Non fiction
Inside of a Dog (What Dogs See, Smell and Know) by Alexandra Horowitz

The cover of 'Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know'.

The cover of ‘Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know’.

Don’t be put off by the title. Alexandra Horowitz is top dog when it comes to understanding the mysteries of pooch ownership. Of course, her voice is far from a cry in the wilderness: there are some terrific tomes about pups out there including What It’s Like to Be a Dog, by Gregory Berns, and Making Dogs Happy by Melissa Starling and Paul McGreevy.

But Horowitz, who teaches at New York’s Columbia University, has a PhD in dog cognition and also likes to sketch her dogs. This interplay of art and science is beautifully apparent in her writing, as she weaves hard facts with near mysticism. And dogs are a mystery.

To own and love a dog is one of life’s great satisfactions because they constantly surprise, frustrate and enchant us. How can they tell the difference when you open the front door to go out (knocking over furniture to come with you) or to take out the garbage (snoozing on)? How do they know what time it is? My own pup, Luna, has a habit of waking me with paws around my neck seconds before the alarm goes off at 7am.

“Dogs maintain a clock operated by other mechanisms not fully understood, which seem to read the day’s air,” Horowitz writes. “With sensitive machinery, researchers can detect the gentle currents that form as a summer’s day ends; warmed air pulled up along the inner walls creeps across the ceiling. This is no breeze, nor even a noticeable puff or waft. Yet the sensitive machinery that is the dog evidently detects this slow, inevitable flow.”

Dogs are different. They perceive the world differently, with some senses far superior to our own. Why they love us as much as they do, in spite of how badly some of us treat them, is the deepest mystery of all.

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