I don’t know about you, but the state of the world is such right now that I need lots of healthy distractions. (What, is the vodka, triple sec, pomegranate, lime juice, club soda drink I sort of invented not healthy?) I am indeed doing what I can to be a good, active citizen, but one can’t spend all day in the weeds of chaos without descending into the murk permanently.

And so, let’s have a discussion about new and wonderful things. They don’t have to be new to the world, just to you. Here are some things on my list:

Emma Parson’s The New Click to Calm book has a great chapter titled “Teaching Emergency Behaviors.” This section is especially relevant given our discussion last month about feeling guilty if your dog is reactive. I mentioned how important it is for owners to be given tools to help them cope with their own emotions beyond “Don’t be nervous, it just makes your dog worse.” Parson’s chapter is full of excellent tools to help both dogs and owners cope with surprising or scary situations, from backing up on cue when approached by a  stranger, targeting to an outstretched hand on cue, and turning on a dime away from potential trouble.

Karen London and I call this the “Emergency U-Turn” in our booklet Feisty Fido, and it’s one of my favorite cues to teach any dog. I can’t tell you how many clients I had who felt empowered by the ability to chirp “Let’s Go!” to their dog and pivot away from trouble with a relaxed, compliant dog. If you have a reactive dog, or see clients with them, this is a great book to have as a resource.

Speaking of great books, I was sent two books to review by an editor in the publishing house of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Receiving books to review is both a blessing and a curse . . . the piles of books by one’s bed and desk are constant reminders of THINGS YOU HAVEN’T DONE YET. This batch turned out to be a blessing though, and I can’t recommend these books more highly.

First off, The Arbornaut is a compelling read that–warning–has nothing to do with dogs. But it has everything to do with a brilliant woman, Meg Lowman, who has revolutionized the study of trees. Dr. Lowman has been called the “Einstein of the Treetops,” having been a pioneer in studying trees in the canopy, rather than from the ground. (Which she describes as having a doctor examine your big toe and nothing else to evaluate your health.) This memoir is a testament to what professional women had (have?) to go through to make their way in the world, and is an inspiration to anyone who loves the natural world, and is trying to succeed in a male-dominated one. The Arbornaut reads like a novel; I couldn’t put it down.

The second book from FSG is And a Dog Called Fig: Solitude, Connection and the Writing Life, by Helen Humphreys. I read it in two long gulps, only stopping because I had to get up and feed the dogs. Here’s what I had to say about it:

“It’s not often that a book inspires as much as it entertains, but somehow I felt like a better person after reading Helen Humphreys’s book And a Dog Called Fig. It’s a meditation on solitude, writing, and our connection with dogs, as seen through the eyes of Humphreys and a parade of famous dog-loving writers. I picked it up intending to glance at the first few pages and put it down hours later, but only because my hungry dogs needed their breakfast. I folded the corners of so many pages that the book looks twice as thick as before. It’s a rich, sumptuous, and brilliant book, and we are all lucky to have it.”

Yeah, that’s pretty much a rave. I loved the book, but don’t order it assuming it’s a book about dog training. It’s exactly what it says, a book about solitude, the natural world, writing, and the connections of the author and other writers to their dogs. If those things trip your trigger, I think you’ll love the book. The only down side here is that the publication date isn’t until March, 2022. It seems publishers (and movie producers) start marketing their products earlier and earlier. Soon we’ll be “pre-ordering” books coming out in 2023. (Excuse the diversion, but if you order a book that is coming out later, how is it “pre-ordering”? Haven’t you actually ordered it?) But I really did love this book, and will use it as inspiration while I get back to working on my mystery novel. (More on that next week!)


               Photo from Kathy Keat’s website

On a different note, any of you who compete in dog sports might know the name Kathy Keats. She was an elite athlete (basketball, Player of the Year in the National Finals) and now coaches people who compete in dog sports. I have found her work incredibly useful; I spoke with her earlier in the year and she helped me be much more comfortable when standing at the post at sheepdog competitions. She has a great blog, and has just started a podcast, The Kathy Keats Show. Kathy is compassionate and crazy smart about helping the competitor at the other end of the leash be at their best.  She has a new, free series about getting your head in the right place when you’re competing. Check it out.

Want a laugh? And to learn something weird and equally wonderful about animals? Then listen to Melissa McCue-McGrath’s podcast, Bewilderbeasts. Full of stories about fish farts preventing a war, bees trained to find landmines, and a cat who solved a murder mystery, the podcast is both humorous (don’t miss the exploding whale fail tale) and enlightening. Who knew, for example, that:

“. . . President Jackson, America’s problematic 7th president, got his wife, Rachel, a pet bird. When Rachel died weeks before Jackson’s inauguration, Jackson did what all of us Millennials did when we got our first Furbies – we taught them to swear. By all accounts, Jackson thought this was hilarious, but not everyone felt this way. Most notably, the reverend who was presiding over President Jackson’s funeral, who had to pause the service in order to have Poll escorted out of the service because the bird wouldn’t stop dropping F-bombs like a pirate.”

See, now you’re a historian.

What about you? Tell us what interesting things have come into your world lately. Books? Podcasts? Movies? New drink recipes? (Wait, who added that in?)

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Lately, I’ve been communing with the oak trees on our property. Some are white oaks, some red or black (hard for me to tell the difference between those two sometimes). I took a shot of one of the biggest oaks today, on a flat, grey day, and ended up with this:

I shot it at a higher than usual ISO, which is partly why it looks like a water color painting. Not what I expected, but I love it.

Nellie loves to accompany me on photo journeys around the farm. She leapt up onto this gate post as soon as I walked through it, and then considered jumping to the far side of the gate.

She must have decided it was too far, because all of a sudden it became extremely important for her to scent mark an adjacent piece of wood.

This sunflower photo looks like it was shot in a studio, but that background is actually the sky. Like I said: A flat, grey day.

Maggie would like to know why I am doing such boring things when we could be WORKING SHEEP.

What about you? What’s new and not boring and good and interesting and fun? We’re all ears.

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