Dogs And Underdogs: Happiness At Both Ends Of The Leash

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Elizabeth Abbott's book and Toni Shelbourne's "Among the Wolves" are great reads.

Two books arrived at my door at the same time and I simply want to share their existence with you because I feel they are great reads for all people interested not only in the behavior of dogs and wolves but also in our relationship with these amazing beings and other nonhuman animals (animals) with whom we share our lives in one way or another. The first is called "Dogs and Underdogs: Finding Happiness at Both Ends of the Leash" by noted author Elizabeth Abbott and the other is titled "Among the Wolves: Memoirs of a Wolf Handler" by Toni Shelbourne who also wrote "The Truth About Wolves and Dogs: Dispelling the Myths of Dog Training."

Both authors clearly love dogs and other animals and when I first read Ms. Abbott's book to provide an endorsement I kept going back to it to read the stories of different dogs and their humans. The book's description and numerous accolades are very informative of what readers will find between its covers. It reads as follows:

"Happiness and redemption can be found at both ends of the leash, in all kinds of places. Elizabeth Abbott had always been an animal lover, sharing her life with all kinds of dogs in need. But when worlds collided and her beloved dog Tommy was left behind in Haiti, a new journey began - one that would take her to some very surprising places and ultimately teach her some essential truths about the power of hope and redemption. From the soulless concrete corridors of an American prison to the halls of a Canadian hospital to life among the ruins in post-war Serbia, Abbott meets people whose lives are changed forever by a wagging tail and a pair of soulful eyes - and dogs who find a new lease on life with devoted human companions. Throughout 'Dogs and Underdogs,' Abbott shares her own incredible and often amusing stories of rescuing dogs in need of shelter, friendship, and love: devoted Tommy, the inspiration who began it all; irrepressible Bonzi, the beagle who charmed his way into prisoners' hearts; sweet Alice, the little mama who survived a puppy mill to be 'mothered' by other dogs; and many more. With wit and passion, Abbott digs down into the deepest roots of the human–animal bond, showing us that together people and dogs can find hope and happiness."

I keep going back to this book and always am finding something new about which to think and feel. Having taught a course in animal behavior and conservation biology at the Boulder County Jail for many years I was particularly touched by something that an inmate called Shane told Ms. Abbott. Shane said, "Working with dogs has been the vehicle I always needed to get in touch with myself, to put the anger and the old wounds to bed once and for all. (p. 272)" I've heard many stories like this and have recently written about how dogs and inmates help one another as they form close and reciprocal relationships in an essay called "Dogs on the Inside: Must See Documentary on Dogs and Inmates."

Similar to "Dogs and Underdogs," "Among the Wolves: Memoirs of a Wolf Handler":

" ... tells the story of Toni's life with eleven charismatic wolves at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, Berkshire, England. Over ten years, she has handled, raised, cared for and nursed these amazing creatures, and within these pages you will come to know the characters; laugh at their sense of fun, mourn at their passing - and learn to love them as she does. Describing some of the best and worst of times, discover what happens behind closed doors when the public goes home, leaving just Toni and the wolves."

Ms. Shelbourne's numerous stories are extremely thought provoking and her comments on how zoos need to change so that they really educate people on the behavior and emotional needs of their residents are important for future generations of captive animals who simply cannot be released into the wild. The questions with which she ends her book, including "What is being done to conserve the habitat of the animal concerned? (p. 125)" need to taken to heart when people are making decisions about "donating your well-earned cash to a wildlife project." If the habitat of a species is disappearing as individuals of that species live in captivity a donation won't really do much for their future. Likewise, it's essential to know how the local human community can also be helped so that they welcome the animals back at some future time.

I highly recommend both books to a wide audience. They raise numerous important and challenging questions about the nature of human-animal relationships (anthrozoology) and are extremely inspirational. Each also shows how we can easily rescue, help, and heal other animals and how they can in turn rescue, help, and heal us, a topic about which I've recently written.