Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Can dogs teach us how to save the planet? Perhaps, according to Masson (When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals), who claims that children who understand that we must share our planet with other creatures have had an early dose of canine devotion. This claim probably would be more convincing if Masson's preceding chapters were less blandly argued. Masson maps the canine heart in anecdotes, lore and scientific data, examining doggy manifestations of emotions such as love, loyalty, loneliness, compassion and aggression. He writes that he acquired three dogs specifically to aid him in his research, and he dutifully records an uneventful series of woodland walks and backyard romps. Although he asks good questions (Do dogs dream? Can they feel gratitude?), his answers are rarely illuminating, and some of the most provocative material (such as a study indicating that dogs "know" their masters are on their way home from work up to an hour before their arrival) is given only a tantalizing gloss. Throughout, Masson's enthusiasm for dogs is infectious, but he contrasts humans unfavorably with dogs, deploring our failure to live in the present, our destructiveness toward the environment, our ambivalence and our aggression. This misanthropy might seem justified if he were able to better elucidate canine psychology, but in the end he can concede only that "Dogskeep their deepest mysteries to themselves." Line drawings. Major ad/ promo; simultaneous Random House audio; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Riding the wave generated by his bestselling When Elephants Weep (1995), Masson offers further clever musings on the emotional lives of animals, concentrating on that most fervent practitioner of interspecies devotion, Rover. Again, as in his earlier book, Masson serves a bounty of curious animal stories designed to at least hint at a complex inner life, full of deep feelings, in dogs. He doesn't claim to be following any particular scientific method. In fact, one of the best parts of this book is a canny dissection of anthropomorphism: when it is egregiously applied and clouds our understanding; when it serves as a scientific gag order, a closing of the mind. And he reminds the reader more often than necessary that his suppostions are a far cry from proof. He is just following his instincts, backing them up when he can from the formidable amount of research done on animal behavior. What this boils down to is Masson the storyteller, reeling off tale after tale of dog behavior that cries out to be considered on the emotional level. Many of the stories are of the winning, feel-good variety, of forgiveness and courage and loyalty (including one in which a trained police dog disobeys an apparently unjust order to attack), of their bottomless capacity for love and fun. There are darker stories, too--fashioned to raise our ire--of dogs' humiliation and abuse and abandonment at the hands of humans. But Masson can be irritating, tendering opinions as facts: ``No other animal (wild, tame, or domesticated) carries such meaning for humans as the dog,'' and ``Dogs do not lie to you about how they feel,'' as if he knows that dogs are incapable of a put-on. Masson may be an anecdotist, but he is also a graceful, powerful, informed writer. He knows how to keep our cogs turning. (line drawings) (Author tour)
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