Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: The Soul of All Living Creatures

When I was a student in zoology, we were tasked with studying an animal at the zoo and writing a paper about our observations. It seemed so simple at the outset. I chose zebras and spent hours watching them graze in their confined space. I studied their stripes. I worked at distinguishing one animal from another. In essence, I had no idea what I was doing.

Studying animals and animal behavior seems like it should be a simple and straightforward task, too. A dog wags his tail; he's happy. But there's so much more to it than that, which is exactly why we need veterinarians like Vint Virga to observe our animals and treat them when there's something wrong. Dr. Virga sees more than just the symptoms displayed by a sick or injured animal; he sees the whole being and its relationship to us.

As a specialist in veterinary behavioral medicine and consultant to zoos and wild animal parks, Dr. Virga's expertise spans the animal kingdom from dogs and cats to wild species such as leopards, gibbons, wolves, and giraffes. He has served as an advisor to leading U.S. corporations, professional associations, and animal welfare organizations and has appeared as a featured guest on ABC World News, National Geographic Explorer, and PBS Nature.

What I learned from reading his book is how patient we need to be with our animals when they're sick. And how patient we need to be with ourselves. We're so quick in our society today to rush to solve problems without always understanding what the problem is. We may not even recognize what we're seeing when we observe our pets or other animals. There's a language there that we haven't quite breeched. It takes more time, more practice, and more patience.

I enjoyed reading Dr. Virga's book because it wasn't just about the animals. It's about our relationship to them and what we learn about ourselves as we learn more about the animals around us. This is a book for any type of animal lover -- including those interested in human behavior.

You can read more about Dr. Virga and his book The Soul of All Living Creatures in this New York Times article.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books to review.