El's Reviews > Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin
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Jun 23, 10

bookshelves: 21st-centurylit, cultural-studies-and-other, defunct-pretentious-book-club
Recommended to El by: Clovis
Read from June 15 to 23, 2010

Read for my in-person book club.


I'm usually pretty wary of books like this, the kind with animals on the cover. Which is really sort of funny since I'm such a whore for animals in real life. But this is the book that was decided upon for my in-person book club, and since I missed the previous two books I figured I should suck it up and read this, especially considering it was my boyfriend's recommendation.

Temple Grandin is an animal scientist with a "twist" as I like to say. Her personal experience with having autism allowed her to be able to really enter the minds of animals and see life through their minds and eyes. This book (from what it sounds like, her other books as well) discusses how to make the lives of animals better. She starts with domestic animals as pets (dogs, cats) before moving on to farm animals (horses, cows, pigs, chickens) and finishing with wildlife and zoos. In all environments animals' lives can be improved upon. She focuses mostly on the emotions of animals and how to bring out the best through SEEKING and PLAY, and how to bring out the worst through RAGE, FEAR, and PANIC.

As an animal lover myself I found that I didn't find I was learning anything new, per se. Animals do have emotions and little changes in their lives can be dramatic and/or traumatic if not handled carefully. Her final chapter about zoo-life was the most interesting to me since I have long had a love-hate relationship with zoos. The Pittsburgh zoo is pretty cool in my opinion (and they have a deer habitat!!) and we try to go at least once each summer. I always enjoy the time we spend there but do find myself feeling sad at the same time. Are the animals there getting the right amount of SEEKING and PLAY that they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle? I can think of a few situations there where things could be improved now that I've read Grandin's suggestions. I'd like for her to come to Pittsburgh and visit the zoo and aquarium to see what she thinks. Along the same lines, I'd also like to know her opinions on sea life as well. Fishies and penguins and manta rays are bad ass too. I'd be interested to hear her opinion of them as animals as well.

I'm also excited to see what people think of this in our book club. This is the first book that has been chosen that was not some hardcore philosophical or sociological study, so the discussion should be pretty interesting.
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Reading Progress

06/17/2010 "Into the chapter on cats now."

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Kristin (new) - added it

Kristin Gansor i cant wait to see what you think, i wanted to read this book.


message 2: by El (new) - rated it 4 stars

El So far, so good, Kristin. I haven't read anything by Cesar Millan, but I've seen him on TV and his "pack leader" talk regarding dogs always bugged me. Grandin has a different approach which is refreshing to see. I'm looking forward to what else she thinks.


message 3: by Alex (last edited Jun 16, 2010 09:14AM) (new)

Alex I'm interested in this too.

I agree that Cesar Millan's approach is generally silly, although I should confess that when Gus really flips out - very rarely, a dog really scares him - Cesar's retarded alpha flip thing actually does work to calm him down and distract him.

We have some games we play for that "seeking and play" stuff this book's description mentions. We do a hide-the-treat thing where we put it under one of three cups and let Gus try to figure it out and access it. And we bought this treat dispensing toy that kinda drops treats as Gus messes with it. Not this, but same idea.

And of course training really stimulates Gus. When Kirs isn't around I teach him all kinds of stupid stuff. He can high five; I put my hand up and he jumps up and smacks it with his nose. Kirs says that's useless, which goes to show you how very little she understands. Sad, really.

I'd be psyched to hear any little games like that Grandin mentions. Or any that you play already.


message 4: by El (new) - rated it 4 stars

El Grandin doesn't pooh-pooh Millan exactly, but explains that for what he does with all those aggressive dogs in a caged area, the alpha approach is probably appropriate. But that doesn't mean that it works the same in a household with a mommy and daddy figure. The training goes both ways, but the parents need to be firm in their approach so the dog/child doesn't run the house. With our new puppy the biggest thing we're going to have to do with him is get him to settle down when it's time for his dinner. He pulls this Tasmanian Devil routine every time we pick up his bowl, and that has to stop before one of us dies and/or he destroys the hardwood floor with his nails. He also gets so excited he runs into walls and cabinet doors which makes me worried that eventually he's going to break himself.

Our husky used to do high fives and she especially enjoyed high tens. I don't know if you've ever known any huskies, but they don't bark so much as they... roodle. So she'd get all excited, throw a high five or ten and make those adorable sounds, "Roo, roo, rooroorooo!" Sooo cute. I miss her.

I agree with your wife that Gus's skills might not bring in the big bucks, but it sure is cute. After seeing that video you showed us, I didn't think Gus was capable of moving much at all.

We tend to treat our animals like people. So if I get off the couch to get a glass of water and I come back and our chow-husky has moved into that spot to sleep, I just sit on the floor. I'm curious to see what Grandin thinks of that - if she even discusses it here. I know a lot of people are horrified. I figure though that she's 11 years old, has had arthritis in her back legs since she was a puppy, she's already lost her brother... yeah, she can have the couch if she wants it.


message 5: by Alex (new)

Alex The food freakout sounds really cute. (I know...I'm so helpful.) Have you done training where you, like, pick up and set his bowl down a million times while getting him to sit? Or is he too young to really get "sit" in the first place?

I know that roodle! My sister has a husky.

I was gonna judge you for the couch bit until your explanation. I think you have a point: at a certain age, you're allowed to kinda renegotiate the usual rules.


message 6: by El (new) - rated it 4 stars

El Our pug isn't too young to get the whole "sit" phenomena, but he also thinks it's sort of an optional thing. The problem he has is with waiting, which is something else Grandin discusses. So the "wait" command is really what I want us to focus on.

The whole "seeking" thing is pretty neat to me too. I've always understood dogs like being able to search for treats and toys, it sort of mixes up the fun for them, but we haven't done much of it necessarily. We have Kongs which they all adore, but when I hide a treat under a blanket they sort of just look at me like, "What, are you kidding me? It goes in my mouth. Blanket? Pfft." So we're going to start working on that too. Seeking is supposed to make dogs happier animals.

I'm excited by this book. I didn't think I would be - this isn't sort of my thing. But it really is fun.


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