Anyone familiar with my blog, or the Grouchy Puppy motto, will know that the central theme to the writing and social media posts is the broad positive influence of the human-dog bond.
When Dr. Patricia McConnell published her new book, The Education of Will, I was immediately interested because it spoke to what I hold dear, the positive influence of a dog. However, her stories of facing one fear after another pulled me through the book. Her self-effacing and humble style of sharing filled me with empathy. It isn't easy to face our fears even with the help of a special dog.
"I knew Willie like I knew myself. I knew what it was like to be happy and friendly on the outside and yet spend much of your life in fear."
This mutual memoir is a story of injury and recovery, but in addition to the themes of trauma, fear and love, I felt forgiveness, empathy, and compassion were striking themes throughout the book.
So often, to understand another it helps to show them compassion. When we first brought my dog home from the SPCA, I believe she settled in and bonded with us faster because we showed her compassion for being in a new place, with people she didn't know. It's an inspiring turning point in the book to read when Patricia McConnell begins to redirect some of the compassion she's been offering to others, towards herself.
As someone who had a reactive dog, I appreciated reading how other owners of dogs who are aggressive to other dogs carry this unique kind of fear every time they walk their dogs. Anyone who has adopted a reactive dog as well knows this kind of fear, especially living in a city with people and dogs always close by. Patricia McConnell shares many relatable stories that will cause you to sigh in relief knowing you are not alone in your struggles.
By facing her own fears, while helping Willie with his, Dr. McConnell shows us how forgiveness plays a big part in the healing process for both dog and person. She's right that being with dogs doesn't have to be pretty all the time.
"Trauma survivors understand that a sense of control is essential to one's humanity - and dog's need a sense that they are not helpless victims."
Growing up, I benefited from having a close relationship with our family dogs. My own adopted dog inspired the creation of Grouchy Puppy, and helped me identify my introversion. The Education of Will is a reminder that we should not underestimate the power of a dog's influence on our life, at any age.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Her experiences were uniquely hers but many were also mine. I was given the book to review two months ago but honestly have lingered because I wasn't ready for her compelling insights to be over. Dr. McConnell kept giving me something new to think about relating to myself, or a dog, with every chapter.
"You tell them how much you love them -- with the tone of your voice, the touch of your hand and the attention you pay to their needs."
I believe that having a dog, or carrying for dogs, can bring you the opportunity to experience love, compassion and forgiveness, and I think The Education of Will, is a wonderful book demonstrating the power of the human-dog bond by someone who loves dogs. Read Patricia McConnell's powerful, honest and personal story for yourself and you'll understand what I mean.
Patricia McConnell, PhD, is an internationally known Zoologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who has treated serious behavior problems in dogs for over twenty-five years. She speaks around the world about canine behavior and training, and is the author of fourteen books, including the critically acclaimed The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs. Dr. McConnell lives with her dogs and husband on a small farm near Madison, Wisconsin.
Tell me below, what did you respond to the most in the book?