Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice, author of “Your Pets’ Secret Lives: The Truth Behind Your Pets’ Wildest Behaviors”

by | Jun 12, 2024

Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice–an entomologist by training who’s appeared on the show multiple times, discussing ants, spiders, homing pigeons, and microbes (often tied to a book she’s written on the topic)—acknowledges that writing for young readers has officially become a trend for her, primarily discussing her second, just-published book in this series, while also briefly previewing the third. To fully clarify, the current book is “Your Pets’ Secret Lives: The Truth Behind Your Pets’ Wildest Behaviors,” its successor (due May 2025) will be “Undercover Conversations.” The initial book in this triad was “Unseen Jungle: The Microbes That Secretly Control Our Lives,” as with the new release, illustrated by Rob Wilson, an acclaimed artist with a beguiling style. Spicer Rice recalls the research she undertook for the new book, the joy she found in doing this research, and the kinds of findings she felt inclined to omit, which skewed towards mating behaviors. She also mentioned that she did not start preparatory work on the book already having a pet (or a pet secret life) in mind that she wanted to include. She allows that one virtue of writing for younger readers is they don’t typically require the extensive explanation of a given topic that she feels bound to provide when penning pieces and books primarily for an adult audience. But, I observe (as I did in our previous interview) that part of her books’ excellence is that—like the best films, literature, and animation—they operate successfully on both levels, for both vintages of readers. We delve into some of the surprising, sometimes revelatory tidbits Spicer Rice imparts in her breezy, conversational text, starting with the way numerous animals use the magnetic field to guide their movements and behavior, including how dogs align themselves using it to do their business. While still touching on canine concerns, we address the so-called dog “guilt face,” with animal behavior researcher Julie Hecht (whom Spicer Rice briefly interviews in the book) helping resolve the long-simmering debate over whether, when you get home and walk in on a scene of destruction or monumental mess, your dog looks guilty…is the dog feeling guilty? To find out, read the book! [Illustrations above by Rob Wilson]


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Forest Hecker, a community educator who’ll be teaching a class called “Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ for Wildlife and Pollinators,” on June 27, in Sarasota. Hecker explains what constitutes the hallmarks of Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™–which include shying away from the use of pesticides and plants that require large amounts of water. Clearly, more than that, those who enroll are likely to learn how to attract birds, bees, butterflies and other small animals to their landscapes, and just generally how to go about designing a beautiful wildlife garden. Class details: Thursday, June 27, 9-10am ET,  at Twin Lakes Park 6700 Clark Road Sarasota, FL 34241. You can register for this class at ufsarasotaext.eventbrite.com or you can just show up–the class is free. After class, you’ll be offered a tour of the pollinator garden at Twin Lakes Park.

COMEDY CORNER: Kevin Nealon’s “Cows On The Roof” (https://kevinnealon.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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