As a fellow animal lover, this book touched my heart. It made me laugh, it made we wonder (would I pet an octopus if I had the chance?) – and of course, I cried. As anyone who has loved and lost animals knows, the pain of losing a little friend is heartbreaking; we don’t consider them “just animals”. They are companions, at times know our very thoughts and are so tuned in to our joy and pain. I love Montgomery’s memoir in thirteen animals because here is a woman who has traveled the world and met so many different animals in her life, she had so many to choose from when thinking of ones that may have taught her how to be a good human, and the thirteen that she chose were so varied. Of course, her dogs, all special in their own way. But also a few surprising animals as well. A tarantula named Clarabella. An octopus or two. A pig named Christopher. Each one representing her life and where that moment in her life placed her, and how that animal touched her soul. And in essence, in her words, taught her to be a good creature too.
It made me think – what animals have come into my life, and changed me? Most recently, Harry, the leopard gecko who has made me realize that I am a huge fan of reptiles, something I would never have guessed. My own dogs, all three of them, Molly, Chevis, and Penny who have all moved on from this world. The very first dog I ever loved, Lady, a beautiful Collie who belonged to friends of my parents when I was about five or six. I always loved visiting them because I would say hi and then I was happily excused to go play with Lady outside the whole time we were there. My cats, all rescued from the shelter I volunteered at for years. Of course, I had favorites from that time that caught my heart, that I fought for and advocated for, if I didn’t outright adopt them. Like Liberty, the lab-pit bull mix that was surrendered to the shelter while in the process of giving birth to her puppies. The puppies were of course surrendered as well. And on the fourth of July. We raised her babies and found them all good homes, and I never forgot that patriotic crew named after Presidents and First Ladies. (Martha was my favorite) Nothing too exotic for me, obviously, as I am not a journalist or naturalist and I do not have access to the world that Montgomery does. I can visit that world though, through her words and writing and stories, the absolute best part about being a reader.
Montgomery has been described as a poet and scientist, a little bit Indiana Jones and a little bit Emily Dickinson. What a blessed life she has led, getting to know all these different animals and their people, and how blessed are we that she is a talented and gifted writer, one who is able to share these experiences with those of us at home. I hope to read more of her work soon! If you are a nature lover, an animal lover, and you haven’t read Montgomery yet, I suggest starting with How to be a Good Creature. You won’t be disappointed.