Sometimes you get a lot more than you bargained for in a book – in a good way – and that’s what happened to me in reading Rupert Sheldrake’s Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals). As a dog lover, and given the title of the book, I was expecting a series of warm, fuzzy stories about the connection many dogs have with their owners and the ways that relationship and intelligence plays out. Boy, did I underestimate the contents of this 400-page book!
Sheldrake has been a serious researcher in the field of animal-human connections for many years and has written extensively on the subject in peer-reviewed journals and in books such as this one. The book does, of course, contain many amazing stories, but also includes a wealth of research results that give much weight to the conclusions he draws on the subject. For animal lovers who would like to know if their “inexplicable” experiences with animals have been shared by others, this will be a great book to take your time with, enjoy, and to learn from as you absorb its contents.
By the way, this is certainly not just for dog owners. There are chapters and stories devoted to several other animals – cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and more.
A look at the sections and chapter titles will give you a good idea of the depth of content:
- Part I: Human-Animal Bonds
- The Domestication of Animals
- Part II: Animals That Know When Their People Are Coming Home
- Parrots, Horses, and Other Animals
- Part III: Animal Empathy
- Animals That Comfort and Heal
- Distant Deaths and Accidents
- Part IV: Intentions, Calls, and Telepathy
- Picking Up Intentions
- Telepathic Calls and Commands
- Animal-to-Animal Telepathy
- Part V: The Sense of Direction
- Incredible Journeys
- Migrations and Memory
- Animals That Know When They Are Nearing Home
- Pets Finding Their People Far Away
- Part VI: Animal Premonitions
- Premonitions of Fits, Comas, and Sudden Deaths
- Forebodings of Earthquakes and Other Disasters
- Part VII: Conclusions
- Animal Powers and the Human Mind
- Appendix: Controversies and Inquiries
How many times have you and your pet looked at each other at the same time without any verbal, physical, or audible cue? Has your pet shown unusual compassion when you were ill? Can you tell that some weather event is about to happen because of the actions of your pets rather than any meteorological signs visible to you? Does your pet seem to know your intentions or your whereabouts or your imminent return home apart from any routine schedule that might easily explain such behavior? Do you recall hearing remarkable stories of pets traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to find their owners in places the pets have never been to before? Many pet owners share such experiences, yet there are few resources devoted to relevant and serious studies, partly because of an inherent bias against the notion from many scientists, according to the author.
That’s where the value of the research data comes into play in the book – not just random anecdotal stories. It also makes even the appendix of this book very interesting because it is devoted to sharing a number of details where the author has been challenged or misrepresented, and includes his convincing rebuttal to such attempts.
Sheldrake admits that there is much yet to learn and that not all such interesting animal behavior can be explained by him or anyone at this time, but that is why genuine scientific inquiry is needed. Those who respect science are not afraid of controlled experiments and replication of them and whatever data results from them. Yet, there is an underlying bias of skeptics that dismisses the idea of any kind of animal telepathy or related phenomenon as a bit kooky or unnatural, when it may in fact be quite natural.
I was intrigued by the author’s discussion of morphic fields as possible explanations of some of the phenomena related to animals’ seeming awareness of their owners and familiar places from afar. The image he presents is one of a giant invisible rubber band mentally connecting the pet with the owner or place that somehow draws one to the other. You’ll have to read it throughout the book to appreciate the author’s explanation far more than my couple of sentences.
There may be sections that some readers aren’t too interested in if their goal is to focus on the warm, fuzzy stories of pets and their owners. That’s fine. Read what interests you from the book. But I dare you to read it and not come away with the distinct notion that there are some wonderful, albeit inexplicable, things that happen between many animals and their owners as well as animals and other animals.
My two cents: I believe our Creator has built far more into His creation than we come close to understanding, and more than some are willing to open their minds to considering. We should never mistake our lack of understanding as proof that something doesn’t exist.
The book is worth the time to read. You’ll be fascinated by the stories, and you’ll learn some things along the way. Enjoy!