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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs 

What You Expect Is What You Read—Or Not

Since viewing the Nature program “Animal Odd Couples,” a PBS video, I’ve been focused on the many engaging stories aired by PBS and by many authors, including Penny Patterson, and Koko, Temple Grandin, making a difference, and Frans deWaal, studying animal emotions. Therefore, I expected more anecdotes when I started reading Gary Kowalski’s Blessings of the Animals.

Indeed, in the middle of that book, there are some good stories--a polar bear coming nightly to play with Huskys in Alaska, a young leopard playing with a Golden Retriever puppy in South Africa, the friendship of two Groton goats and a timber wolf at the San Diego Zoo, the gorilla Koko and her kitten.

As I began reading I became disoriented. The first two chapters of Kowalski’s book talked about animals in church and something about old saints. I should have known better. The book was about blessings. The title said so.

Once I woke up to that fact, I was ready for the wonderful examples of blessings the author had written. Each chapter illustrated a different way in which animals have blessed human life.

Our job as writers clearly demands that we do our best to reflect the essence of our stories in our titles and 25-word tags. As readers, it might be helpful to believe what the titles of books are trying to say.

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