Forget about ordering your dog to sit. Instead, breathe, imagine, visualize.
We’re not in the tough-hided world of Temple Grandin here: Katz (Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion, 2015, etc.) is a soft-hearted, warm advocate for animals of all kinds, and he’s disinclined to use tried-and-true methods of demand and reward. Of one dog, he writes, “I had no commands to give Rose, no words, but I had images and I painted a sketch in my head of what I wanted to happen.” That’s about as New Age–y as it gets, but it helps explain why just about every town in America now sports a business for pet psychiatrists and animal communicators. It’s when the animals start talking back that things get a little weird, as when said dog supposedly remarked, “I can do it, give me a chance to succeed.” A little of this goes a long way, and there’s a lot of it—a lot of what Katz calls “sweet noise.” Still, the author chronicles many affecting encounters with animals, and it is indisputable that, as Katz observes, animals are disappearing from our lives, “vanishing at a horrific rate.” For all the tender moments and divinations of body language—a horse with its head down is not fearful but relaxed—the author is capable of righteous fire. When it comes to Bill de Blasio and the ban on carriage horses in New York, circuses, and such, he gets his dander up: “It has become a popular idea in America, this notion that it is cruel for working animals to work with people, exploitive for animals to uplift or entertain people.” It seems a curious mix of purposes to want to talk with bunnies on one hand and draft animals on the other, but it’s of a piece with Katz’s particular brand of advocacy, which has many supporters.
Animal lovers with a bent for the woo-woo will enjoy this well-intended but often cloying book.