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Bookworm: Risk and reward – from fur babies to real babies

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

"Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy"

  • By Zazie Todd, foreword by Dr. Marty Becker
  • c. 2020, Greystone Books
  • $19.95, $26.95 Canada; 304 pages

The tail's like a clock pendulum, and you know what that means. Your dog needs something, and you're going to get it for him because, after all, he makes you happy so you'll return the favor any time. Only the best for your best friend, your baby, your fur kid, your helper – but how do you know when he's finally happy?

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In "Wag" by Zazie Todd, you'll see how science is not just for the lab. Treats, toys, food, and water. You make sure your dog is covered in those categories and all should be well. He has a nice place to sleep. He has windows to the outside world. What else could a dog want?

"Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy" by Zazie Todd, foreword by Dr. Marty Becker.

Fifty-five years ago, a U.K. firm developed a report called the "Five Freedoms" and though it originally applied to farm animals, Zazie Todd says that it's a good list for dogs, too. It states that animals should have freedom from thirst and hunger, freedom from physical discomfort, freedom from illness, freedom from fear, and freedom to exhibit normal behavior. These might seem like simple things but, says Todd, science can help enhance whatever efforts you put forth to make them a reality.

Having a happy dog starts by getting the right dog for you. Though it's tempting to gravitate toward dog-of-the-moment, ignore movie and pop culture influences. Be realistic about the dog you're thinking about bringing home.

As for training, the first thing to know is that reward-based methods work better than do aversion methods. Make things fun for you and your dog and reward good behavior, rather than punishing the actions you don't want; Todd herself uses Push Drop Stick rules to teach her two dogs.

"Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy" author Zazie Todd.

By using science, you can help lessen (or even eliminate) fears that your dog might have. You'll understand why play is essential for a pup's well-being, and how to create a great relationship between dogs and kids. With science, you'll know that your dog loves you. And when it's time for the end of Doggo's life, it can help you cope.

When you think of science, white coats and Bunsen burners probably come to mind, not squeaky toys and kibble. "Wag" changes all that, in a most delightful way.

At first brush, it might appear that this is just another book about canine behavior, but that's not so. Author Zazie Todd adds her (human) social psychologist background to her training skills to look at things with a dog's mind in mind, which leads to many AHA! moments for dog devotees who are up for a little experimentation. Even if this information's been right in front of your muzzle all along, there are still fresh takeaways.

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Some of those nuggets are buried, like juicy bones, inside Todd's own experiences with her two dogs, her cats, and her family that loves them, and those bits will charm you. They serve as further teaching moments and glue to hold the scientific lessons together, all which helps to make "Wag" a pretty informative tail tale.

"High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected"

  • By Chavi Eve Karkowsky, MD
  • c. 2020, Liveright
  • $26.95, $35.95 Canada; 312 pages

Ten little fingers and ten toes, present and accounted for. You know because you looked and looked again at your perfect baby's perfect hands. You watched those tiny feet curl, and you knew that 30-some weeks of pregnancy and how many hours of labor was worth every single second. And in "High Risk" by Chavi Eve Karkowsky, MD, you'll see that not every parent is so lucky.

Sometimes, you just have this feeling.

You hope for a routine, boring pregnancy and labor that goes quickly and smoothly, but sometimes, you just know that you're going to need more care than do most women. When you do, that's when you meet someone like Dr. Karkowsky, who specializes in caring for women with high-risk pregnancies.

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As a self-professed "adrenaline junkie" with "the most interesting work in the world," Karkowsky loves the action that comes from her job every day. It does, however, have its downsides: she sometimes has to explain the risks to a mother whose health negatively impacts a developing fetus.

"High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected" by Chavi Eve Karkowsky, MD.

It also means dealing with the frustration of advice not being heeded, or knowing that a patient's home life, her insurance, and her living situation can lead to a situation in which twice-weekly treatments or hospitalization for a shaky pregnancy aren't possible.

Being a specialist for high-risk mothers-to-be means knowing that the most severe side-effects of pregnancy must be handled quick, but with caution. It's knowing that old ways of care and delivery have their places, but that medicine and medical procedures are mostly better now than ever before. It's laughing at yourself because you know so much about what can go wrong in a pregnancy, that your own pregnancy is nail-biting. It's understanding that sometimes, a single day can make the difference in the survival of a baby that's badly wanted. And it's knowing that some babies live, and some babies die...

Let's start here: if you are pregnant or thinking about it, don't read this book today.

Buy it, put it in a drawer, and enjoy it in ten months or a year. Wait – because it's filled with scary, scary things that you won't like to know now.

Indeed, author and maternal-fetal medicine specialist Chavi Eve Karkowsky is brutally honest about that which she sees in her work, and it can be wince-worthy. That results in a high-drama tale that doesn't always end happily ever after, making readers feel as though they've just finished watching an action movie and despite everything that happens to him, the hero dies anyhow. There are bloody descriptions, needles, and scalpels so beware, if you're squeamish.

And yet, amid life-or-death matters described, Karkowsky shares her fascination at what seems like lovely magic in the human body, inviting readers to be likewise awe-struck. We are both fragile and fierce, a wonderment that pulses inside this book.

For parents of little ones, steel yourself before opening the covers here. If you're medical personnel, be ready for high drama inside "High Risk." On a scale of enjoyability, it's a "ten."

Also look for …

 "The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America" by Lara Freidenfelds. It's part science, part history, all fascinating.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.