When I was six, my family got a puppy. It only took them a week to admit defeat and give the dog away. My family was overwhelmed by the demands of this rambunctious puppy and I vaguely remember being slightly afraid of his energy. How I wish my family had been able to read Tracey Stewart’s compassionate book, Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guild to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better. I think if our family had had Stewart’s book to help us rewire our relationship with animals, we would have been able to understand our puppy’s behavior, discern his needs, and give the dog a safe, loving home.
Do Unto Animals is a friendly guide with fun illustrations that will appeal to both children and adults. Her instructions come across as warm advice from a friend, including her own life experiences. As her personal story unfolds, she traces the beginning of her awakening toward animals with an early memory from the age of seven when she happened upon a dead starling, in which she names the starling Sparkles and urges her family to give the bird a funeral. We follow her through her career change from working “boring jobs” to becoming (at her husband The Daily Show’s former host Jon Stewart’s urging) a veterinary technician, to present day where she is highly active with animal welfare and has adopted 19 rescue animals.
The book is divided into three sections, “Animals at Home,” “Backyard Wildlife” and “Falling in Love on the Farm.” The book moves the reader from the familiar world of common house pets, to the backyard life of mammals, birds and insects, and finally to the larger world of the farm. Along the way, she exposes us to the abuses that occur in pet stores, puppy mills and factory farms, but her book isn’t angry it instead approaches these topics with an instructive and caring voice.
Each section includes a mix of family stories, information on animal behavior, and ways of safely and kindly interacte with cats, dogs, birds, goats, horses and other four-legged or feathery friends. Stewart even address the most complicated aspect of being a “pet person”, how we care for animals as pets but also eat them.
Do Unto Animals make us see our equality with animals and raise our consciousness to better their lives and deem them worthy of our attention and love. Stewart, in her compassionate book, gives us enough practical information and advice to get us started on a renewed path of human-animal interaction. Now, so many years after my first failed attempt, perhaps for me this path will include adopting a puppy. And this time, I’ll be informed and ready to give it the love the animal deserves.
To buy Do Unto Animals by Tracey Stewart, click here.