Wind Across the Everglades: hypnotically horrible

A 1958 schlocky movie had the star power to ignite the environmental movement–if it hadn’t gone so horribly wrong.

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Scent of the Missing: CSI Meets Marley and Me

scent of the missing book

Scent of the Missing is like CSI meets Marley and Me. Instead of learning about blood splatter patterns you take a tour of the world of volunteer search and rescue dogs. Susannah Charleson tells a totally personal account of how she got hooked on the work after a divorce and experience as a search pilot. I’d put off reading the novel because I recently lost my own dog, Jolly, and dreaded that kind of Marley and Me heart-wrenching ending. All dog stories have sad endings. Well–spoiler alert–not this one. The story ends when Puzzle is just starting her career as a search and rescue dog after a long journey of training getting there. So dog lovers can go ahead and pick this book up without fear of crying. Until I read this book I had no idea that so many of the search and rescue teams out there are volunteers. It’s like having a highly specialized fire fighting team on a national level. They get calls in the middle of the night, dodge paying jobs to help out in the field. Charleson says the friend who most understands is one who says “you want to learn to fly a dog” It’s that aspect of the book–how the search and rescue teams learn how to communicate with and absolutely trust their dogs–that most fascinates me. The dogs learn how to find any person in the case of disaster, a specific person in the case of a missing child or alzheimer’s

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Spoiler Alert: Don’t Dread The Ending in Koontz’s Dog Biography

Why didn’t anybody tell me that Dean Koontz  after my dog is such a big animal advocate? My sister Karen gave me his book A Big, Little Life after my dog Jolly died. I dreaded reading it, knowing that all dog stories have sad endings. What I didn’t expect was that it was both a delightful biography of an exceptional dog, Trixie Koontz, and an aggressive argument for the case that animals are mysterious, wondrous creatures worthy of respect and compassion. Yes, this novel is just more anecdotal evidence that dogs have complex minds and spirits and not just motivated to eat and survive like some kind of algae. I’m tired of hearing about how animal lovers anthropomorphize from people who would have us believe dogs are closer to corn stalks than to humans. They overlook the vast sums of evidence to the contrary and as Koontz succinctly derides them, are “invariably dogless.” Koontz once included a description of a guide dog from Canine Companions for Independence in book Midnight. The group reached out to him and he and his wife started visiting and supporting the place. Finally they adopted Trixie, who had to cut her guiding career short because of a bad knee. Any guide dog is exceptional–the human equivalent of a PhD–but Koontz delighted in Trixie’s spiritual as well as intellectual strength. While sick in the hospital, Trixie visited the cages of other animals in distress. Like many dogs, she was a discerning judge of character,

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Destination Wildlife: Another Must-Have Book for Wildlife Watchers

Literary agent Pamela Brodowsky people who travel to see animals will want have to dream about travel adventures. Destination Wildlife: An international site-by-site guide to the best places to experience endangered, rare and fascinating animals an their habitats gives you places and animals to aspire to see around the globe.

The book is exactly what you’d want to have on hand through a cold winter weekend when you’re dreaming about where you could travel next year. You’ll need some other books to get into the specifics of travel to all those destinations, but this is a nice way to browse your options. Written with the National Wildlife Federation, you can be pretty sure these are ways to see animals that aren’t going to hurt or exploit them.

Brodowsky is extremely diplomatic in describing the one place in the book I’d question: the wild horses of Assateague and Chincoteague. She describes the roundup of horses, some of which will be sold, adding “Depending on your personal preference, you might want to join or avoid the pony-swim crowd.” Fair enough, but I’d go further and say that many people who love wild horses would be disturbed by the round-up–especially since the horses are managed so differently on each side of the Maryland-Virginia border. The Maryland folks use the Humane Society’s birth control procedures (and allow dogs); the Virginian manage the herd to sell off horses every year to support their fire department (and ban dogs from the island, even inside

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Lonely Planet: A Year of Watching Wildlife (in what passes for easy ways)

Lonely Planet’s new A Year of Watching Wildlife: A Guide to the World’s Best Animal Encounters is one of those books any animal tourist is going to want. Gorgeous glossy photos show you schools of stingrays swimming from underneath, howler monkeys mid-howl, puffins with icicles hanging from their bright beaks.

The conceit of the book is that it’s a calendar. Lonely Planet gives you animals to see in every week of the year and a semi-plausible reason why they picked that week. Lots of the rationales are compelling, reasons like mating or baby season. But the calendar conceit gets a bit worn for all those animals that don’t really have a peak week to watch. We’re reminded how random travel advice can be with the push “You should visit [Andean condors in Peru] in April for good weather and to avoid the tourist season.” True enough, but there are big hunks of the year that applies to. Also, the book tells you to try to see them at Machu Picchu, acknowledging that you’re far more likely to see them at a canyon hundreds of miles away, but that “pales in comparison with the experience of seeing one of these ponderous birds towering over the ancient Inca city.” Or it would if you actually saw one there.

The book is a nice t’s a nice fantasy wish list, compiled as if you’ve only got a year to live, unlimited funds and all you want to do is see animals.

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