Slater (Blue Beyond Blue: Extraordinary Tales for Ordinary Dilemmas, 2005, etc.) shares her thoughts and feelings about animals in a revealing, often surprising memoir.
At age 9, when fleeing from her angry and troubled mother, the author found a hidden forest where she coaxed foxes to come to her with treats and where she found a tiny egg and brought it home, hoping a beautiful bird would emerge. The failure of the egg to hatch was the first of a series of encounters, love affairs and mishaps: with the horses at the riding camp in Maine; with the raccoon that entered her bedroom and became her pet in her foster home; with the damaged baby swan she tended as a vet’s tech right after college. However, it is her dogs, Lila and Musashi, that take center stage and introduce issues at the book’s heart: Why do humans keep pets, and what is the role of animals in our lives? Slater’s love for Lila, old and blind, her devotion to the dog’s welfare, the burden of her care, the veterinarian’s bills, the cost of medications—all are grounds for longstanding arguments with her husband, whose view of animals is strictly practical. She asks herself which she loves more, her children or her dogs, and she explores the idea that dogs were crucial to human evolution. Cro-Magnons, who welcomed wolves into their circle, thrived, while Neanderthals, who did not, became extinct. In the final chapters, she highlights her encounters with wasps and bats, species harder to bond with, but Slater continually surprises with connections she makes.
Beautifully written, and not just for animal lovers.