Books + Hot Chocolate

Books + Hot Chocolate

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Born to Bark: My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog

Title                : Born to Bark
Author            : Stanley Coren
Genre             :  Memoir 

I love dogs. I have two at home and I really love their company in my life. So, when I stumbled upon this book at a bookstore, I knew that I must have it as one of my collection. Coren embedded his own life experiences into this book and the way he wrote his story can actually help the readers to visualise the story well. It feels as if we are the one experiencing the events. In short, simple writing and impactful stories are what make this book irresistible. 

What makes this book amazing? Let see… The story actually made me laughed and cried at the same time. The book can be humorous at times and suddenly, it can really touch your heart – maybe because I can relate to the story with my own experiences. I share the same feelings like Coren; the bond between us and our dogs, the happiness they bring into our life and the sadness of losing them. I have a dog which I treasure so much (my first dog) and when I read this book, the memory of her keeps on resurfacing. I can’t hold back my tears as I really missed her so much! I am glad that I still have vivid memories about her. Coren’s book reminded me that the memories with our dogs (or any other pets), are truly unforgettable no matter how long they had disappear from our life! 

Stanley Coren Biography

Stanley Coren (born 1942) is a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher who has become best known to the general public for his best selling and award winning books regarding the intelligence, mental abilities and history of dogs. Through television shows and media coverage that have been broadcast in Canada and the United States as well as overseas, he has become popular with dog owners, while continuing research and instruction in psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Coren is an aficionado of dogs, and has made a long career of research into dog behaviour that has led him to national television and into international media. He is an instructor with the Vancouver Dog Obedience Training Club, and has participated in numerous obedience trials and competitions across Canada. In the process his dogs have earned numerous obedience titles.n his career, Coren has produced research papers and published items in a wide range of psychological areas including sensory processes (vision and hearing), neuropsychology (handedness, sleep, birth stress effects and behavior genetics) and cognition (information processing and intelligence). He has published more than 400 papers and articles in journals and his research has been recognized with numerous awards over the years. 

It was the 1994 publication of The Intelligence of Dogs that brought Coren to the public eye. A combination of Coren's background in psychology and his long-lasting love of dogs, the book became an international hit, and has gone through 16 printings to this point. Since then, Coren has gone on to pen a number of other books on dog intelligence, dog learning and thinking ability, the human canine bond and its implications for people in modern society that have continued to make him a favourite among dog lovers.

Coren's books about dogs have garnered him a number of awards. His books have also been well received internationally.

 Awards and Honours 

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
  • Fellowship status by numerous professional societies including, the American Psychological Association, Canadian Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science
  • Canadian Psychiatric Association Research Award (1992)
  • Robert E. Knox Master Teacher Award
  • Honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Guelph for his scientific and literary contributions
  • His writing and his books have also received numerous honours:

                            i.          Maxwell Medal of Excellence from the Dog Writers Association of America for 2011

                          ii.          Animal Behavior Society's Outstanding Children's Book Award for 2007

                        iii.           Named "Writer of the Year" by the International Positive Dog Training Association

                         iv.           His book “Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses” was named as one of the top 10 Canadian children’s books of 2006 by the Ontario Library Association

                           v.          Red Cedar Book Award (2009) for best nonfiction children’s book (sponsored by library associations in British Columbia)

                         vi.           His Canine Corner informational blog on the Psychology Today Website was awarded a Medal of Excellence as the best educational blog series from the Dog Writers Association of America for 2014

[Source: Wikipedia]

Interesting Highlight

Before I rambling too much about my own life, I would like to continue by highlighting some of the interesting parts from this book. Below are some of the extracts that I quoted directly from this book: 

1.     “For Christmas the woman who would become my wife bought me a dog – a little terrier. The next year her Christmas gift to me was a shotgun. Most of the people in my family believe that those two gifts were not unrelated.”

This sentence is what makes me interested to buy this book in the first place. Coren’s wife, Joan, really hated Flint (the name of the terrier) because he is noisy and naughty. For 13 years, they had been in cold war with each other and it was up to Coren to make things better between the two of them. The war between Flint and Joan and also, Coren’s efforts to make things worked between the two of them are the main essences which make this book interesting. Will Joan finally accepts Flint in her life or will she shots him in the head with that shotgun? Anything can happen so it is up to you to explore this book by yourself. 

2.     “Rex (Coren’s first dog) dived at a snake and caught it in the middle of its body, but it swung around and bit him on the face…Rex was pretty sick and his face swelled up, but he pulled through…Here was a dog who had loved me so much that he had nearly given his life for me, and I had no memory of him…just a couple of small, faded black-and-white photos.”

I feel really sad when I read this because it is very common for us to forget about what our dogs have done for us. For Coren, this incident happened when he was very young so we can’t blame him for forgetting about Rex. But, how about us who are matured enough to know about the world and still didn’t have the compassion and love for animals? They always sacrifice themselves for us without asking for anything in return but did we do anything to repay their kindness? Honestly, I doubt that. In Malaysia, it is very common to see people who tied their dogs on a poll or locked them in a cage so that they will always guard the house. There are also people who love to torture their pets by kicking them or even forgetting to feed them. The cruelty of people towards animals really saddened me so much. I hope that through books like this, we can instil more love for animals in people’s heart.

After his brief introduction about a few dogs which present in his life when he was young, he continued with the main character of the story, Flint, a grey Cairn terrier which changed his life forever. Flint’s wild behaviour, Coren’s efforts to train him and Joan’s (Coren’s wife) frustration while handling Flint are the things that make this story amazing. Will Flint finally behave or he will stay the same after the trainings? I will give you a chance to find the answers by yourself. 

“When I looked down and back, Flint had seized the fringed edge of the skirt and as he walked around the woman, he was unwrapping her.”

“At obedience competitions, the difficult tasks for him were the group sit-stay and down-stay exercises. ..Flint tended to fidget and eventually stand up and move across the room to me or try to socialize with other dogs.”

“Flint had extracted a ball of yarn from her (Joan) knitting bag and when she tried to retrieve it (by running after him rather than calling him to her), he had decided that this was a great game and had run around the house until the ball of yarn had unravelled.”

However, happiness with our pets is not long-lasting as they will eventually be gone/ died someday. We cannot expect to be with them forever. The separation between Flint and Coren really makes me tear up inside as I remembered my own pain of losing my first dog. No matter how many times I read this book, again and again, I still cry. I am childish, undeniably, but the way Coren had written his book really delivers his sadness, pain and anguish of losing Flint. I would love to quote the words said by Coren in this book, which has inspired me so much and I believe that this quote will stay with me until the end of time. He teaches me that, no matter how painful we feel when we loss something we love so dearly, especially our special companion, our pets, but we must have faith that they are in a better place now, together with God. I just pray that I will be able to get to heaven as well because I believe that they are waiting for me on the other side. 

“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race: for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?” – Sir Walter Scott, as quoted in Born to Bark by Stanley Coren. 

This is truly a good book to be kept as one of your collection. Both entertaining and inspiring, Born to Bark by Stanley Coren can melt the heart of anyone who reads it, especially animal lovers. Do grab a copy and start indulging yourself with Coren’s unforgettable experience with his amazing dog, Flint, the great grey warrior. 

What others have to say about this book?

“It’s the story of an underdog – the one who should have failed. A heartwarming read proving that there is no such thing as impossible.” – Toronto Star

“Internationally recognized dog expert…writes about one of his own extraordinary dogs. Charming…blends Coren’s personal history into the story of his much loved Cairn terrier, with lots of insightful information” – The Vancouver Sun

“If you like animal stories that give you a chuckle or make your eyes well up, pick up psychologist Stanley Coren’s new book about the dogs he has known who have brought warmth, love, and humour to his life…His relationship with Flint became the stuff of legend. Delightful.” – The Free Lance – Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)

“Coren’s sharp insight into the species and man’s relationship to it is magnificent in this first – person story of true grit that ranges from perceptive narrative to tough realism. In the process, Coren serves up plenty of doggy escapades, accented with spot – on behavioural tips and why they work. Through the journey, Coren delivers humour, angst, perception, and correction.” – 

“A deeply thoughtful yet lighthearted, fun read, this book had me alternately laughing and crying, and reflecting on my relationship with my own dog. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever loved a dog or tried to train one.” – Stacey O’Brien, author of Wesley the Owl 

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