I love to read – mostly nonfiction. Most of my reading consists of dog training and behavior books, other dog related topics, or books about human behavior. You’ll see what I mean if you search under the category “Book & Product Reviews” for prior posts. So it’s probably no surprise that I would read My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless People and Their Animals by Leslie Irvine.
While there were some interesting pieces in the book, I’d say it’s not for everyone or even for most people. Her information comes primarily from interviews with homeless people who have pets, mostly dogs but some cats or other pets. While some of the individual stories and facts shared are interesting, the book itself reads a lot like a textbook which can make your eyelids start to droop. Unless you’re really interested in the topic, I’d say you’re better off finding a few good reviews of it and saying “good enough for me.”
The main message I got from the book was that we should always think twice about our first assumptions. Many of us immediately assume that someone who is homeless can’t possibly provide a quality life for a pet. However, many of the homeless people with pets argued that they actually provide a BETTER life than many people living in houses. Why? Because so many pets are locked up alone in the house all day while the family is at work. Many of those dogs are confined to crates. When people get home, they are tired and don’t often give their dogs as much exercise and attention as they need or want. The homeless argue that they spend virtually 24/7 with their dogs who get plenty of exercise, fresh air and attention. When you put it that way, it makes you think twice about which dogs truly do have the best life.
Here’s one more piece of the book that really stood out to me. It’s on page 106 in case you want to look it up. Irvine states that “despite widely held popular beliefs that pets are good for people, empirical research has not yet confirmed this is the case.” She mentions a few studies in particular but notes that only the studies that seem to confirm pets are good for people make it into the mainstream media. Those of us who are dog-lovers (or cat-lovers or some other species-lovers) never argue with the studies we see that seem to confirm pets are good for us because we “know” they are! (Except when they’re not, like those adolescent dogs who drive is crazy and destroy our belongings!)
While the book over all didn’t get me enthused about reading through it quickly as some books do – you know the ones you can’t put down? – it did make me pause at some of my current assumptions. And any time someone can make you think twice about what you believe to be true, it’s a good thing.