Connie’s Book Club - Fall 2013

Connie's Book Club

Connie's Book Club

How Dogs Love Us

By Gregory Berns
How Dogs Love Us

Having spent decades studying how the human brain works, neuroscientist Gregory Berns was uniquely qualified to answer the age-old question: What is my dog thinking?

After his family adopted Callie, a shy, skinny terrier mix, Berns decided that there was only one way to answer that question—use an MRI machine to scan the dog’s brain. Together, Berns and his dog embarked on a remarkable journey to be the first to glimpse the inner workings of the canine brain.

What Berns discovered offers surprising results on how dogs empathize with human emotions, how they love us, and why dogs and humans share one of the most remarkable friendships in the animal kingdom.

How Dogs Love Us offers profound new evidence that dogs should be treated as we would treat our best human friends: with love, respect, and appreciation for their social and emotional intelligence.

How Animals Grieve

By Barbara J. King
How Animals Grieve

(University of Chicago Press, 2013)
Thanks to the work of animal-behaviourist pioneers such as Barbara J. King, there is finally sway from the long-held belief within the scientific community that animals do not experience emotions, outdated thinking that anyone who keeps company with pets knows to be patently ridiculous. In How Animals Grieve, anthropologist King turns her attention to the specific question of animal grief and provides us with numerous fascinating and moving stories of both wild and captive animals displaying what would be hard to characterize as anything other than grief over the loss of family, offspring, and partners. Grounded in the latest science, this beautifully written, compelling book conveys current knowledge of animal grief along with illustrative stories that bring a deeper understanding of and connection with our animal brethren.

Traveling Light

By Andrea Thalasinos
Traveling Light

Andrea Thalasinos, author of past Modern Dog Book Club pick An Echo Through the Snow, has, in Traveling Light, created another winning story that all dog lovers can relate to, for what dog guardian hasn’t found their dog, at one time or another, leading them along a path of enlightment? Certainly, such is the experience of Paula Makaikis, the novel’s protagonist. With a couple failed marriages behind her and her current marriage heading in the same direction, Paula is afraid to admit to herself, let alone others, the depths of her unhappiness. Instead, she focuses on her academic career. The problem is that, too, has of late become lackluster, as evidenced by her focus on the robins on the ledge outside her office window rather than on the mounting unanswered emails piling up in her inbox. Then a dog named Fotis changes everything. Paula had never considered adopting a dog, but when Fotis enters her life she soon can’t imagine herself without him, despite the fact her husband won’t approve. She decides to take an eight-week leave of absence and sets out on a road trip with Fotis that takes the pair northbound from New York City. At a rest stop in northern Minnesota, she answers a help-wanted ad for a wildlife rehabilitation center. Soon Paula is holding an eagle in her hands and the experience changes her forever. The ensuing tale about fate, family, and healing explores what is possible when we cut the ties that hold us down and leave our hearts free to soar.

A Man of his Own

By Susan Wilson
A Man of his Own

(St. Martin’s Press, 2013)
Susan Wilson, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dog Who Danced and One Good Dog, brings us another emotional page-turner about a very special dog and the human lives he touches. The story unfolds around Rick Stanton, who has returned home from active duty in World War II a paraplegic, his professional baseball dreams shattered. Before deployment, he volunteered his beloved dog Pax, a German Shepherd cross, to the Army’s K-9 Corp, so Pax also returns home a war vet, accompanied by Keller Nicholson, the soldier who fought with Pax at his side. While Rick and his wife Frances adore their dog, Keller and Pax share the type of profound bound that can only be forged in the trenches. Keller can’t bear to part with Pax after their experiences together and petitions the Stantons to allow him to adopt Pax. But the Stantons, desperately in need of their dog to assist in mending Rick’s broken spirit, are unable to honour his request; instead, they offer Keller a job helping out with Rick. The touching and heartfelt story that unfolds portrays how three lost souls are saved by this remarkable dog’s love and bravery both on and off the battlefield. It is also serves as a nice reminder of the terribly important roles dogs play today in helping returning soldiers bridge the challenges of life after war.

Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words

By John W. Pilley
Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
Border Collies may well be blessed
with more than their fair share of
dog-smarts, but Chaser: Unlocking
the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a
Thousand Words introduces us to a
remarkable canine that outdoes even
his clever cohorts—and then some.
Retired psychologist John W. Pilley’s Border Collie Chaser knows
more than a thousand words—more than any other animal of any
species except humans—and has now moved on to demonstrating
an ability to understand the syntax and semantics of sentences and learn new behaviours by imitating owner and trainer
John Pilley. Undeniably, this is one smart dog. But according
to Pilley, his groundbreaking approach, one that has opened
the door to a new understanding of animal intelligence, can
be put to use by any dog lover. His book, Chaser: Unlocking
the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words, considers
what actually goes on in a dog’s mind and reveals their
capability for deductive reasoning and complex problem
solving. In doing so, Pilley opens the door to a new way of
relating to and understanding our canine companions, offering
lessons that underline the importance of incorporating learning
into play and more effectively channeling a dog’s natural
drives. A must read if looking for the key to unlock the mind
of your own budding canine Einstein!

I Could Chew On This: And Other Poems by Dogs

By Francesco Marciuliano
I Could Chew On This: And Other Poems by Dogs

(Chronicle Books, 2013)
Bestselling author Franceso Marciuliono knows that you can’t keep a good dog down, so he follows up his beloved book of poems by cats, I Could Pee on This, with this hilarious take on life as a dog. Francesco’s canine laureates not only chew on quite a lot of things, they all reveal (revel in?) their “creativity,” hidden motives, and unbridled effervescence through such musings as “I Dropped a Ball,” “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House,” and “Can You Smell That?” Accompanied throughout by portraits of the canine poets in all their glory, I Could Chew On This is a work celebrating the (often misguided) enthusiasms and unique personalities of man’s best friend.

Dogs Who Smile

By Virginia Woof
Dogs Who Smile

(Thomas Dunne Books, 2013)
Whether your best canine pal has a winning smize (that would be when he’s smiling with his eyes) or a big toothy grin, all dog lovers recognize a happy dog when they see one. In Dogs Who Smile, readers are treated to a plethora of smiling pups, each with a sassy caption to make you laugh out loud. The dogs, ranging from Dachshunds to Dobermans, all share one thing: joyfulness guaranteed to make you smile, too. I was happy to spend some time letting these dogs chase my blues away. Makes a fun gift!

Dog of the Week!

Meet: Rizzo