Talking to Animals: How You Can Understand Animals and They Can Understand You by Jon Katz, Atria Books, US $26.00, Pp 240, May 2017, ISBN 978-1476795478
Most of us love to have pets. Many of us love animals. More than 72 million Americans own dogs. An equal number of Americans own cats. Many millions own horses and other animals. But do we understand animals or the animals understand us? The question can also be asked differently and broadly: Do we understand our pets or do our pets understand us? In most cases, the answer will be in the negative. If we understand animals or just our pets, life will become a lot happier.
In Talking to Animals, Jon Katz has tried to help humans understand animals especially the pets. Katz helps his readers gain an understanding how to live well with the animals they love and understand them in a better way. He argues that the decline in the quality of our pet-to-owner relationship is because of our disconnect with the natural world. He argues that most people tend to transfer their neuroses onto their animals, leading to alarming rates of depression and anxiety among animals. He says we should take out time to listen to them and stop treating them as surrogate children and instead. He says that there are enormous economic, emotional and environmental benefits to understanding our animals and supporting them.
Katz writes, “We cannot help them and keep them in our world if we cannot communicate with them. But in order to do that, we need to know them as they really are, not as the emotional fantasies we construct about them.” He says that training is a spiritual experience, not an exercise in domination. But of course, nothing is black-and-white. Dogs live in a world that can be hostile and dangerous for them. There are times when they simply need to do what they are told, and quickly, for their own safety and the safety of others. More importantly, training is a way of knowing animals, loving them and helping them to live safely in our world. There are several tools that can be used to communicate effectively with animals, among them food, body language, attitude, and visualization.
Katz tells us that we should never underestimate the importance of food as the gateway to communicating with animals. It is the foundation of trust and attention. If animals don’t trust us, they will never pay attention to us, and if they cannot pay attention to us, they cannot listen. Food thoughtfully and judiciously applied builds trust and attention. Therefore, he argues, food is necessary to establish trust, but our attitude is perhaps the most important tool of all. Animals read intentions. If you mean it, they know it. If you don’t, they sense it. It is essential to have your intentions clear in your head, and in the attitude you project to the animal.
This is a very personal book, a spiritual book, an anecdotal account of my own journey over many years to a wiser and more mystical understanding of animals. Katz convincingly tells us how we should train our pets and connect with them. If you want to develop a healthy and pleasant relationship with your pets or working animals, Talking to Animals is the best book.