Posted by: underseaencounters | January 4, 2009

If you liked MARLEY & ME…

I used the Barnes & Noble gift card I got for Christmas to buy MARLEY & ME and read it in one sitting. I enjoyed it a lot, but I kept thinking of other people-and-their-animals books that I enjoyed as much as MARLEY. Here are four:

THE PARROT WHO OWNS ME: THE STORY OF A RELATIONSHIP by Joanna Burger
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Like Marley, Tiko—a 35-year-old orphaned Red Lored Amazon parrot—takes over the house with his “bad” behavior. Tiko is not only devoted to the author, he is pair bonded to her (literally). The author is a renowned ornithologist and I learned a lot about bird behavior, etc. Highly recommended.

ALEX & ME: HOW A SCIENTIST AND A PARROT UNCOVERED A HIDDEN WORLD OF ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE—AND FORMED A DEEP BOND IN THE PROCESS by Irene M. Pepperberg

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This is the story of Alex, a Gray parrot, and Irene Pepperberg, an animal cognition researcher, who studied him. Alex was not a pet—the title says it all. And yet, they did have a deep bond, formed during their 31-year relationship. Alex’s last words to Pepperberg were “You be good. I love you.”

Pepperberg describes her struggles to be taken seriously by the scientific community, during the time when animals were considered “little more than robotic automatons, mindlessly responding to stimuli in their environment.” This view has changed, thanks in part to Pepperberg’s studies of Alex. Her research has expanded views of how animals think and communicate.

Her findings did not amaze me–but rather validated what I’ve always felt about animals. I don’t think I have an anthropomorphic or sentimental view of animals, but I do think that their way of thinking/emotions/ability to communicate are far vaster than what we can imagine. Pepperberg says that she had touched just the tip of the iceberg in her studies with Alex before his premature death. I believe that. Here’s what she writes about her work:

Alex taught us how little we know about animal minds and how much more there is to discover. This insight has profound implications, philosophically, sociologically, and practically. It affects our view of the species Homo sapiens and its place in nature.

CHOSEN BY A HORSE by Susan Richards
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In this memoir, the author nurses an maltreated horse named Lay Me Down back to health and regains the mare’s trust. In the process she also works out issues about her own rocky childhood. If you had trouble keeping a dry eye at the end of MARLEY AND ME, be prepared with a box of Kleenex for this book. I noticed it was on the new paperbacks table at Barnes & Noble this month.

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DEWEY: THE SMALL-TOWN CAT WHO TOUCHED THE WORLD by Vicki Myron

This is the story of Dewey, who as a kitten was found stuffed in the library return book slot on the coldest day of the year, nursed back to health, and adopted by the library and the people of Spencer, Iowa. As a cat-loving former librarian whose mother was from Iowa, I enjoyed this book. I was worried it was going to be a bit cutesy, but it isn’t. The portrait of small-town Iowa isn’t candy-coated. But after reading it, I had great admiration for the people of this town–and, of course, for their wonderful adopted cat Dewey.

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