“My Animal, My Self,” by Marta Williams. New World Library. $15.95.
When you look in the mirror, do you ever see your dog’s image there, too?
The author, a biologist and animal communicator, focuses on mirroring here, where the dog is reading the owner’s body language, feeling the temperament, from fear and apprehension, to joy and excitement.
For most of us, Williams is on new turf here. Some will buy into it, others won’t, since our companion animal pooches play different roles and are players in different bonding processes in households nationwide.
In the Introduction, Williams assumes “the reader accepts the validity of animal communication,” a precept that has been popular for two decades. Then she adds, “What’s new about what I offer in this book – and what I find intriguing – is the concept that our animals consciously, and even at times purposely, reflect back to us what is going on inside us, including our beliefs, our emotions, and even our physical condition. They can read our minds and hearts directly, without external clues, and even when we ourselves are unconscious of our thoughts and feelings.”
Williams’ trigger mechanism for mirroring is a 7-month-old female puppy named Brydie, a Border Collie-Dalmatian package with a “contradictory personality” that ranges from a whirling dervish to a diva. But this same young piece of work also becomes Williams’ teacher and healer.
While it doesn’t begin as a match made in heaven, the two evolve as inseparable best friends. “She also brought me tools for my profession,” Williams writes, “since the things I used to change her hyperness and reactivity – clicker training, Tellington TTouch bodywork, and other natural, nonviolent training techniques – were things I needed to know to be able to help my clients and their friends.”
Mirroring, Williams establishes, is not a new concept, rather an overlooked idea. The heart and soul of Williams’ thesis is that “animals love us in a way that most humans can’t even aspire to.” In many cases today, an individual’s closest friend is his/her animal.
From therapy dogs, to service dogs to just plain, old household companions, they grasp – and understand – our feelings better than most, she argues, while noting that they come into our lives for a purpose. “I also believe that the animals are pretty aware of this from the outset, but humans are culturally conditioned not to see this aspect of life.”
Throughout this trenchant observation(s), Williams captures a wide assortment of owner-animal stories and how each reflects mirroring from positive and negative aspects, plus sickness and health, ending the chapters with personal exercises.
But this isn’t a one-way street, Williams concludes, “Animals can learn positive qualities from us, just as we do from them.” Because many of her pets have been rescues, she is uncertain about the emotional baggage each brings from abuse and neglect.
Throughout, Williams switches from a personal and engaged mode to a reasoned overseer while breaking new ground with refreshing candor and vibrant storytelling. Consequently, this empowering work has the potential to positively change the way you look at and interact with your pet going forward.