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VINE VOICEon January 8, 2009
Understanding animals and "Creating the Best Life for Animals" is the focus of Temple Grandin's new book. As it turns out, we have more in common emotionally with our animal friends than we knew. "All animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain." The Core Emotions are: 1. Seeking, 2. Rage, 3.Fear, and 4. Panic; plus three sophisticated, special-purpose ones: 5. Lust (sex drive) 6. Care, and 7. Play.

Temple Grandin, as a person with autism, brings her unique perspective about animal emotions and behavior to her readers. Her tendency to "think in pictures", rather than in words--among other things--aids her ability to "see things from animals point of view". Despite the fact that she is autistic, she has achieved an almost unheard of success in the "real world", academically and within the industry of animal husbandry, as also the lay public. Dr. Grandin has authored or co-authored numerous books, and is also a popular speaker.

"Animals Make Us Human" is not only quite readable to the "lay" audience, but the book is also firmly rooted in scientific research. Her co-author, Catherine Johnson, PhD; is a writer in the field of neuropsychiatry and the brain. The book is well-indexed and extensively footnoted. This is a huge improvement over her earlier book,"Animals in Translation". She sites over one hundred scientific papers (which I find amazing)that help back up the information she bases on her personal intuition and experiences with the animals she works with. Also, she loves them.

I found her previous book, "Animals in Translation", intriguing and readable. Although I found much of her reasoning to be rather speculative, it did give me a lot of food for thought. I found myself quoting from it, or remembering passages that relating to dogs or cats that made me see my pets in a different light. While she writes lots of interesting things about these house pets, her very favorite animal is the cow. I just love the part where she lies in the middle of the cow pasture, until the cows get curious and come over to her and lick her face!

I've been excited to read Grandin's new book,"Animals make us Human"; every since I listened to a 38 minute interview she gave on the NPR "Fresh Air" program on January 5th. This subject promises to be just as interesting and eminently relevant to us human-animals. The first chapter, "What Do Animals Need?" laid a good basis for understanding the subsequent chapters. In "A Dog's Life" I learned that some assumptions that we make about dogs, e.g. pack behavior and the concept of "alpha wolf" may not be entirely correct. (No spoilers here! You'll have to read it yourself to find out why!). The next chapters are also about my animal favorites: Cats and Horses. Of course we read about livestock animals (Grandin's speciality), as well as wild and captive wild animals.

Regarding prices and availability of the book, I checked all the major national bookstores, and each of them had a significantly higher price for this book than the price here at Amazon. Some of the stores don't even have the book on their shelves yet. So you can get it faster and cheaper from Amazon. Free two-day delivery for members of Amazon Prime. Or add $3.99, as I did, for overnight delivery. An excellent price for an excellent book. I also appreciate that the book's binding, print, and the paper it is printed on is good quality. It's a keeper. Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon February 17, 2009
Grandin, an animal behaviorist known for her humane slaughterhouse designs and her outstanding books on autism (particularly her memoir "Thinking in Pictures") and relationships with animals ("Animals in Translation"), focuses on how we can give domestic animals the best life.

Most people will find the chapters on cats and dogs the most useful. Other chapters explore the emotional and physical worlds of horses, cows, pigs, poultry, wildlife and zoo animals and how each intersects with humans (not always a pretty picture). In each, Grandin engages the reader with illuminating behavioral studies and empathic interpretations.

She approaches her subject with a system. "The rule is simple: Don't stimulate RAGE, FEAR, and PANIC if you can help it, and do stimulate SEEKING and also PLAY."

Much of her advice is common sense but the science offers fascinating reinforcement and explanation. Purebred dogs, for instance, have lost a lot of the wolf's natural submissive behaviors -- designed to keep the peace -- and may no longer be able to recognize warning signs in other dogs.

She also calls the animal's natural social evolution into play. Dogs, she says, descend from families of wolves, not packs, and are looking for a parent, not an alpha. Horses' fear and flight responses are the basis of their survival in the wild and training them requires reassurance, not breaking.

She shows how to recognize emotional states in animals and gives advice on avoiding negative reactions. All animals are frightened by new things -- and all animals are attracted to new things. It all depends on how it's presented -- forcibly or voluntarily.

In conclusion Grandin observes that "many cattle have better lives than some of the pampered pets," citing separation anxiety in dogs who hate to be left alone for hours. In Grandin's view, if people paid attention to the emotional lives of the creatures that depend on them, all would have a better quality of life.

While particularly of interest to people with pets or farm animals, Grandin's take on animals always sparks reflection.
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on January 21, 2009
I read this book in one sitting. As a veterinarian and writer, I've come across many, many silly books about animals. But Animals Make Us Human (along with Animals In Translation) is truly an enlightening and thought-provoking and dare I say 'necessary' read for any pet owner or anyone in the animal husbandry industry. This should be an Oprah pick for the mere chance to open the minds of the general populace to the natural world around us and those inhabitants who share this globe with us. For true insight, forget Cesar Millan...read this book today.
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on September 27, 2009
I believe that I have read all of Dr. Grandin's previous books, however this to me is the best one yet! As someone who nearly never marks up a book, my copy of Animals Make Us Human has now set the record for my most folded, underlined and highlighted so far!

Dr. Grandin provides numerous "ah-HAH" moments......presenting us with ideas where you immediately feel its' truth.

As an example, I've never been able to buy into the "alpha-dog" concept presented in so many dog training books and popular TV shows. Employing domination techniques (and especially an "alpha-roll") is counter-intuitive when I look into the eyes of my canine friends.

Dr. Grandin cites studies of wolves in their natural environment that indicate that, "In the wild, wolves don't live in wolf packs, and they don't have an alpha male who fights the other wolves to maintain his dominance. Our whole image of wolf packs is completely wrong. Instead, wolves live in the way people do: in families made up of a mom, a dad, and their children."

To some, the difference between an alpha male and a father may not seem so significant, but to me it makes all the difference in the world. It's the difference between a relationship based in dominance and aggression and one based on love and mutual respect.

For all serious students of our relationship with dogs this is not only a "must read", but a "must read twice"!
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on August 22, 2009
This book gets 2 stars from me because it contained some interesting material. However, 70 pages in, I came to the following statement, "But abandoned cats do fine." This, in a book that purports to "create the best life for animals". Abandoned cats do not "do fine". They are frightened and wary and it is very hard for a stranger to capture or coax them. They wander into farmyards where they are mauled by the resident dog or attacked by the residents cats. They go into the woods where they are killed by coyotes and great horned owls. And if you live in an area where there are bobcats, the bobcats will kill them to get rid of a rival predator. Loose-running cats are also always at risk from traffic. There is no way that an abandoned cat will survive long, and its end will generally be cruel.
I was appalled that a book about making life better for animals would imply that it's okay to abandon an unwanted cat, because it will "do fine".
A little further on, the author has some things to say about adopting cats from a shelter, namely that it's best to adopt kittens, or if you must get an adult, get one that's been in the shelter less than 2 months. This also sends a bad message and may prevent really nice older cats from finding homes. We have four cats. One was abandoned near our place and we managed to coax her in -- and by the way, Dr. Grandin, she wasn't "doing fine"; she was starved to a skeleton and covered with ticks. The other 3 were adults when we adopted them, over a period of years, from our local shelter. Two of them had been in the shelter so long, they were out of time (one had been there 8 months). They all get along fine and socialize very well with us and each other. Over my decades of cat ownership, I've never had a cat who was so "colonized" to a shelter that it couldn't adjust very quickly to having a regular home. I'd love to know if anyone else has adopted a cat that tried to go back to the shelter where they got it. I have my doubts.
Like other reviewers, I could argue with more of the book's assertions about cats and their degree of attachment to their owners, and their lack of sensitivity to our body language and tone of voice, but I won't. Instead I'll just say,
read this book for some interesting things about the other types of animals, but take the cat chapter with a grain of salt.
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VINE VOICEon January 9, 2009
Animals have a powerful and eloquent advocate in author Temple Grandin, whose autism perhaps helps her connect with them. "Autism made school and social life hard, but it made animals easy," she explains. The subhead is Creating the Best Life for Animals, and that is the focus of each chapter. Anyone who loves animals will find this information fascinating and useful.

Animals make me happy. It is important to me that animals are happy themselves. It truly distresses me when animals are unhappy. Although I have lapsed, I was a vegetarian for years because of the thought of a slaughterhouse and what goes on there. Animals Make Us Human is a book for those of us who care deeply about animal welfare.

Grandin starts out with the basic needs of all animals: freedom from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury and disease. The guts of the book, however, are about more "human" needs: freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress. These needs remind me of our own human right to the pursuit of happiness. Grandin's focus on emotions as the key to an animal's happiness will ring true to any pet owner or animal lover.

The chapters on livestock -- especially the one on poultry -- have some distressing passages on how these animals are sometimes mistreated. Grandin's work in the industry to make the system more humane is a gift. So is this book.

Other books by Temple Grandin include Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior and Emergence: Labeled Autistic.

Here's the chapter list:
1. What do animals need?
2. A dog's life
3. Cats
4. Horses
5. Cows
6. Pigs
7. Chickens and other poultry
8. Wildlife
9. Zoos
10. Afterword: Why do I still work in the industry?
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on October 28, 2009
I'm not sure what role the co-author played (Catherine Johnson), but the book's strong suit is Gradin's command of scientific literature on animal behavior. Her areas of expertise are really livestock, though the chapters on domestic pets (dogs and cats) may be of most interest to most readers. (I'm surprised there isn't a chapter devoted to sheep and/or goats.) On p. 5, she states "all animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain," and then discusses the core emotions of SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, PANIC & PLAY in subsequent chapters on various animal groups (other core emotions--LUST, CARE--aren't focused on). Despite her work for the meat industry, Grandin has probably single-handedly done more to promote quality-of-life for livestock than any animal rights' organization. She recognizes the contradiction and moves on. Whatever the case, this is an important work that is not an easy read but worth the effort. The author seeks to understand the emotional life of animals through the filter of her autism and scientific literature, making for a fascinating read.
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on July 4, 2009
I won't provide a synopsis, that has been done better by others. I'd only add my thoughts that this book will likely show you how to be more humane. Understanding how animals think helps you to understand how to act with them. Her exposition of the FEELING reactions (her caps) seems to make sense; I haven't read the underlying research nor do I expect I will, so I can't say it's an accurate summary.

The only downside is that you may leave it feeling badly about how you treat your dog or cat, and I'd worry a bit that it might move the needle in ways that Grandin doesn't mean. Example: she talks about how having one dog risks creating separation anxiety, and having two dogs turns into a forced pack so doesn't fix the problem necessarily if the dogs aren't already siblings. The logical conclusion to draw here is to make sure, if you get two dogs, that you get siblings. But you can never get siblings unless you get dogs whose origin you know, and that means going to a breeder; pound and rescue dogs need not apply. I don't think Grandin means to create this result, but it's there.

Grandin also gives an explanation of why she can consider herself someone who loves animals and also work with the slaughterhouse industry. In that way she is a good point-counterpoint for authors like Peter Singer who contend that if you believe animals have thoughts and sensations then you are ethically bound not to eat them or work in the meat industry. You may not accept her explanations, but she obviously isn't being disingenuous: she certainly does believe what she's saying.

The writing style is crisp and clear. Not surprisingly for an autistic, it's straight to the point. The examples are not long or obtuse.
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on February 27, 2009
This is my favorite book at the moment. I've gone back to it again and again, and have ordered copies for my friends. I've made a nuisance of myself by bringing up things I've read in it during numerous conversations-but the book has so much of interest and application in it that it is hard to stop talking about it.
I have dogs, cats, horses, sheep, chickens and ducks. I also have cattle that graze our land regularly, so I'm interacting with them, as well.
I am delighted to have a greater understanding of all of our animals.
I've tried the trick of hanging pieces of string in the chicken coop, and love the results.
I've started clicker training my horses and dogs-I'd used voice markers previously, but I'm now convinced of the value of clicker training.
I've yet to try positive reinforcement for the cats, but I will certainly do so as soon as I have time.
I love the book, and highly recommend it, if you have any interest in animals.
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on August 1, 2009
This is an excellent book. As someone very interested in the ethical treatment of animals, this provides a wonderful framework for thinking about zoos, animals in the wild, pets and animals used for food. Not polemical in the sense of taking a radical view one way or the other on anything, but incredibly practical and realistic. All recommendations are based on field work and research - not opinion only.

Her discussion of dog behavior is fascinating.

Time to read some of her other books!
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