I haven't the ability, as Boone claims, to befriend and charm the flies from the air or persuade armies of ants to peacefully retreat from my kitchen. Nor have I sat with skunks and gazed at the moonlit evening sky, but I was intrigued.
This read was well worth the small investment of time. I read it while my wife and I were expecting our first child. Late in the pregnancy we started filling our nest with baby necessities. To save money we borrowed a crib from a casual, but generous colleague of my wife. I've never been to their home before and I doubt that my wife had either. As soon as we stepped out of our car, their dog began pacing, barking, growling and getting really worked up. I could imagine lots of reasons: we're strangers; we're a threat to the woman and her child; we're taking their sentimental crib that contains all of their scents, etc.
I've been bitten by strange dogs before, but I shrugged and thought this would be an ideal time to try out Boone's advice. I approached the dog, not the host, when the door was opened. While the dog backed up growling and posturing, I mentally told the dog that we're invited guests; that we are expecting a baby that we'll love just like this family loves theirs, that they're lucky to have such a loyal and brave dog in their home; how pretty the dog is; how if she calmed down I could pat her and tour the house; that we'll return the crib afterwards and so on. Well, to the astonishment of my wife, myself and most of all the hostess, the dog calmed down, wagged her tail and licked my face! I was glad to make a new friend. The hostess kept going on and on about how she couldn't believe that I was able to calm this particular dog - and so fast! I have had similar experiences with other animals whose 'owners' caution me 'don't like anybody'.
I had never heard of the author, Strongheart (pre-Lassie & Rin Tin Tin) before Wayne Green mentioned it on a talk show. The title is off-putting as it sounds so impossibly enlightened, but after reading several glowing reviews, I began to look for it.
I was amazed to discover the book is more pamphlet-sized, and reminds me of something you'd read at camp or in the waiting room of a doctor's office. If I were a vet, it would be amongst the leaflets and Cat Fancier, Dog Lover's Monthly titles.
Anyway, the premises all underscore respect: be attentive to each animals perspective and needs. Tell the animal all of the things that you admire about it; Be willing and open to learn. Ask them for their patience and give them your attention. If you are skeptical, I understand. I was and I am still. New ideas and friendships takes time to establish any bond, trust and comfort. If, for example, an animal isn't willing (abused, hungry or tired) or you are impatient, the likelihood of any 'kinship' or communication diminishes. Also, some animals are bred or easily conditioned to perform certain tasks like herding, retrieving and guarding. Others, like Strongheart, are exceptionally communicative and are the best kind of learners and teachers.
Currently, I have a parakeet and a stray tabby/burmese mix. Both get jealous, bored, lonely, silly and so forth depending on their circumstances. If I'm distracted, I won't notice their body language. Or if they're annoyed, they're less receptive. Boone's book helped me to consider their place in my life and they sure seem to respond.
I didn't read the book to train animals. I have since successfully called out to the bird and/or cat from the other side of the house with just a mental image, like a vivid wish. Amazingly moments later they will fly or gallop into the room ready to play and receive my affection. I don't do this constantly but if it's sincere and not a trick, it usually works. I really do try to minimize the amount of psychology I project into the mix, and simply enjoy their company.