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The Social Lives of Dogs

Thomas, Elizabeth Marshall

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In "The Social Life of Dogs," Elizabeth Marshall Thomas shows how with each new addition of animals to the household, all the animals and humans have adjusted and formed cohesive groups that coexist happily with the others.

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Review:

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, who has written evocatively on the ways of dogs ( The Hidden Life of Dogs) and cats ( The Tribe of the Tiger) at large, here turns her attention to the particular canines--and other animals--with which she shares her home.

Marshall's narrative begins with the arrival of an unfortunate, highly intelligent creature named Sundog, who, excluded from the somewhat constricted worlds of her older dogs, is forced to take his place in the next available pack--that of Marshall and the other human inhabitants of her New Hampshire home. "Perhaps we were not his first choice, but he took us," Marshall writes of Sundog learning his proper place in their order and they in his. Much as domestic dogs enjoy each other's company, Marshall hazards, when in the presence of humans each becomes a competitor for attention and food. Humans, in that world of small rivalries, become not so much alphas or pack leaders--as so many books have it--as they do "sources of life," providers of food and security. Such power can corrupt, of course, and at points Marshall observes that popular methods of dog training--or dog control--can do more harm than good, at least as far as a dog's emotional well-being is concerned.

Through her tales of Sundog, Misty, and her other dogs (and cats, and parrots), Marshall explores how fulfilling a life among animals can be. A little softer on the scientific explanations that drive her other books, Marshall's narrative shares the anecdotal richness of her earlier work. Any human who is curious about how dogs think and how the worlds of dogs and people intersect will find much of value in her pages. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas is the bestselling author of The Hidden Life of Dogs.

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