Animal Magnetism

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-10-13
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
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This heartfelt memoir from bestselling author Brown celebrates the animals who have loved, endured, and taught her, and showcases her bottomless love for them in return. bw photos throughout.

Author Biography

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sister Jane novels–Outfoxed, Hotspur, Full Cry, The Hunt Ball, The Hounds and the Fury, The Tell-Tale Horse, and Hounded to Death–as well as the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries and Rubyfruit Jungle, In Her Day, Six of One, and The Sand Castle, among many others. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xi
Money isn't Everything-Love Isp. 3
Animals Can Save Your Lifep. 9
Courtship and Matingp. 17
Every Animal Has a Giftp. 23
The Purpose of Plumagep. 29
Mother's Gift of Naturep. 35
My First Horse, Suzie Qp. 41
Natural Selectionp. 55
Animals Bring Out the Best in Usp. 63
The Pecking Orderp. 73
Love Restoresp. 81
Betting on Horsesp. 91
New Horizonsp. 105
Learning to Adaptp. 115
Don't Judge a Dog by Its Appearancep. 123
Humans Learn to Compromisep. 127
Finding My Wayp. 135
Pretty is as Pretty Doesp. 145
The Thrill of the Huntp. 155
A Bicycle Built for Twop. 169
Wisdomp. 177
Stand and Fightp. 185
A Home Runp. 197
Let Go of the Pain, Hold On to the Memoryp. 205
Gimme That Old-Time Religionp. 213
Birds of a Featherp. 221
Acknowledgmentsp. 235
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter One

Money Isn’t Everything—Love Is

From the time I could put two thoughts together, I knew that I wanted a foxhound of my very own. My grandfather (PopPop) and great-uncle Bob Harmon had kept American foxhounds for years and I was crazy about them. But my dad, granddad, and great-uncle thought that at six, I was too young to handle American foxhounds. They are tremendously sensitive and possess phenomenal drive. So they decided on a Chesapeake Bay Retriever for my first puppy, my first training experience. Turned out to be a wise choice, for they are easy dogs.

Chaps, along with PopPop’s hounds, taught me how to communicate with dogs. More importantly, he taught me about love. He also had a great sense of humor. He’d steal my baseball glove, he’d bring me what were to him treats (a deer leg), plus if a puddle of water presented itself, he’d dive in. He always wanted me in the puddle, creek, or river with him.

I learned not to doubt Chaps. His senses, keener than mine, proved an early warning system. He’d lift his head, open his nostril, and gather information. Or, like the foxhounds, he’d put his nose to ground.

Not until I was in my late teens did I realize I understood dog communication, thanks to Chaps, and thanks to PopPop and G-uncle (G for Great) Bob. Canines, cats, and horses have many more ways to communicate than we do. Ears swivel, pupils dilate or contract, hackles rise or fall, tails wag or stand straight out, and the range of sounds they absorb and react to is wide. Their acute hearing picks up a tiny gurgle from a mouse as well as the snort of a stag a quarter of a mile away. Fortunately for me, hearing is my strongest sense, nudging into the cat and canine range but still well beneath their powers. When I was five I heard things. Mother thought I was expressing imagination. Finally, she took me to a doctor for tests. She realized then that I wasn’t making things up.

Chaps, born into the long-standing contract between humans and dogs, played his part. I learned to play mine. He’d run ahead, stop, look at me, and say, “It’s safe up to this point.” Most people don’t realize what their dogs are telling them when they run ahead and stop. Now, this isn’t true with a pack of foxhounds, although it can be true with a foxhound kept as a pet. Their job is to put those noses down and pick up scent. But pets, the dogs that live with people, continually warn, protect, look out for their owners. So often the owners don’t get it.

The human part of the contract is this: you share food, nurse them when they’re sick, give them a warm, clean place to sleep, and a quiet passage out of life when they become too feeble or face pain.

As I was learning all of this I was loving every minute of it. I found I could communicate with animals better than with people. Actually, I didn’t communicate with people, at least not grown-ups, for I am of that generation that was sternly instructed, “Don’t speak unless spoken to.” Most of my childhood was spent silently observing, good practice for a writer. Good manners taught me silence and the animals taught me to observe without judgment. If an adult noticed me and began a conversation—usually with “How’s school?” or “How’s Chaps?”— then I could reply. However, I was not to ask questions. That would be rude. I could question the family (within reason) but no one outside of the family.

Chaps could smell emotional states. We give off scent but our olfactory organ is poor, so we can detect stinky sweat, the sweat of fear, or the opposite, cleanliness, or fragrant flowers, but not much more. Consider that a foxhound has about one hundred million scent receptors. You and I bump along with ten million. We can’t imagine the texture, the medley

Excerpted from Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small by Rita Mae Brown
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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