Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

by Taylor Solomon

 Photo: Taylor Solomon

Photo: Taylor Solomon

Love That Dog is a very special book. It’s small and yellow and fits perfectly in your hand. Its pages are smooth, its text printed in blue. My first encounter with the book was in the fifth grade. Our sweet English teacher, Ms. Goodnight, read it aloud to us during our unit on poetry—the first time I remember studying poetry. You see, Sharon Creech’s book is technically a novel. It even says so on the cover. But flipping through the book’s pages, you will find what looks less like the text of a novel and more like the rhythmic stanzas of a poetry collection. Love That Dog is a novel, but its story is told through poetry.

Jack is a student in Miss Stretchberry’s class, where they have just begun a unit on poetry. Right off the bat, Jack lets you know his opinion of poetry. “I don’t want to [write poetry], because boys don’t write poetry. Girls do.” Jack is skeptical, though Miss Strechberry continues to urge him to write. As the year goes on, through Jack’s prose and one-sided correspondence with Miss Stretchberry, we see Jack grow as a writer and learn more and more about his personal life, in particular his relationship with a family pet, a yellow dog. Sharon Creech uses classic poets (Robert Frost, William Blake, Walter Dean Myers) to move Jack through academic goals as well as coming to terms with the tragedy of losing a pet. One of the dedications in the book reads “For… all of whom love love love their dogs,” and Creech is not wrong in knowing it will resonate with this audience. Anyone who has experienced the unconditional love of a dog (or any pet for that matter) will relate to Jack and his story.

If Jack is discovering prose and seeing himself as a poet for the first time in Love That Dog, in the book’s sequel, Hate That Cat, he is growing and becoming even more experimental in his work. He is learning about onomatopoeia and alliteration, assonance and consonance. He even has a new subject, a large black cat who Jack is not shy to let you know he has very strong feelings about (hence the title). After becoming close to Jack in Love That Dog, the reader will love getting to know even more about him (and even more touching details of his home life) in this sequel. 

As a pet owner, I see myself in Jack and his family’s love for their pets and how they come together through their loss. As a student, I see myself in Jack and his peers navigating the waters of poetry for the first time. As an educator, I can only hope to be as influential as Ms. Stretchberry, introducing her students to topics that will forever change the course of their lives. Love That Dog and Hate that Cat are sweet and simple stories, but they are not ones that will be soon forgotten.

Codalino: A Shepherd Dog’s Little Tail

by Taylor Solomon

 Photo: Taylor Solomon

Photo: Taylor Solomon

Even if you don’t know Stan Mullins by name, you know his work. If you live in Athens, GA, you see it on a regular basis. More than likely you have driven or walked past “The Character of a Champion.” You know, the majestic bronze sculpture depicting Coach Vince Dooley during the 1980 University of Georgia National Championship win. Mullins is the artist behind that work and many others seen around the Classic City.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Mullin’ home and studio, a renovated 18th century cottonseed oil refinery nestled in Pulaski Heights. I was there to see author Mark Z. Danielewski read from his newest book in an event hosted by Avid Bookshop. If you are at all familiar with Danielewski’s work, you know he is one of the most captivating and engaging contemporary authors, often grouped with the likes of Chuck Palahniuk and David Mitchell. But there was something else that captivated me that night: Mullins’ relationship with his dogs. His beautiful canine companions roamed the event, excited to play hosts for the evening. Watching Mullins, you saw a natural born pet owner and animal lover. He was just as charming with his pets as he was his human guests that evening.

When I heard Mullins had written and illustrated a book about a dog, I knew I had to read it. Codalino: A Shepherd Dog’s Little Tail is Mullin’s own interpretation of the Biblical Christmas story told from the perspective of Codalino, a puppy born in a manger who becomes the companion of a child born in the same manager just days later. Mullins’ words and art work together to create mesmerizing new look at a story familiar to many. Mullins has illustrated several picture books, but Codalino was his first time taking on the whole project himself. Though known more for his work in the visual arts, Mullins has a way with words that leaves the reader feeling enlightened and yearning for more. The way he writes about animals and their human companions depicts what I saw the night I visited his home, someone who truly has a heart for those animals who walk among us.

Throughout the story, Codalino’s tail wags as a sign of enjoyment and appreciation towards those around him. Reading this book, taking in Mullins’ writing paired with his incredible art work, your own tail is sure to do some wagging.

Dog Blessed: Puppy Mill Survivor Stories

by Taylor Solomon

 Photo: Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

Dog Blessed: Puppy Mill Survivor Stories, published by Happy Tails Books, is a compilation of the inspiring stories of dog owners who adopted their pets from Main Line Animal Rescue in Pennsylvania. All of the pets found within the book were rescued from appalling living conditions of puppy mills. Prior to reading this book, I knew very little about the details of what happens in puppy mills. Dog Blessed: Puppy Mill Survivor Stories gave incredible insight into the horrors of puppy mills and what the dogs living in them must endure. Along with background on the mills themselves, through each of the 32 stories, you learn the individual details of what must go into the rehabilitation and care for these dogs after they have been rescued due to the physically and psychologically-damaging conditions of puppy mills.

Kayla Duffy founded her publishing company Happy Tails Books in 2008 after fostering (and eventually adopting) a dog, Bill the Boston Terrier, who was rescued from a puppy mill. Bill was originally adopted by another family but was quickly (and unfortunately) returned when the family found his psychological state more than they were willing to take on. Ultimately, Duffy met Bill and fell madly in love, working with him through the process of rehabilitation. (And how’s this for cute? Duffy now has a female rescued Boston Terrier, in addition to Bill, who she named Hillary.) 

Through her company Happy Tails Books, Duffy hopes to increase public awareness of the treatment dogs in puppy mills, and this book does just that. I hope that these stories reach a large audience of people, like myself, who are not aware of exactly how horrific conditions are in puppy mills. These stories, though individual, build a connected web of suffering, and ultimately hope, as we learn about these pets’ and their owners’ stories. 

In the end, the reader will walk away with a newfound knowledge of the treatment of puppy mill pets, the process that goes into rehabilitating these very special survivors, and why it is so important to adopt or buy from a licensed shelter rather than a pet store.

The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams

by Emily Trunnell, PhD

 Photo: Emily Trunnell, PhD

Photo: Emily Trunnell, PhD

Scrolling through Instagram one day, as I’m often doing, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a quote that perfectly describes some of my experiences as an animal rights advocate. It was from Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat. In the passage Adams describes how, often, someone’s concerns for animals are met with the contentious argument that humans are suffering too, and the person who cares about animals should care about issues that affect humans first. To this Adams says, “I know that this question is actually a defensive response, an attempt to deflect from an issue with which the interrogator feels uncomfortable. It is an attempt to have a moral upper hand. Only meat eaters raise this issue. No homeless advocate who is a vegetarian, no battered-women’s advocate who is a vegetarian, would ever doubt that these issues can be approached in tandem.”

The Sexual Politics of Meat was first published in 1990 and has been opening the eyes of readers ever since. Adams, from a small town in New York along Lake Erie, studied at the University of Rochester where she majored in english and history. She went on to obtain her master of divinity at Yale Divinity School and has spent her life as an activist.

In The Sexual Politics of Meat, Adams digs deep into the history of feminism, vegetarianism and women’s literature to show, for the first time, how women have historically adopted vegetarianism as a rebellion from patriarchal society—even if they didn’t know that’s why they were doing it. “Vegetarianism spoke to women. They would not have adopted it, maintained it, proselytized for it if vegetarianism were not a positive influence on their lives. This is a historical fact that needs to be accepted and then responded to by scholars studying women’s lives and texts.”

A fair disclaimer: despite loving this book, it is not likely one you’ll breeze through, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to read it that way. The Sexual Politics of Meat is an academic work, one to sit and ponder, and one in which Adams seamlessly weaves the oppression of animals and women together. Spelled out so clearly, you’ll start to wonder how this interwoven history slipped by you. This is a common occurrence reading through the book. You’ll find a passage that strikes you and find yourself fascinated by it days later. 

I related to most of the ideas expressed in The Sexual Politics of Meat, but what I didn’t realize before reading the book is how the experiences of both vegetarians and feminists are so intimately parallel when dealing with society. Conversations with extended family around the dinner table can be a challenge for anyone, but vegetarians, in making something very obviously absent from their plates, are prone to being drawn into discussions where someone at the table actually feels hostile towards this type of social reform—an all too common occurrence around my dinner table at, say, Thanksgiving.

On this Adams says, “In this the pattern of discourse resembles that of dinnertime conversations about feminism in the early 1970s. Questions of definition often predominate. Whereas feminists were parlaying questions which trivialized feminism such as ‘Are you one of those bra burners?’ Vegetarians must define themselves against the trivializations of ‘Are you one of those health nuts?’ or ‘Are you one of those animal lovers?’ While feminists encountered the response that ‘men need liberation too,’ vegetarians are greeted by the postulate that ‘plants have lives, too.’”

Like many women of my generation, I consider myself a feminist in that I believe all sexes should be treated equally. I was raised by strong women and am thankful I grew up in an era that didn’t (strongly) object to my being a woman in an old white male-dominated field. But I’ve never personally been as motivated to champion for women’s rights as I have for the rights of animals. The revelation of The Sexual Politics of Meat is that you can’t truly be a feminist without being a vegetarian, or vice versa. The exploitation of female animals in animal agriculture is a feminist issue. The exploitation of women and fetishism of body parts reinforces “consumption” of flesh and is a vegetarian issue. Even if you’re not a vegetarian or a feminist, I hope you will pick up Adams’ book and start the conversation. 

Twenty Animal Books to Start the School Year

by Andy Plemmons, David C. Barrow Elementary School Library Media Specialist

 Photo: Andy Plemmons

Photo: Andy Plemmons

There are so many books that feature amazing animal stories. This list of 20 books features a variety of animals from domestic to wild. These books were selected to give readers an experience of a wide range of animals and their stories, from the difficult selection of a pet to the search for a lost pet to exploring the language of animals. Readers will find inspiring, humorous and heartwarming stories in the pages of these picture and chapter books.

Some Pets written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

This book celebrates animals of all shapes and sizes. In brief rhyming text, readers will see the behaviors and talents of a possible future pet.

The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses written by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Zachariah OHora

This book takes a different perspective on choosing a pet. A child of a scientist researches numerous pets in a series of poems that give some honest and humorous depictions of life with pets.

Gaston written by Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson

A bulldog raised by poodles and a poodle raised by bulldogs meet one day in the park. They must decide which family is where they really belong.

Ivan the Terrier by Peter Catalanotto

Ivan is a rambunctious terrier who is constantly interrupting storytime. Readers will laugh out loud at his antics.

Lucky and Squash written by Jeanne Birdsall and illustrated by Jane Dyer

Two dogs become great friends through a locked gate and decide on a plan to make their owners fall in love so they can be a family.

Kate and Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story written by Martin Springett and photographs by Isobel Springett

A fawn abandoned by her mother is brought to a farm where she is raised by a Great Dane who never had puppies.

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey written by Doug Kuntz & Amy Shrodes and illustrated by Sue Cornelison

Kunkush and his family flee war-torn Iraq in search of a safe home. Along the journey, Kunkush is lost, and the family and rescuers go to great lengths to reunite the cat with his family.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

A cat walks through the world and is seen through the perspective of multiple animals.

Hero Cat written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen

A cat raises her kittens in an abandoned building. While searching for food, the building catches fire and the mother makes a dramatic rescue.

Some Cat written by Mary Casanova and illustrated by Ard Hoyt

Violet is a shelter cat who has trouble getting adopted. When she finally finds a home, her adjustment is made more difficult by the family dogs. What will it take for them to finally all get along?

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

How do you speak bug? Carson Ellis invites readers to learn a new language through her invented words and detailed illustrations. Each read of this book will bring new understanding.

Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo

Melvin finds a turtle at the park and brings him home. However, the turtle only seems happy at bath time. Melvin wrestles with his decision to take an animal from the wild.

Shy by Deborah Freedman

Shy is an animal who lives in the gutter of the book. Can other animals help him feel brave enough to step out where the reader can see him?

Wolfie the Bunny written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora

A bunny family finds an abandoned wolf disguised as a bunny on their doorstep. The family takes him in, but the daughter bunny is fearful of being eaten. This is a humorous tale of taking in a new family member who is very different from you. 

Pigloo written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Lorna Hussey

An imaginative little pig sets on to find the North Pole and stretches his imagination with the help of his sister.

The Bear Who Wasn’t There by LeUyen Pham

This is a “monster at the end of this book” type of book. Readers are encouraged to go on a journey to find the bear who just doesn’t seem to be showing up in the book. Readers will meet a whole cast of animals along the way.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

India Opal Buloni finds a dog in the Winn-Dixie grocery store and tries to convince her dad to let her keep him. Little does she know that Winn-Dixie will help her meet a whole community full of wonderful individuals that will help Opal grapple with her own struggles.

Cat Found by Ingrid Law

This story takes place in a town that torments cats. Billy finds a cat in need of help and decides to try to stop the cruelty and create a safe space for cats.

Moo by Sharon Creech

Reena moves from the city to rural Maine and has a hard time adjusting. Luckily, she meets an ornery cow who leads her to discover just what she needs to feel at home.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Charlie Reese gets sent to live with her aunt and uncle who she barely knows. Charlie makes the same wish every day, and with the help of a new dog, she discovers that what you wish for may not really be what you want.

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin

 Photo: Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

by Taylor Solomon

 

I first fell in love with Temple Grandin while studying psychology in college. I loved her advocacy for herself and others living with autism and respected her ability to talk publicly about her personal experiences. My appreciation for her grew when learning about her groundbreaking work in livestock handling, groundbreaking not only because she was one of the first to promote humane treatment of livestock but also because she was doing so in what at the time was a male-dominated industry. 

In Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, Grandin argues that people with autism think the same way animals do and uses her distinguished career as an animal psychologist and her personal experiences living with autism to support her claim. I found this book not only informative (as both a student of psychology and as a pet owner) but an interesting and entertaining read. 

Though I studied psychology for four years, I have barely skimmed the surface of animal psychology and found Grandin’s thorough research and plainspoken language to make for the perfect introduction. This is not a dense textbook-esque writing, this is a captivating and enlightening read helpful to both livestock farmers and pet owners alike.

One of my favorite things about Animals in Translation is the way Grandin explains and directs the everyday idiosyncrasies of animals in a way that puts you inside their head. As much as we love our pets, I feel comfortable saying we each have that thing we wish they would not do. Whether it slows down our day or we just find it a nuisance, there is always that thing. 

Our lab mix is hesitant to walk on our black and white checked kitchen floor. Every day it is a struggle to get her to come inside and walk the short distance across the checkerboard floor. After reading about Grandin’s work with cattle and changes in scenery that made them anxious while being herded from one area to the next, I was able to better understand how my dog was feeling and became more tolerant of what I found to be an annoying behavior.

Whether you’re looking to get into animal psychology, to better understand the mind of your pet or jto ust have an interesting scientific read for the summer, Animals in Translation will not disappoint. Take a moment to get inside your furry friends’ head and discover Temple Grandin, the fascinating, empowering scientist I first fell in love with as an 18-year-old psych student. 

Buddy Unchained by Daisy Bix

by Ashley Clarke

 Photo: Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

Richly illustrated and incredibly heartfelt, Buddy Unchained is a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever met, owned or loved a rescue animal. 

As the mother of three rescue dogs myself, I spend far too much time wondering about what their lives were like before they came to my family. Where did my lab mix live for three years before ending up at a shelter? (We speculate it was somewhere in the city, as she has an inexplicable understanding of elevators.) How did little Max, who turns his nose up at rain and has a disdain for all things nature, survive on his own for any amount of time at all? Buddy Unchained tells the story of a similar dog, a story all rescuers have heard in some form or another.

When we first meet Buddy, he has been neglected, forced to live outside chained to a post without regular access to food, water or attention. Like many dogs in the real world, Buddy is not violently abused, but rather left unattended and ignored until the day his rescuer comes. Told from Buddy’s point of view, Buddy Unchained draws out empathy in all readers—whether child or adult—pointedly showing how neglect can emotionally and physically affect an animal, but also the difference a simple act of love can make.

Karly Noel is the Director of Education and Outreach at the RedRover Readers program, which “helps develop perspective-taking, empathy and critical thinking skills as children explore the bond between people and animals through stories and discussion.” Buddy Unchained has long been one of RedRover’s—and Karly’s—recommended reads, and with good reason.

“The beautiful illustrations done by Joe Hyatt make this title perfect for our program’s read aloud format,” Karly Noel said. “The story is told from the dog’s perspective, which helps the students better understand what Buddy may be thinking and feeling throughout the book. In the RedRover Readers program, we practice pro-social skills like perspective-taking to help students seeing things from others’ perspectives in order to empathize with what they are going through.”

RedRover Readers has made it their mission to spread this empathy throughout the community, training “teachers, humane educators and volunteers to read the pre-selected program books to groups of students in elementary school and then facilitate discussions… We have curriculum written for each of our books including Buddy Unchained, and after reading to the students, the facilitator does activities to reinforce the concepts such as ‘What does a dog need to be happy, healthy and safe?’”

Through reading stories like Buddy Unchained, children learn not only to care for and love their animals, but also how important rescuing is. Even more importantly, Buddy Unchained shows that just because a dog is ignored, neglected or abused, it doesn’t mean they can’t be a happy, loving member of the family.

More information about the RedRover Readers program can be found at www.RedRover.org/Readers. Buddy Unchained is written by Daisy Bix and illustrated by Joe Hyatt. You can purchase a copy at your local independent bookstore. 

 

The Humane Economy by Wayne Pacelle

by Amanda Newsom

 Photo: Reynolds Rogers

Photo: Reynolds Rogers

Wayne Pacelle is the type of CEO you can aspire to be like without a guilty conscience. I’ve seen him speak at a Humane Society of the United States Animal Care Expo, and I’ve now seen him speak twice at the University of Georgia thanks to the student group, Speak Out for Species, and the UGA Office of Sustainability. It just so happened that the second time I saw him at UGA was just a few weeks ago as part of his book tour for The Humane Economy.

I’d been so busy working to create this magazine that I didn’t realize he even had a new book out, so I was thrilled to see that he would be coming right after the release so I could see him speak again. (He is a superb speaker, and I encourage you to see him if you get the chance.) But what excited me even more was the topic of his new book. His first book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, went into detail about our inherent connection with animals. But this book presented a different perspective about the ways we can incorporate animal welfare issues into our everyday lives as consumers. 

When most people say “animal welfare,” the first thing that comes to mind is homeless pets, and that’s where the majority of donations go. While supporting pet adoption is a vital cause, there is also a whole other facet of animal welfare that we need to be talking about more loudly and more often. This hit home with me particularly as I was working on this magazine and its mission—to promote pet adoption, responsible pet ownership and compassion for all animals. What Pacelle talks about in The Humane Economy is what I want to write more about in that “compassion for all animals,” an admittedly expansive range of topics for a four-word description. 

But that’s really what it comes down to and what Pacelle wants us to think about more when making purchasing decisions. We spend $60 billion dollars a year in the United States on items for our pets at home—we have a significant ability to influence other sectors to choose more humane practices with our wallets. And while it can be overwhelming to think about all of the topics Pacelle touches on in this book and why each is so important, we are on the front lines of helping all animals: 

“The humane economy is not some abstraction or far-off concept, partly because animals are all around us. So many of the changes afoot will touch your life and that of the people you know. Indeed, you are—or will be—driving many of these changes, whether it involves the food you eat, the pets you keep, the household products you buy, or the films or wildlife you watch. If we seize the opportunities now available to us—whether as first adopters or those who join the parade of progress—we can help shape the market and accelerate transformational changes for animals throughout the global economy.“

What I love most about Pacelle is that while he is mind-bogglingly knowledgeable about an array of animal welfare issues, he doesn’t present it in a way to make anyone feel shamed or judged by their level of engagement with these issues. He simply wants people to be educated and informed and to take steps toward changing the ways we include animals in all facets of our lives, including our purchasing power.

This book is particularly interesting because it gives insider insight into how Pacelle has worked directly with other CEOs of global companies to encourage them to become innovators in a humane economy, and he talks a lot about how and why a range of companies have progressed. He also discusses some companies that are engaging in innovative research that will likely be the norm one day not too far into the future, such ascultured meats and leather. 

He says that innovative businesses that are doing good for both animals and the economy will ultimately prevail, and he makes plenty of good arguments to support this throughout The Humane Economy. If you love helping dogs and cats, I encourage you to read this book to learn about ways you can expand your reach into helping more animals.