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The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human Paperback – July 8, 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Images from Author Dr. Vint Virga's Work

Despite their species differences, this African wild dog reminds me of so many domestic dogs I've known in his nuanced behaviors—the way he perks one ear, his calm studied gaze, how he bounds into holding when his keeper calls ahead of the other three males in the pack. Photo (c) Meg Bradbury Stowe

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Red Panda
Early each morning before the zoo opens, this red panda can be found scaling the stairs and tiers of his climbing structure foraging for his favorite food—bamboo stalks which his keepers have hung within the trees of his habitat. Photo (c) Meg Bradbury Stowe

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Snow Leopard
Befitting his ancestry, when outside in his habitat, this young male snow leopard blends within the boulders almost to a shadow, mindfully watching the zoo visitors below while I study him from my perch near the rock wall. Photo (c) Vint Virga, DVM

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--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

Early in his career as a veterinarian, Virga witnessed how his quiet presence and contact with a dog that seemed to be failing after being hit by a car likely saved the dog’s life. The incident led him to ponder over 30 years as a specialist in behavioral medicine the connections between humans and animals. Beyond diagnostic tests and medical treatments, Virga recounts cases of animals, from cats and dogs to wolves and whales, adapting to illness, change, and impending death in ways that inform and are informed by relationships with humans. He notes cave drawings illustrating the connections, not just as predator and prey, between humans and animals as evidence of our fascination with animals. Indeed, our early connection with wolves led to the evolution of a domestic companion. In separate chapters, using case histories and research, he focuses on sensitivity, expressivity, forgiveness, integrity, adaptability, mindfulness, and other basic traits animals and humans share and how we can better understand animal behavior. Animal lovers will appreciate this tribute to the connection between humans and animals. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307718875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307718877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rebecca of Amazon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Soul of All Living Creatures" is a book about animal observations through the eyes of a vet who deals with various problems and comes up with creative solutions. Vint Virga begins this book with a beautiful story of how he connects with a dog that is traumatized after being hit by a truck. The story brought tears to my eyes.

Then there is the story of a child who overwhelms her favorite kitten with too much affection. Vint Virga has some good ideas about how to calm anxious kitties. Then the stories go on with one about a dog who exhibits obsessive compulsive disorder. Although no hint is given as to how this dog was helped. The chapter does however focus a lot of time on the human brain.

What I noticed most about this lovely book is the creative writing style. Vint Virga really captures every nuance of each experience with various animals including wolves and tigers. He also talks a bit about how zoos prevent animals from going extinct, especially ocelots.

I think if you love animals you will be fascinated by this book. You will get a behind the scenes look at how vets care for animals in zoos, homes and in the wild. The best story in this book is about how a mouse is saved in a rain storm.

~The Rebecca Review
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A specialist in (animal) behavioral medicine, the author intertwines observations of some of his patients with his thoughts on mindfulness and traits humans and animals share. Each chapter addresses one of the characteristics, ranging from sensitivity to forgiveness. The author posits that humans can learn how to embody those qualities by listening and studying the animals around them.

Although this book covers a lot of ground, the author's philosophical musings failed to move. I was hoping for the level of emotion the author evoked in the introduction, with the story of Pongo, a young dog struck by a car. The animal literally seemed to revive and recover due to the power of love. It spoke volumes about the author, a vet willing to give more than medical treatment and to a dog, whose spirit was drawn by the warmth of human contact. I was touched by the sadness of the depressed and stressed leopards but most of the stories were mundane and not especially memorable. Still there are hints of brilliance when the author grapples with shocking violence of predation and the brutality of slaughterhouses and animal experimentation. But it sinks into bittersweet melancholy.

I am not sure I agree with his zen observations and it is really time to retire some of the old stories , ie 3 blind men and the elephant, the last strawberry before you die, etc. At one point the author suggests that due to the many different breeds of dog, animals are no longer able to communicate as a pack. An evening watching Cesar Milan would certainly dispute that. Some of his conclusions are contradictory and confusing. At one point he states that dogs do not feel guilty but respond expressively to their owners cues.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Humans have always been fascinated with animals and their antics. Author Vint Virga, veterinarian and animal behaviorist, believes there is a deep unity between animals and ourselves, and that we can learn a great deal about ourselves by studying them with open minds and with respect. Dr. Virga has spent many hours observing and studying animals, both at home and at the zoo where he consults. In this short book he uses case studies from his practice to illuminate such profound concepts as Mindfulness, Adaptability, Presence and Forgiveness, and many others. In the course of the book he shares from his vast wealth of clinical experience, reading and study, information about animals and their behaviors we might never have known.

Unfortunately the book is not easy reading. Author Virga writes in long, complicated sentences, and digresses too often into well-worn paths of Buddhist philosophy. Many of the parables he quotes are too well-known and told at too great length. This reviewer would have liked to hear more about the animals themselves, and less of Dr. Virga's speculations about their possible feelings and motivations. Still, there's a lot of value in this book and I'm glad I read it. I recommend it, but if you're looking for short colorful anecdotes about cute animals, you may be disappointed. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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Format: Hardcover
Amazingly enough, this book did not make me cry. I expected heartbreaking stories, which I don't enjoy but which seem to come with the territory when reading about animals. There were stories, and there were some which are sad, some which really made me feel for the animals involved, but not break into ugly sobs.

Subtitled "What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human," this book does that but it also teaches us more about animals, how close they are in emotions to humans, how they react to different situations, how their lives are more complex than the casual observer would ever guess.

One of the passages I could most relate to:

"When I watch others eat, I find it curious how absently most people cut at their steak, tear off a chicken wing, or gnaw at a bone, without a thought about their prey, the abattoir, the life that passed. I don't believe it's done with intention. It's just that meat is removed from its source - a fragment of another being."

Don't let me lead you into thinking this is a book about vegetarianism. It is not. But there are so many observations that I felt when I became a vegetarian that I could really connect to the book and the author.

The author is a consultant to zoos, and this leads to a quandary. Do we really have the right to keeps animals in cages, no matter how glorified, in order to protect the species as a whole? The author seems to think so. I'm not so convinced. One of the saddest stories in the book, the one that almost made me cry, was about a snow leopard so out of her element that her spirit had left her body. No one, animal or human, should have to live like that. And then there was the lonely whale.

The allegories in the book were not as appealing to me.
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