New Year’s resolutions for animal lovers: #5 – Learn something new about animals

New Year’s resolutions for animal lovers: #5 – Learn something new about animals December 30, 2011
One of my goals for 2012: learn more about otters! (Photo credit: Jacqueline Yockey)

To say that I read a lot would be an understatement; I try to average a book a week, and my topics range from pop fiction to indepth nonfiction on a variety of subjects. But one this is for sure: on my reading list every year are books about animals. All kinds of animals.

This year, for example, I stumbled upon a book called “Red Tails In Love” at the used bookstore, about the birds in Central Park, specifically the red tailed hawks that made headlines when they nested on a posh building. That led to “The Big Year”, a book about three guys chasing a dream of seeing the most birds in a single year.

Note that I am not a birdwatcher. I just like learning stuff. I’m fascinated by facts and figures and trivia and stuff that makes me go, “Ooo, now that’s interesting!” (For example, did you know that people used to use dogs to turn the spits that roasted meat in a fireplace? They were called … Turnspit dogs!) I think it’s important to keep learning – it makes me a better pet owner, a better person, and a better member of my community. (And maybe even a little more interesting … or at least it gives me an edge when I watch “Jeopardy”.)

So my last suggestion for a New Year’s resolution: #5 – Learn something new about animals!

Dog Tips from Dogtown is a fantastic book that will introduce you to the basics of positive-based dog training.

Learn more about dogs or cats. Did you know that when a dog rolls over on his back, it means he’s surrendering or relaxed? When a cat rolls over on his back, however, it’s a sign that he’s ready to fight and he’s getting all four paws ready for battle. No wonder dogs and cats don’t get along – they don’t speak the same language! If you’re interested in learning a little more about dogs, check out “Dog Tips from Dogtown: A relationship manual for you and your dog.” It’s a fantastic way to understand how to build a relationship with your dog and why a positive approach makes more sense than a dominance-based approach. Then when you’re ready to delve more deeply into dog behavior, try these books (I have a whole list of books that I’d recommend; this is just a sampling):

  • “The Other End of the Leash”, by Patricia McConnell
  • “Bones Would Rain Down From The Sky,” by Suzanne Clothier
  • “Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution” by Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger (this is an indepth book with lots of scientific info but well worth reading)
  • And if you want to learn more about cats, you can start with Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’s “The Tribe of Tiger”.

Learn about animals other than dogs or cats. You don’t have to want to become a birdwatcher to read a book like “Red Tails in Love,” just have desire to learn more about the animal world.  This year, I’m going to study up on the river otter project here in Rochester. I love otters. Maybe whales or dolphins or insects or lizards or chimps or elephants really light your fire. Maybe you’ve always been curious about penguins. You don’t need to take a college course in zoology. Just read a book or rent a documentary or go the zoo or local wildlife sancturay and talk to a caretaker. (And check back here throughout the year as I share random animal trivia –  maybe even about otters!)

Learn more about your town’s animal ordinances – including breed specific legislation. The story of retired police officer James Sak and his pit bull service dog Snickers, and how his local town council on Aurelia, Iowa ordered the dog be moved to oustide the town limits, captured the hearts of Americans. But most people don’t know that breed specific legislation is in force in cities all across the U.S. Start with websites like the ASPCA to learn more. You can also contact your town’s animal control officer to learn more about laws in your community.

Learn more about what the Bible says about animals. January is a great time to start a new Bible study. Why not start by searching for verses about animals and see what God says about our relationship with things that fly, crawl, slither, swim and snuggle under our covers? You might learn, for example, that according to Genesis, things that fly or abound in the water were created on the fifth day; the rest of the animals came the day after. I wonder why that is? (See Genesis 1:20-31)


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