Second Segment in Speakers Series: a Successful Synergy
Take a look around the room in which you are reading this post, and what do you notice? In my case, it's the computer screen, my (alas, perennially) untidy desk, a few pictures on the wall as well as knick-knacks, books and binders in and on top of the various pieces of furniture and filing cabinets.
Now imagine how a dog would perceive the same space.
That was the exercise Alexandra Horowitz presented to the audience the other night at her Speakers Series talk. Not only is the dog at a lower level (and therefore observes most people at around their knees), but the canine's highly superior sense of smell and lesser visual acuity would make my office quite a different place. Our dog no doubt would smell the remnants of the Luna bar (lemon zest flavor) that I had eaten for breakfast a few hours earlier, and certainly would still detect smells from past occupants of the office where the ASI is headquartered but who moved out almost two years ago. He or she might even notice, via the nose, a slight change in my emotions as I write.
Prof. Horowitz also talked about that well-known guilty look often seen on the faces of dogs who are caught misbehaving. Does that look mean they actually are feeling guilty, at least in the sense humans experience that secondary emotion? Her research, conducted in the homes of people who volunteered to participate with their dogs, questions that assumption. She concludes that the "look" more often appears on the faces of dogs whose owners scold them for disobedience, regardless of whether the dog has misbehaved or not!
The author of the best-selling book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know (2009), her message is that although anthropomorphizing dogs is to be expected as a result of our close association with them, it isn't always useful in helping us understand the dog. She believes that the dog should be, well, a dog; and that we should celebrate and encourage, to the extent possible, a dog's doginess!
We were pleased to introduce Alexandra and her work to a local audience as part of the Speakers Series. One of the cornerstones upon which the ASI is built is recognizing he importance of cooperation among animal organizations, and encouraging and developing partnerships. Earlier this year we proposed an idea to Cal Morgan, executive director of the Michigan Humane Society. Cal is a long-time friend and colleague of ours. Under his leadership the MHS has broadened its horizons by taking on new programs and projects in addition to its core mission of rescuing thousands of animals, adopting them out and conducting cruelty investigations.
With the MHS's broad base of supporters and the ASI's contacts among authors, scholars and entertaining and informative speakers, joining forces to launch a series of talks would, we believed, combine the strengths of the two organizations. Cal agreed that many MHS supporters would be interested in learning more about animals, and enthusiastically agreed to the idea. The Speakers Series was born.
Jonathan Balcombe launched the series in April with "The Inner Lives of Animals," a presentation about animal emotion, communication, pleasure, and the implications for the human-animal relationship. Jonathan is a passionate advocate for animals and their living spaces. His most recent book is The Exultant Art: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure (2011). He chairs the Department of Animal Studies at the Humane Society University. A Ph.D. scientist, his message touches on timely and important issues, including climate change, biodiversity, and personal health.
We followed up with Prof. Horowitz. Her talk was enthusiastically received and a lively discussion followed as audience members applied the principles of her research to their own best friend's behavior (and theirs). Independent bookseller Scott Harris of Everybody Reads, brought copies of Inside of a Dog which the author autographed after her talk.
As an added bonus, Prof. Horowitz met earlier in the day with the University of Michigan's Student Animals and Society Institute Chapter, the first one chartered, for an informal and lively Q&A with students, faculty and general public. We hope to make this a tradition with our Speakers' Series guests!
Kim Stallwood, the ASI European director, will round out the inaugural year on November 29 with a lecture "What Does It Mean to Care Deeply About Animals?" Kim is uniquely qualified to speak on this topic, with his decades of work in the animal advocacy movement. We also have asked him to give the audience a preview of his upcoming book.
We're planning four Speakers Series events in 2013, including a talk on animals in film, and are fortunate to have such a rich repertoire of excellent speakers and fascinating topics from which to choose.
- Bee Friedlander
Published by admin on 10/06/2012 10:15:21