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Culture: Reviews
All My Patients Have Tales: Favorite Stories from a Vet’s Practice
St. Martin’s Press, 226 pp., 2009; $24.95

If you've always loved the stories of James Herriot, get ready to be excited by Jeff Wells’ All My Patients Have Tales. It sounds too good to be true, but here is another veterinarian who loves both people and animals, understands small pets and farm animals alike, and tells a good story.

Wells’ stories involve many species. Among the lively characters are dogs, cats, cows, turkeys, elephants, porcupines, donkeys, yaks and pigs; people have their part to play, too. His observations about the interactions between humans and animals, and of humans with each, other are nicely balanced between cleverly insightful and respectfully amused.Wells has a nice appreciation of the ridiculous, and he shares this with his readers.

Most charming of all, he sees the absurdity of his own role in these adventures and is able to laugh at himself. Whether chasing an escaped (and semiferal) cat around his office, getting kicked where no man wishes to be kicked by a cantankerous horse, running from wild turkeys or doing some on-the-job learning in how to draw blood from an elephant (in front of an audience), his sense of humor lets us enjoy his adventures.

The book covers the uphill battle of getting into veterinary school and the rigors of the course of study. It also highlights the many ways in which the job of veterinarian requires so much more skill and experience than can be gained in school, no matter how good the instruction and no matter how diligently one studies. It is the process of becoming an “experienced veterinarian” that Wells documents through the many escapades chronicled in this lively book. He confirms that his chosen career is never boring, that there is always more to learn and that checking your ego at the door is a requirement of the job.

Anyone looking for a fun read about both animals and people who are real characters will enjoy All My Patients Have Tales. I loved this book and know it’s one I’ll be reading again.

Culture: Reviews
Rescue Ink
Viking, $25.95

Angel, Joe Panz, Batso, Big Ant, Eric, Johnny O, Des, G—big guys with big hearts, the men of Rescue Ink use their street skills to protect metro NYC’s furred, feathered and scaled.We learn about each man—what motivates them to volunteer for this type of work, how they approach it, why they’ve become so invested in saving the city’s most helpless residents. It’s clear that these large tattooed men, who share a passion for animals as well as hot rods and motorcycles, are a force to be reckoned with.

Culture: Reviews
Canine Massage in Plain English
Clean Run Productions, $19.95

Kudos to Winter and the publisher for putting together this absolutely clear and well-illustrated book.Not only is it functional, but, with its more than 125 color photos and clean layout, it’s also attractive and fun to read. As its subtitle—Taking the Mystery Out of Massaging Your Dog —proclaims, it gives us the tools we need to help our dogs relax and feel better. Give your dog a full-body massage or, if time prohibits, a quick pick-me-up. The information is presented step-by-step in sections, so you can choose what works for the specific situation literally at hand.

Culture: Reviews
Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats
Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99

This is a book with a definite point of view, presented without apologies and with a large dollop of tongue-in-cheek. A mix of text, quotes, aphorisms and utterly charming photos of both dogs and cats, this hardcover, 224-page tome is a lot of book for the bucks (the three pages of numbered notes at the end are worth a read all by themselves). Greive, the man behind the phenomenally successful The Blue Day Book, says he suffers greatly from cat allergies, which may explain his perspective. Regardless, he readily admits that felines have their appeal. A good gift for your cat- and dog-loving friends alike.

Culture: Reviews
Come Back, Como
Harper, $23.99

Dogs are, it is said, man’s best friend. Alas for the author, Como, a small and strong-willed white Terrier mix he and his family adopted from a local shelter, didn’t get the memo. Oh, sure, Como loved daughter Phoebe and wife Sally— but Winn? Como would have nothing to do with him. In the Winn household, the dog was exclusively woman’s best friend. This well-told tale of pursuit and rejection and ordeals endured is oddly inspiring and surprisingly smile-inducing. The author doesn’t flinch from revealing his own inept moments, nor does he pretend his heart wasn’t involved in the chase for Como’s affection. The book is a good reminder of the many ways dogs occupy our hearts and lives.

Culture: Reviews
Am I Boring My Dog?
Alpha, $14.95

If you’re a stranger to the land of dogs, or if you’ve been visiting and think perhaps you’d like to move there, you’ll find this book to be a helpful guide to the territory. Through detailed, well-researched answers to 100 essential questions about selecting, preparing for and living with a dog, Jarolim thoroughly covers the basics; even the experienced are likely to learn something.

Culture: Reviews
Good Dogs Doing Good
LaChance Publishing, $14.95

The subtitle, Lives Transformed by Man’s Best Friend, aptly summarizes the theme of this touching book. Another in the series of “Healing Project” books, this collection of 29 stories will bring both tears and smiles. In small ways and large, dogs are the catalyst for much joy and comfort, as this book makes plain.

Culture: Reviews
Diogenes
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.95

FOR YOUNG READERS

In Diogenes, Mark Usher—classics professor at the University of Vermont—transforms the man for whom the term “cynic” was coined into a dog who wants to be his own master. In doing so, he cleverly introduces Diogenes’ philosophy not only to children but also to adults interested in a quick and easy refresher on this classic Greek’s life and times.Michael Chesworth’s colorful illustrations capture the dog’s carefree spirit and add to the story’s appeal. In his afterword (an excerpt from which we include here), Usher makes the connection between the book’s canine hero and the real-life philosopher, “a dog-like man who became a pauper in order to live like a king.”

Culture: Reviews
Separation Distress and Dogs (2nd Edition)
BehaveTech Publishing, 100 pp., 2009; $20
Separation Distress and Dogs Cover

Separation distress is one of the most disheartening canine behaviors an owner can face. Aggression may present a more serious risk to human safety, but aggressive behaviors are generally easier to manage than significant separation distress; few caretakers can avoid leaving their dogs alone, at least some of the time, during the protracted period required by an in-depth separation-behavior modification program.

Many dogs end up at animal shelters, are adopted and repeatedly returned, and eventually euthanized, due to the difficult constellation of behaviors manifested by dogs who suffer from this panic disorder. Behaviors include but are not limited to vocalizing (barking, yelping, howling, whining), inappropriate indoor elimination and destructive behavior, especially directed toward escape.

Enter James O’Heare, president of the Companion Animal Sciences Institute, director of the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals and author of nine books on animal behavior.

This slim volume purports to present an “easy-to-follow, yet comprehensive, behavior change program, including systematic desensitization and behavior shaping, as well as empowerment training and relationship rehabilitation.” There is a lot of information packed into its 100 pages. While none of the book can be described as an “easy read,” the third and last chapter, “Behavior Change Programming,” is reasonably accessible to the committed canine guardian. O’Heare’s “empowerment training” is particularly useful, guiding the reader skillfully away from the unfortunate focus on “dominance” offered in many of today’s training programs. He explains, instead, the useful constructs of shaping, desensitization, counterconditioning, differential reinforcement and general stress-reduction procedures.

Of the first two chapters, however, “easy-to-follow” is a stretch. I found myself having to reread many of O’Heare’s points—and not just the “pro fessional boxes” that are scattered throughout the pages. I fear his attempts to simplify are still too much for many dog owners who could benefit from an even more simplified presentation of this complex behavior.

O’Heare often writes for behavior professionals, on a level many dog owners would have some difficulty with. He aimed for a simpler level with this book, but has only partially succeeded. I suspect many of my own clients would find certain pages daunting. To reach the dog owner who desperately needs this information, I would have preferred less “professional box” information in the first two sections, and more simplification, hand-holding and graphic how-to examples in everyday terms as he urges owners to “conduct the functional assessment” of their dog’s behavior. He glosses over the huge challenge owners face in trying to create an environment that precludes allowing the dog to practice, and be reinforced for, separationrelated behaviors. This is usually the most difficult part for owners—and the part that ultimately sends the dog back to the shelter.

I had hoped for something that was aimed halfway between this volume and Patricia McConnell’s simple, useful and readable booklet I’ll Be Home Soon. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s an excellent book and program for those who can stick with it; but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Culture: Reviews
Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart and Soul of America’s Animal Shelters
Create Space, 210 pp., 2009; $13.95
Irreconcilable Differences

Nathan Winograd discomfits a lot of folks. By his steadfast devotion to no-kill principles and relentless advocacy, he has demonstrated that it is possible—and ethically imperative—to end shelter killing of healthy or treatable animals. Not just someday, either, but now. Many of those distressed thereby have built careers that acceded to expediencies, assuming most deaths were inevitable and the fault of a careless public.

Winograd is an admirer and intellectual heir of the visionary Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA and equally controversial in his day. Although a more conciliatory approach might lead to quicker conversions, Winograd instead seeks to drag people from the great middle ground of animal advocacy toward him, and past where they could go if allowed room for philosophical compromise. Starting with the title of his new book, he does little to signal any change in tone.

In Irreconcilable Differences, he writes clear and rigorously reasoned essays on 16 topics. Many make excellent reading, as he develops keen insights on timely issues of feral cats, the “underground railroad” of shelter animals from highkill areas, unnecessarily difficult adoption processes, and the fact that movies celebrating our pets should be welcomed and anticipated.

He further strengthens the case for nokill in other essays, developing comparative economics of shelter operations, and running the population numbers to show what is required to end most shelter killing. With 17 million new pets sought every year, the achievable challenge is to link a minor fraction of those seekers with the three to four million healthy pets who die behind bars annually. He also finds hope and vindication in the overwhelming approval of Prop. 2 in California (regarding treatment of food animals), as demonstrating latent critter love just waiting to be tapped.

A few entries are future-directed. His treatments of the ethical implications of spay abortions and a deeply personal rumination on true euthanasia (as distinct from the term’s misuse in shelter killing) reflect profound reverence for all life. Perhaps he is ahead of this curve, too, but I wonder whether other species cling to life in quite the way humans do. They have little conception of what might await them, and no reason to fear it.

One problematic passage involves his familiar theme of HSUS fear-mongering. In it, he attributes numerous quotations in the organization’s Animal Sheltering magazine to HSUS itself. While generally supporting HSUS positions, those benighted opinions actually come from author Jon Katz, in an interview.

Those who regret the rancor between no-kill and the sheltering establishment may find a glimmer of hope in the concluding essay, “We’re on the Same Team.” Most of that essay sets up a dichotomy between the no-kill and broader animal rights movement on one side, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on the other. Winograd castigates PETA for many of its policies, including the slaughter of thousands of companion animals in its custody.

Emphasizing the common philosophies of animal rights and no-kill, Winograd writes, “On the issues of dogs and cats, we can no longer afford to be a divided movement; the division is hurting our ability to achieve success.”

There is another, similar point to be made. In a 2009 San Francisco Town Hall meeting, no less an influential figure than Wayne Pacelle of the HSUS acknowledged no-kill as substantially raising the sights of the sheltering community regarding the life-saving results that can be achieved. Is it too much to hope for a movement unified around the principle of compassion, and adopting the proven strategies Winograd espouses?

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