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Animal Joy
Jonathan Balcombe studies the animal pleasure principle

In our house, we call it sun-dogging: When Lulu and Renzo stretch out on the hot slate of the porch or cool grass and heat up in the sun. Their black fur gets pretty hot to the touch, but still they soak it all in, moving to shade long after it seemed like a good idea. We love watching them sun-dog because they seem to be enjoying themselves so much.

Apparently, there is a scientific term for the habit, “behavioral thermoregulation.” But it just doesn’t capture the pleasure of the moment. “Oh, honey, look at Lulu behaviorially thermoregulating.”

Based on recent reviews and preview materials, I’m thinking animal behaviorist Jonathan Balcombe would understand “sun-dogging.” In his new book, The Exultant Ark, he doesn’t mince words about animals experiencing pleasure—the study of which he calls, hedonic ethology. Yum.

Of course, you can’t really get away with saying animals experience pleasure (a little too anthropomorphic), so in amongst the photos he makes his case for the biological imperative of pleasure, but I’m happy to let the photos do the work. I mean, look at that cover!

More about The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure.

Watch an interview with Jonathan Balcombe (in parts on YouTube):

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

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