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The Animal-Human Connection

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11.07.20

At least 62% of American households have a pet. Many people love animals and treat them as members of the family. And some, perhaps most of us, see the spark of human-like emotion, recognition, and understanding in the eyes of our pets. Try these books for truly interesting stories of the special bonds that we share with our animal friends.

Philip Gonzalez 
The Dog Who Rescues Cats: the true story of Ginny
Gonzalez was foreman for a construction company that built skyscrapers in New York and other cities until an accident permanently disabled him. His physical recovery was challenging but, with his sense of self-worth shattered by his inability to work, emotional recovery was even more difficult. After much resistance, he finally gave in to his girlfriend’s urging that he adopt a dog. Ginny, the friendly and sensitive dog he chose, took his life in a new direction when she rescued an injured cat on one of their early morning walks in New York. With her uniquely strong sense of smell or hearing, she located many homeless cats stuck in pipes and abandoned building interiors and they began feeding them, arranging veterinary care and adoptions. Their home became the place of last resort for the least adoptable cats, and might bring to mind Wanda Gag’s classic "Millions of Cats". This is a moving tribute to the power of a dog to love and to heal.    

Sy Montgomery 
The Good, Good Pig: The extraordinary life of Christopher Hogwood
Montgomery, a naturalist and prolific writer, shares this charming memoir of her beloved pig. Christopher Hogwood (named for the symphony conductor), the runt in his litter, was destined for starvation or trampling by his very large mother, when Sy rescued him from a friend’s pigpen. Cute little thing he was, sleeping in a shoebox his first night with her. Almost before they knew it, however, he had grown to 750 pounds with an unending appetite for just about everything. He learned how to open the gate of his pen and wander down the road to juicy lettuce patches in the neighbor’s garden. The local police rounded him up and returned him to his barn luring him with apples. And neighborhood children brought him ice cream and spaghetti scraps from their dinner tables. And they treated him to Pig Spa days, giving him baths and rubbing his enormous belly. Christopher, in turn, gave back appreciative grunts and signs of affection which comforted all who knew him. His presence in her life helped Sy cope with her parents’ refusal to accept her Jewish husband, and gave her companionship for 14 very special years. This is a delightful read.                      

Sara Gruen 
Ape House
Linda Shroyer writes, "With the recent excitement over the movie based on Sara Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants, I thought it would be fun to read another novel by her.  In Ape House, we find Gruen once again a champion for animal rights. In her research for this book, Gruen spent time at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa. Of this experience she writes: "to this day I cannot think about it without getting goose bumps. You cannot have a two-way conversation with a great ape, or even just look one straight in the eye, close up, without coming away changed".

The novel opens with John Thigpen, a newspaper reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, traveling back to Pennsylvania after spending an intense day with scientist Isabel Duncan at the Great Ape Language Lab in Kansas City.  Isabel studies the communication abilities of bonobo apes through American Sign Language. When John arrives back home he’s astonished by the news that an extreme animal rights group has bombed the lab, Isabel has been severely injured, and the apes were set free. The drama is underway. Gruen skillfully weaves sub-stories through the text: John’s relationship to his wife, Amanda, who moves to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of being a writer, Isabel’s relationship to her fiancé Peter, whose recent appointment as director of the bonobo language lab made for an unpredictable atmosphere. The reader also must consider the nature of tabloid news versus honest reporting….and just what is honest reporting when newspapers are scrambling to stay afloat financially? 

However the issue that Gruen presents that captured my interest was the humane treatment of animals. Are bonobos more deserving of fair treatment by the fact that they can communicate with us than other "lesser" species?  Who determines the hierarchy of animal species and their value?  Is a species only valued when it can bring financial profit to humans?  (Since I was also reading Jonathan Safron Foer’s Eating Animals at the time I read Ape House, these thoughts were circling my mind). Check out Ape House for a great summer read, or listen to the book on CD on your way to the beach.

We can suggest more books about the bonds that link people and animals. Visit us at www.tcplweb.org or call 988-2541 for more information.

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Online collection of animated, talking picture books to encourage reading in children.

 


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