Applied animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell will promote her new memoir, “The Education of Will,” and inform the public on emotional connections between animals and humans on Thursday at the Ohio State Veterinary Medical Center Auditorium.
“The Education of Will,” which was published Tuesday, is about a journey McConnell and her therapy dog, Willy, went on together to overcome past challenges.
“The title refers to two things: one is Will, or Willy, who came as a troubled puppy with a vast number of behavioral problems, and also to the word ‘will’ as in willpower — and that it was this puppy that taught me that willpower is not enough to heal from some of the baggage in one’s past,” McConnell said.
McConnell said that while Willy came to her as a therapy dog, at first he contributed to setbacks in her healing process.
“Willy when he came to me, rather than being like a therapy dog, in a way he made me worse because his startle reaction and his fears were so extreme that he ended up sending me back,” McConnell said.
As the relationship progressed, however, McConnell said that through Willy she was able to put herself back on the path to healing.
“I had thought that I had recovered from some of the traumas in my past, but his startle response was so extreme and set me on edge and made me realize that I really hadn’t recovered,” McConnell said. “So in order to help him I realized I had to help myself.”
McConnell is an adjunct professor in zoology at the University of Wisconsin, and said she has committed her life to improving relationships between people and animals.
“The relationship we have with many of our companion animals … it’s a biological miracle that we can have this close encounter with individuals of another species,” McConnell said.
Through her talk, McConnell said she hopes to help people better understand their animals and how to treat them.
“Dogs and other animals can indeed be psychologically traumatized, and we need to understand that,” McConnell said.
Third-year veterinary student Kyle Bohland helped organize McConnell’s visit to OSU to educate the public on animal behavior.
“For me, I’m interested in behavioral medicine so just knowing the importance for veterinarians to understand dog and cat behavior, as well as the relationships humans have with their pets while we practice medicine is really important,” said Bohland. “Highlighting the human animal bond is a really important educational opportunity for the students.”
Doors open Thursday at 5 p.m. and the lecture is set to go from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., with a Q-and-A session at 6:30. A book signing will follow and there is a requested, but optional, $5 donation.