,” Laura Greaves shares the joys of living with them and their remarkable capacity for inspiring us, loving us and simply surviving against all odds. “Loving an old dog is different, certainly, but it is a unique and beautiful chapter in the story of their life,” Greaves writes.
Cats provide equally heart-warming reads in “A Cat Named Fatima: Tales of 23 Cats and the People Who Loved Them.” The collection, by veterinarian James Kenyon, highlights the devotion and humor in feline relationships with people. It earned a well-deserved nomination from the Cat Writers Association’s annual writing competition.
Q: How can I get my dog to come when I call? He’s always more interested in whatever he’s sniffing.
A: Responding to the cue “Come” or “Here” is probably the most important thing a dog can learn, but some dogs are better than others at taking it to heart. Herding and sporting breeds and mixes are generally more responsive to it than independent hounds, terriers and mixes of those breeds, but it is possible to teach any dog a reliable recall.
First things first: Coming when you call should be the greatest thing in a dog’s life. Never yell at or punish them once you get ahold of them. Heck, if that’s the response they get, why would they want to come to you? Practice frequently, make it fun and reward lavishly with treats and praise.
For instance, don’t always call your dog for something negative, such as going into the house after play, being put on leash or getting a bath. Call them lots of times to give a treat or toy, then let them go back to playing or sniffing. At the same time, teach the “gotcha” collar grab to get them used to it in case you ever need to stop them quick. See more here: fearfreehappyhomes.com/gotcha-why-grabbing-your-puppys-collar-needs-to-be-fun.
Use a happy, excited, high-pitched voice to call your dog. Walk backward, slightly bent over. A squeaky toy or favorite ball can also capture your dog’s interest. Instead of chasing your dog, run away so they’ll chase you.
Practice "Come" or "Here" daily, using both a standard 6-foot leash and a longer line at different times, and use lots of positive reinforcement. Seek help from a positive-reinforcement trainer if necessary.
Learning a great recall could save your pet's life. Here are some additional tips: fearfreehappyhomes.com/home-school-your-dog. --Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
home to parrots
-- Parrots have become residents of major cities around the world, usually after escaping the confines of pet homes and setting up house in habitats ranging from the palm trees of Orange County, California, to croplands in Spain and Uruguay and cities that include Amsterdam, Brooklyn, Singapore and Athens. The smart, social birds are well suited to city life and surviving on their own, but there are drawbacks. An article in the July/August issue of Scientific American details their spread and their impact on agriculture, power outages and fires -- and on other wildlife, whose locales they’ve invaded. Researchers are seeking ways to balance the birds’ environmental effects while still providing habitat for parrot species that may be at risk in their native areas from poaching or development.
-- A new digital tool designed by Nationwide lets pet parents learn about common health conditions by breed and life stage; explore preventive and early detection measures; and obtain information on training, coat care, behavior traits and more. The Pet Health Zone (thepethealthzone.com) is an interactive online platform designed to help owners make informed decisions about their pets’ health and care. It’s built on 40-plus years’ worth of claims data from more than 12 million pets and can be used by anyone, not just Nationwide members.
-- Your favorite air freshener may pose a risk to your pet’s health, experts say. Pets are sensitive to the chemicals and essential oils they contain, especially if the animals are small, young, or have health conditions such as asthma (common in cats), heart disease or cancer. Sprays, diffusers and candles disseminate irritating droplets, volatile organic compounds and smoke, all of which can cause inflammatory reactions. Avoid using them in rooms that pets frequent, and call your veterinarian if you notice your pet coughing or having breathing problems. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.