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In this sequel to her illuminating bestseller The Hidden Life of Dogs, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas profiles the canines in her own household to show how dogs have comfortably adapted to life with their human owners -- and with each other. A classically trained anthropologist, she answers questions we all have about our pets' behavior. Do dogs have different barks that mean different things? What makes a dog difficult to house-train? Why do certain dogs and cats get along so well? How does Snoopy recognize people he sees only once a year, while Misty barks at strangers she sees every day?
The Social Lives of Dogs presents marvelous evidence of the power of the group -- and shows us that those who are fortunate enough to be given the trust of an honorable dog will also have their lives enriched.
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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 McNameeAbout the Author:
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas is also the author of The Harmless People, Warrior Herdsmen, and the novels Certain Poor Shepherds, Reindeer Moon, and The Animal Wife.
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