August 20, 2007

Book Review: Pet Locksmiths

Unlocking the Animal Mind: How Your Pet's Feelings Hold the Key to his Health and Happiness by Franklin D. McMillan, D.V.M. with Kathryn Lance (Rodale Press, 2004, ISBN 1-57954-880-6)

This book was written by: Dr. McMillan is a Los Angeles veterinarian who has treated the pets of celebrities like Bob Barker, and consulted on the sets of films. Dr. McMillan establishes these credentials at the start of the book by having Bob Barker write the foreword, and relating in the first chapter how he was working on the set of Dr. Doolittle, when an animatronic robot standing in for the live dog that he had been working with had him "completely fooled" (p.2).
Kathryn Lance is a freelance writer whose co-writing credits include The Botox Book and Total Sexual Fitness for Women.

What is in this book: Dr. McMillan's assertion that since animals feel pain, they must feel other emotions as well, because the idea "that evolution would have created just one feeling in nonhuman animals defies any reasonable logic" (p.9). Doctor McMillan also draws connections between the physical ailments in animals and the emotional stresses brought on by their environment, arguing that in some cases a change to an animal's emotional environment will correct its physical illness.
Then he talks about when it's okay to kill your pet, because "when all other efforts fail to adequately protect your pet from a life dominated by persistent unpleasant feelings, we still have [euthanasia as] a tool that assures him full protection" (p.274).

What is not in this book: Instructions on the correct use of drills, nitroglycerine, stethoscopes, or autodialers. Unlocking the animal mind is completely unlike unlocking a bank vault.

Would you recommend this book to a locksmith? Yes, if the locksmith was interested in reading about a cat who, when signaling his desire to be petted, "would plop down on his side next to any hand he could get near and, reaching with both his front paws, grab hold of the nearby person's hand and pull it onto the top of his head, as if he were putting on a hat" (p.161).

Would you recommend this book to a serial killer? I would recommend that a serial killer keep the hell away from me.

What is interesting about this book? The inference drawn from the foreword and the opening chapter that "during the last 20 years"(p. vi), Bob Barker has entrusted his pets to a man who is fooled by mechanical dogs.
The book is also full of animal stories, both in sidebars and worked into the text, like the story about a cat that saved its kittens from a burning building (p.38), and the sheepdog who was used to long bangs blocking his eyesight, and ended up terrified of everything he could see after a new haircut (p.64).
Dr. McMillan does not feel the need to make sure that these are all happy stories, and also writes about animals like the cat who was so stricken by grief that euthanasia was the only course of action (p.76), the dog who never got over being traumatized by an earthquake(p.81), and the cat that was hit by a car and dragged itself home to die (p.106).

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