Commentaries

Animal Headlines

I’m one of those people—and I dearly hope I’m not the only one—who sometimes thinks in headlines. Especially when I do stupid things.  Whereas others might think, “Oh, s__t!” or other profane thoughts as such times, the headline “Bureau pins local resident at bottom of stairs” occurred to me when I foolishly thought I could prevent a very heavy piece of furniture from descending a steep staircase much faster that I could prevent it from doing so by holding it from below. Or how about “Local woman picking berries in nightgown gets surprised by bear”? In retrospect, I think this

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Perception and Human-Animal Survival

While I visited my son in Colorado last month, I began reading a book by neurophysiologist Dale Purves entitled Brains: How they seem to work. I did this because the studies of brain function are now so numerous and diversified that I knew I needed to upgrade my knowledge. Luckily for me, Purves is one of those rare and wonderful scientists whose background includes a solid grounding in some other discipline that enables them to think outside the scientific box and view problems with a fresh perspective. By the time I realized that Purves was interested in how the

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Taking Animals Personally

Taking animals personally. That sounds like a really good thing, doesn’t it?  It raises all kinds of images of us really paying attention to animals and what they do and what it means to then as well as us. Sad to say, that’s not the kind of personally that sometimes shows up when our animals develop problems. That kind of personally is quite different and can throw a humongous monkey wrench into the works as we seek to resolve these issues. The kind of personally I’m talking about is the kind that causes us to believe that they deliberately display

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Physically Fit Human-Companion Animal Units

I came up with the title of this commentary after an unsuccessful attempt to describe the concept of companion animals and their owners engaging in mutually rewarding exercise together. This was to differentiate such a relationship from those skewed in one direction or another. You know, the owner who takes the dog for the obligatory excursions whose expression suggests this ranks right up there with watching glaciers move on the list of exciting things to do. Or the dog who’s so stressed that the walks are about as relaxing as a twice daily circuit through a war zone. But

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Why Animals Do What They Do

An ethological approach to normal and problem animal behavior This commentary is a based on material I’ll be presenting at a seminar on June 5th that focuses on canine behavior and aggression in particular. In addition to cordially inviting all interested parties to attend (see contact information at the end of the commentary), I’d like to use this opportunity to once again point out the advantages of adding ethology to the behavioral mix. Given all the different animal training programs available, why bother? The main reason is because sometimes the approaches we normally use to teach stable animals basic obedience,

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The Rest of the Story

Back in the seventies, anyone who cared anything about animals and enjoyed reading was reading a series of books written by British veterinarian James Herriot, a.k.a. Alf Wight. Later, the BBC made the books into a television series that introduced even more people to the life of a trio of veterinarians plying their trade in the 1930s and 40s in the Yorkshire Dales. For a period of several weeks during this past long winter of record-breakers, I’d recover from shoveling snow, chipping ice, hauling wood and other chores by making myself a cup of herbal tea and watching episodes

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A Trio of Studies with Human-Companion Animal Bond Implications

Reports of two studies involving kids and one involving dogs so reminded me of what I see clinically that it caused me to ponder yet again the role teaching methods may play in problem behavior. And because at least some kids get dogs when they grow up, do they wind up creating pets with behavioral issues, too?  In the case of these particular human studies and their results, I suspect that this is a possibility. The First Study Years ago, a teaching method that championed the companion animal version of all-positive training had parents and teachers gushing effusively over their

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Putting Things Off and Off and Off

When the time came to write this month’s commentary, I found myself in a somewhat lackluster state sitting at the kitchen table drinking Teeccino and eating dark chocolate with bits of ginger without a relevant thought in my head. My thoughts, such as they were, mostly drifted to what else I could do besides write a commentary. As I did this, I absent-mindedly leafed through a magazine that had arrived that morning. And there it was. Condemnation and inspiration all rolled up into one. An article about procrastination. Surely if there were a road to hell reserved for those

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Resolution: Don’t Get Lost in Translation

I began 2011 the same way I ended 2010, pondering a notice about a lost cat that showed up in my mailbox about two weeks before Christmas.  It was nothing fancy.  A single sheet of white copy paper with text written in black capital letters, except for those words the author thought warranted special emphasis with colored type. Evidently it had been put it put in my box before the mail arrived because I found it mashed at the bottom of a pile of holiday ads and cards. In spite of the fact that the main text was very short, only

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Holiday Gift-Giving at Its Best for Fans of the Human-Animal Bond

For many people the watch-words of the holiday season are “eat,” “drink,” and “be merry.” This holiday season, I suggest replacing them with “love,” “hate,” and “eat,” specifically Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog (Harper-Collins, 2010). This book is a perfect gift for those who work with animals in any capacity as well as any animal-lovers on your list. And don’t forget to put it on your own wish-lift or purchase it as a gift for yourself if you enjoy learning about human-animal interactions as much as

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