Friday, August 26, 2005

Vicki Hearne

In addition to the style books, dictionaries, and directories on my desk, I have long had Animal Happiness there too. Full of essays about animals doing their jobs, the book is an extraordinary treat by someone who didn't feel at all sentimental about the furry, scaly, or feathered species. Instead, the author, Vicki Hearne, repected them and knew that any reasonable being does better--and is happier--with a job.

Hearne trained dogs and horses and university students, was philosopher and writer (and poet, but I don't hold that against her), and she died in 2001 at the age of 55 from breast cancer.

Last night, I picked up another of her books, Bandit: Dossiere of a Dangerous Dog, about a dog who'd bitten a few people (with good reason, she discovered), was mistaken for a pit bull, and put onto a pound's death row. With the help of a good lawyer and her own expertice, Bandit's sentence was commuted.

I've always wanted to read this book, and traveling over Hearne's sentences and paragraphs, I again see that her chosen topics are only part of the treat. Hearne was an amazing, intelligent writer. Here's a passage on page 44:

"I appealed to his [Bandit's] conscious mind. So he did the reasonable thing and quit pulling.

"He was alone in his reasonableness, or so it seemed to me. Ponelli [a dog warden] started going through maneuvers of the sort that are meant to elicit a charge and/or a bite in the sport of Schutzhund. Bandit has a very low defense drive, and so regarded this odd behavior with little interest. Did not lunge for him. I nearly did, but Bandit didn't."