Pacific Book Review

Animals have often been considered second-class citizens by philosophers, religions and societies as a whole. Yet we can learn to be kinder, more humane, human beings by learning from animals. In her book, Encounters with Animals, author Barbara Linder observes our furred, feathered, scaled, and many-legged companions in a way that transcends their traditional purpose in our society; for example, as pets to us or as meat for our consumption. Linder teaches us how the Sioux considered animals their relations, and how Saint Francis of Assisi named them his brothers and sisters. It’s with this same mindset that Linder wrote Encounters with Animals and how you will come to think by the time your finish her beautiful book.

It’s easy to imagine Linder giving sermon, as she references her examples because she is such a companionable narrator. Sometimes her book even has a dreamlike quality. Linder’s anecdote about the herd of Elk that suddenly but peacefully surround her in a national park is an example of this. Certainly, you could read Encounters With Animals in one massive gulp but take Linder’s advice and restrain yourself to reading only one chapter at a time. This is also the best method to take full advantage of the reflection prompts Linder includes at the end of each chapter; a nice touch to give more substance and meaning. Interestingly, many of the animals Linder encounters are ones which have been traditionally feared; such as snakes, spiders and bears. It’s challenging to be asked why we are afraid of an animal and prompts a very interesting conversation with ourselves.

In the dogs chapter, Linder attempts to cover dog’s historical purpose in Greek, Roman and Native American societies; their history and current training as therapy and service animals, and as modern day companions; and the prevalence of stray dogs and their use as meat animals in foreign countries. It is a lot happening in a short chapter, and readers are even told that the Roman philosopher Cicero thought dogs were capable of expressing gratitude, which all dog owners nowadays knows to be true.

Through her studying about animals, Linder comes to appreciate them for their otherness. How interesting that through learning to be kind to animals, we can then learn to be more compassionate to our fellow man. By creating relationships with animals that appreciate them for their uniqueness, we can create more harmonious relationships with the humans in our lives. Animal lovers will adore Encounters with Animals, the way you look at your dog will never be the same

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Animals have often been considered second-class citizens by philosophers, religions and societies as a whole. Yet we can learn to be kinder, more humane, human beings by learning from animals. In her book, Encounters with Animals, author Barbara Linder observes our furred, feathered, scaled, and many-legged companions in a way that transcends their traditional purpose in our society; for example, as pets to us or as meat for our consumption. Linder teaches us how the Sioux considered animals their relations, and how Saint Francis of Assisi named them his brothers and sisters. It’s with this same mindset that Linder wrote Encounters with Animals and how you will come to think by the time your finish her beautiful book.

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Barbara Linder earned her masters and doctorate degree from the University of Denver where she also served as Assistant Dean of Women. She was later Dean of Women and taught at Idaho State University.

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