Deck the halls with animal books

Searching for last-minute stocking stuffers? How about books for your pet-loving friends and relatives, or maybe as presents to yourself? Here are some suggestions:

“”Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves,”” by Duncan Birmingham (Three Rivers Press, New York, N.Y., $10). Isn’t this a festive title for a holiday book? With tongue firmly planted in cheek, this little picture book has captions to describe what some pets are really thinking. A Multipoo in a dress, wearing chic sunglasses, notes, “”She dresses me ’cause it’s cheaper than having me spayed.”” There’s a bunny dressed as a skunk with the caption, “”Is this your not-so-subtle way of telling me I stink?”” A cat in a graduation cap opines, “”A college degree in this economy? I might as well slit my wrists.””

“”Christmas is Good: Trixie’s Guide to a Happy Holiday,”” by Trixie Koontz, edited by dad, Dean Koontz (Hyperion Books, New York, N.Y., 2009; $16.99). This sweet little book will takes only 15 minutes to read. It’s also philosophical. “”It’s not necessary to spend a fortune on a gift, as long as it tastes like bacon,”” says Koontz. The best-selling novelist is donating sale proceeds to Canine Companions for Independence.

“”Chow Hounds: Wholesome Home Cooking for Your Doggie,”” by Eve Adamson (Sterling Innovation, New York, N.Y., 2009; $12.94). If you’re working hard in the kitchen prepping for the holidays, you might as well whip something up for your doggie (cats will enjoy much of what’s here, too). These recipes are easy to follow, and creative. Examples; Peanut Butter Pooch Bread, Quiche Lassie.

“”Animal Investigators: How the World’s First Wildlife Forensics Lab is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species,”” by Laurel Neme (Scribner, New York, N.Y., 2009; $25). This book is fascinating, at least for fans of all those “”CSI”” shows. The title might as well be “”CSI Wildlife.”” Sadly, the illegal pet and wildlife trade is out of control. I’d never before read about having to deal with a walrus crime scene. It’s amazing what science can do. I won’t be surprised if this book becomes the foundation for a TV series on Animal Planet.

“”Dogs Can Sign, Too: A Breakthrough Method for Teaching Your Dog to Communicate with You,”” by Sean Senechal (Celestial Arts, Berkeley, Calif., 2009; $21.99). Chimpanzees and gorillas have learned sign language, so why not dogs? While they don’t have the physiology to communicate in American Sign Language, according to the author a dog can learn to raise a paw or wiggle a rear end to indicate “”I want to play”” or “”I want my favorite biscuits.”” This is a fascinating premise, never before investigated.

“”Thoughtful Owners, Great Dogs: Canine Behavior and Training A Triadic Approach,”” by James Akenhead (CCB Publishing, British Columbia, 2009; $19.95). Akenhead is the kind of dog trainer who ought to be receiving attention, not only for his 45 years of experience but also for his positive, “”dog friendly”” approach. For example, Akenhead notes that communication is key; so often we assume dogs understand what we’re asking of them when they simply don’t. As a consequence, they don’t comply. The problem is not because they’re spiteful or want to be dominant. Akenhead’s step-by-step training instructions are practical and easy to follow.

“”Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About Animals,”” by Karen Pryor (Scribner, New York, N.Y., 2009; $25). Even if you haven’t been a fan of clicker training, this book is a must read – particularly for dog owners who are sold on the archaic and dominating techniques promoted by a popular TV dog trainer. It turns out that most zoo staff around the world, and trainers who work with animals for TV, the movies or commercials, also use the techniques popularized by Pryor, a dog-training legend — and for good reason. From the kleptomaniac dog to the depressed Oscar fish — this book is a wonderful read! Most importantly, a light bulb will turn on in your head, helping you understand the animal mind.

“”Happy Dog: Caring for Your Dog’s Body, Mind and Spirit,”” by Bill Rafferty and Jill Cahr (New American Library, New York, N.Y., 2009; $16). Rafferty was Oprah Winfrey’s dog groomer and a multi-award winner in his field. Cahr is an enthusiastic dog lover who volunteers at Animal Control in Chicago. For both, this is a great effort for a first book. No surprise, it contains excellent information on dog grooming. Otherwise, the authors do a very good job packing tons of general canine care into under 390 pages.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207 or send an e-mail. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated “”Steve Dale’s Pet World”” and “”The Pet Minute.”” He’s also a contributing editor to USA Weekend


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