Monthly Archives: December 2011

Staff Picks – Animals in Translation

Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson

This book is a fascinating explanation of the ways animals feel………yes, animals have feelings.  Ms. Grandin is autistic and has succeeded in her career because of her connection to animals. She thinks in pictures, not in words, so she sees the world in much the same way that animals do.  She can sense how they feel and therefore can provide methods to get animals to behave in ways that are appropriate to their environment. In addition, Ms. Grandin talks about physiological characteristics – hearing, seeing, and such – besides the inner workings of the brains of all kinds of animals, from cattle to cats and dogs to birds and even lizards.

She is primarily known for her work with cattle. She noticed that the animals were reluctant to move through chutes to get vaccinations. The shots didn’t bother them one bit, but the sunlight reflecting in a puddle on the ground disturbed them. So did the piece of metal that got caught on a fence post. Any one of several small things that did not belong in a chute could be items that would make the cattle stand still. Prodding them with sharp or electric tools disturbed them, too, of course, but the people in the cattle yards could not see a way other than that to make the animals move.

Enter Temple Grandin. She got down on her hands and knees and, with her eyes at nearly the eye level of the cattle, she could see the bright reflection of the sun in the brown puddle and it hurt her eyes. She could see the dangling metal that shimmered in a breeze. She could see the shadow on the ground that made it look like there was a drop off where the cow felt it would fall. Eventually, she was able to convince the owners of many cattle yards to build the chutes to certain specifications, so that the cattle would willingly walk along the enclosures to get their vaccinations.

This account is just one of many that Ms. Grandin presents in a nearly conversational style that is easy to read; the content is really interesting, and brings to print things most of us have never thought of. I highly recommend this book for its insight into animal behavior as well as the exposition of the positive side of the autistic brain. The call number is 591.5 Grandin c2005 and is in Adult Nonfiction.

Recommended by: Paula at Main

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