Tonawanda News

June 9, 2014

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Summer reads -- first batch

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It’s basically summer. What that really means is that I have to wait several months to find out why there was a three-year time jump in Leslie Knope’s life in “Parks and Rec” and how Mitch and Cam are doing in “Modern Family.”  I am also eagerly waiting to find out how Nick Burkhardt is going to deal with another Grimm in his town.

As we all take a little time away from the tube this summer, check out a few of my summer read picks. In the weeks to come, I may supplement my list. If you have any classic pet/animal go-to-books or a recent release that you would like to share, please visit our Facebook page.

Reading a few books, interacting with real people and setting aside extra bonding time with your pets sounds like a recipe for a great summer.

Here are two suggestions for this summer:

“The Soul Of All Living Creatures” by veternarian Vint Virga examines a question known to many pet owners: How can we enrich our lives by perceiving the world as our animals do? Animals, as many pet owners already know, nurture our animal/person relationships, reorder our values, improve our communication and deepen our sense of being. This book shows us what animals can teach us about being human.

The book travels with readers first to the village of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc in the southern region of France, where there are 30,000-year-old cave drawings of hundreds of animals. These paintings are not warnings to other humanoids that are traveling through the cave about the dangers that wait outside, but rather celebrate their attributes. The cave drawings highlight each of the species’ vitality. Around the world, the book says, different cultures, histories and traditions all mingle the lives of animals and humans. Humans are connected to animals, including the small one-third of Americans who do not have pets.

The author details his experiences in his vet office, home visits and consulting at zoos and aquariums as he learns some of the things animals can teach us. One of the lessons involves mindfulness. Human thought seems to have a drive to wonder, on long curvy paths far away from the here and now. The author suggests stop worrying about past mistakes, or future bills and deadlines at work and focus on the moment that we are in right now. And he learned that from a dog.

A great quote from Igor Sikorsky is included in the chapter about responsiveness and it reads,

“According to recognized aero technical tests, the bumblebee cannot fly because of the shape and weight of his body in relation to the total wing area. But the bumblebee does know this, so he goes ahead and flies away.” Other lessons that are examined in this book are expressivity, adaptability, integrity and forgiveness.

I’m halfway done with “The Soul of All Living Creatures” and it has been a great read so far.

The end of the school year and the beginning of summer, for me at least, has traditionally been a great time for adding new pets to the family. Summer break allows you more time to spend with your new acquisition. Growing up, we adopted my first ducks, dog and cockatiel all at the beginning of different summers.

“How to Raise Your New Puppy in a Cat Family” by Jackie Sonnenberg is a great reference for those who are looking to do just that: Add a canine to a household that has felines. The book is almost 300 pages and is written with medium-size, family-friendly font. If I had this book growing up, I would have worn out its spine.

The book starts off with 10 myths about cats and dogs and then goes, appropriately, into what you should do before bring home the puppy and how to read body language for both cats and dogs. It also has whole chapters dedicated to the first introduction of the new roommates, how to troubleshoot behavioral changes and issues and how to train a puppy for basic house-training behaviors that some previous cat-only caregivers might not have considered.

The book’s layout is similar to a large reference book. I found case studies, written by pet owners and veterinarians and highlighted in large boxes throughout the book, very helpful. The addition of checklists, statistics and charts throughout the book all made it easy to absorb the necessary information. I recommend this book for new pet owners from Atlantic Publishing and can’t wait for the next one: “How to Raise Your New Kitten in a Dog Family.”

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior and is a certified professional bird trainer through the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. Please email your questions to, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.