The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
I’m stuck at my mom’s house with not much to read. It was either this or one of my dad’s books about Nazis.
The author put me off right away by saying you should never pay for a dog. I don’t agree, but whatever, we can still be friends. But then slowly she reveals more attitudes that don’t make much sense to me. She unashamedly broke local leash laws and let her dogs jump her fence and wander around the city (Cambridge, Mass.), marveling at their ability to either find their way home or, if they couldn’t, to find a porch to wait on until the distant homeowner brought themselves to read the tag of the strange dog at their door and called her to come get it. The homeowners of Cambridge were often put upon by Marshall and her canine behavioral “experiments.” Woo, they loved it when she had a couple of wolves come to visit. I’m sure the whole neighborhood enjoyed their “singing.”
She also let her dogs remain unneutered and breed indiscriminately. One day she came home to find that, of her two females that had just given birth, one had just killed the other’s litter. Nice. Well, that’s what their wolf ancestors did in the wild, right? The pack can only care for one litter at a time so only the dominant female’s pups get to live. Thomas seemed to have this pseudo-scientific mindset that made it okay for her to stand back and observe what her dogs would do if undisturbed by human ideas of right and wrong behavior, but that would have been a really good time to intrude.
I was excited to read this book at first, and it has got me thinking that it would be the right thing for us to get another dog so that Cookie can have a buddy. But in the end I found Thomas’s insights to be kind of shallow, her descriptions inadequate, and the demise of her dog pack a bummer. Yes, everyone dies in the end.