McHugh, Susan. 2011. Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
(Summarized by Sandy Burnley, Animal Studies Graduate Program, Michigan State University)
Susan McHugh commences her work with novelist George Moore’s critique that eighteenth century novels “lack intimacy of thought and feeling”; a rather curious statement to make when taking into account the eighteenth century gave rise to the sentimental novel. He claims that he does “not remember any dog, cat, or parrot in Vanity Fair” and however poor his memory might be (when we take into account the hunting dogs, tigers, elephants, horses, ferrets, and rats depicted in the novel), what McHugh is highlighting is how anthropocentric and biased our readings of novels have become. Rather than view novels and literature as a hackneyed source in which to turn to the animal figure as simply a gauge of inhuman limits, she calls for the new narrative ethology (a concept which she will fully explain in the conclusion of her work). The value and success of literature, she claims, lies within its multiple perspectives “and processes that support models centered on agency rather than subjectivity, reflecting as well as influencing ongoing social changes” (1). In this manner, novels are co-constructed, toying, vacillating, and challenging positions of agency and subjectivity in both human and nonhuman subjects. McHugh states, “Never simply capturing the voice of the past, fiction localizes mutable historically and physically contingent perspectives” (1), emphasizing the very impossibility to have an authorial position—the voice of the past. Novels, and more importantly, the nonhumans to whom they are indebted, grant us other possibilities, ways of knowing, ways of being, and ways of examining our mutual and intersecting histories in an ethical manner that strives for equality. She claims, “animas narratives prove critical to aesthetic explorations of others’ contributions to the fiction of the human subject” (2), displacing a degree of agency from the human onto the animal. However, she admits agency and subjectivity are never wholly fractured because one’s agency is always subjective, acknowledging the idea that one cannot exist outside the many perspectives and realities through which one navigates, creates, and by which one is ultimately molded and remolded. Therefore, animals are never supplements, but “actors joining us in continuously shaping [us] alongside a range of other narrative forms” (3).
She uses her own personal narrative to help illustrate her point, in which she brings us back to her undergraduate studies where she read Wordsworth poem “Nutting”. Unaware of the traditional/human reading of the poem, McHugh believed (and one imagines she still does) the poem was about a squirrel’s thoughts on the subject of seasonal change, in which her rather bureaucratic professor declared “that’s insane . . . animals don’t think, and they certainly don’t write poetry” (5). Yet, the professor’s authoritarian response can only be validated through an analysis of literature similar to Moore’s, but which McHugh rejects. The reassessed significance of literature, such as Wordsworth’s poem, in which a nonhuman inhabits the text without representation (that is, remains out of focus) presents “tremendous opportunities for recovering and interrogating the material and representational problems specific to animality” (6), and thus a method of recovering multiple operations of agency. Furthermore, the very question of who is speaking and whether it matters who is speaking, the poet or the squirrel, “conceptualizes agency as more than simply a property of the human subject form” (10). She stresses how the animal is not the antithesis of the human—far from it—but that a reexamination of literature allows us to discover “that animal agency can never simply oppose human identity, and in turn that animal agents are never entirely separable from humans’ forms or presences” (12). Our social power is not, as commonly believed, solely allocated to the human form, and once we recognize and share (or dismantle) this ideology surrounding “human” subjectivity to other animals, then new histories, agencies, and subjectivities can be realized within the pages of our co-narratives. In this respect, perhaps Wordsworth’s poem can now take on more meaningful significance, realigning humans with the nature over which he mourns.
Indeed, through McHugh narrative ethology the figure of the squirrel can do more than think. McHugh turns to Deleuze’s and Guattari’sinfamous work, Becoming Animal, to explain that both human and nonhuman animals have never been excluded from language and representation, and indeed a great deal of humanities scholars claim that this exclusion is an impossibility, but Deleuze and Guattari push this rhetoric to a new extreme where animals are not mere figures of humanist agenda. No, “far from simply a defining property internalized by the human, animality pervades the forms of agency, permeating language, literature, and every living thing potentially engaged with processes of becoming” (14). For instance, if we turn to her analysis of Virginia’s Woolf’s Flush, McHugh suggests that Woolf’s writing style and modernist shift in perspective suggests why “when human nature changed more decisively, it could never do so alone” (15). The depictions, lenses, and representations of nonhumans shift besides and along with the humans. Therefore, our cultural and scientific histories shift as well. She claims just as agency and subjectivity can never be wholly fractured, nor humans and nonhumans, then neither can any discipline which seeks to understand animality and the animal body. That is, as much as Animal Studies is meant to blur the lines between human and animal, it is equally intended to blur the lines between disciplines as well. Since “it is well worth questioning what kinds of knowledge we as humans ever can have about other species” (23), novels can act as a potential portal to these questions, an invitation for recovering and disseminating knowledge, not only about humans but nonhumans as well—about animal life and consciousness.
Following Donna Haraway’s lead, McHugh turns to her friends and their canine companions to illustrate how interdependent we are with other species. She discusses an odd yet common fantasy in human-dog relationships where the human will often say they wish they could feign a disability so that their dog could gain access to public places. While this fantasy expresses a very tangible wish to live our lives more publicly with our extended kin, as well as a desire to incorporate animals in more ways and in more places than within the domestic space or within the pages of a novel, it fetishizes disability and overlooks the fact that without these service animals, humans are barred from these places as well. This fantasy fails to take into account the inaccessibility often posed to disabled people, regardless of the ADA, and what’s worse, imagines that they participate in some private luxury of a companion helper. Of course, since literature is both shaped by and shapes our culture, television series and other narratives depicting handicapped persons as pseudo-supernatural heroes, with heightened senses and intrepid professions help to fuel this fantasy. For instance, the TV series Blind Justice follows a detective who was blinded in the line of duty yet becomes more “sighted” than any other character, suggesting his disability allows for an escape from an overstimulating environment where he can focus on details most sighted persons would overlook. This motif now repositions the disabled from the denigrating lens of a social parasite who is dependent on and burdensome to society to a fully functioning and productive human and citizen (whose bitterness with depending on a service animal is nonetheless relayed through his bitterness with depending on other humans). With this extreme kind of reversal of human constructions, where the disabled become superhuman with the help of a companion species, McHugh mulls over Erica Fudge’s question as to whether we can enter into a rights relationship with an animal and whether training can lead to both individuals’ happiness. Upon examining one of the first depictions of a seeing eye dog and her human, where the human is seen as isolated and in need of his companion’s service to regain a life of normalcy and civilian function, McHugh can’t help but notice that this citizenship is denied to the service animal while all the while depending on him. Neither does it succeed with shedding any light on any other forms of relationship (other than possible dominance). Therefore, human identity problems and their depictions are positioned so that they displace multispecies concerns and fail to bring our companions into subjectivity. Furthermore, McHugh claims this myopic focus portrays disabilities as an insulated concern, both in terms of species and human society—“an individual’s problem rather than a shared social concern” (33). She argues for a shift and broadening of our focus; we have to stop seeing and imagining animals as fashion accessories or luxuries that these fantasies tend to encourage. Animals are “neither Homo sapiens nor Canis familiaris, neither ‘disabled’ nor ‘normal,’ but something else altogether, a shared transspecies being-in-the-world constituted by complex relations of trust, respect, dependence and communication” (36).
McHugh performs a close reading, through both a racial and ideological critique of Blind Justice, Last Express, and Longstreet. Each of these series reads in a similar fashion, where white masculinity and power is threatened, such as when she states, “In human terms, the show singles out the wounded white man as knocked out of power and clawing his way back with a vengeance. As an icon of besieged white manhood, Dunbar thus can be seen as becoming marked (or rendered visible) through the German shepherd guide accompanying his return to the police force” (39). Likewise, in Baynard Kendrick’s Last Express, among the coveted luxuries (rather than stigmatizations) of talking books, braille typewriters, and dictographs, is the ultimate forefront of technology—the seeing eye dog. Both of these narratives reek of anthropocentrism and male prowess, as seen by a depiction of a blind man holding back and controlling a seeing eye dog as well as a guard dog. In yet another instance, male prowess and masculinity are at their finest when a blind detective uses his heightened senses and refined martial arts skills to seek “justice”, all the while using his dog, Pax, as a tool for vengeance rather than for his own defense. What such narratives illustrate are what some scholars would refer to as bad fictions, or those fictions which appear to encourage “the voice of the past.”
Instead, McHugh reads the service animal not as a tool or a piece of technology as these shows might present, but one who enhances part of another’s becoming, extending the individual’s identity and offering a multitude of potentialities. After examining some interviews of persons with seeing eye dogs, she explains how unique this relationship is. One cannot easily find a substitute for the kind of relationship as service animal offers; the dog is not like a child or a best friend, but like one’s own eyes. “Winnie is my eyes. What is your relationship with your eyes?”, states one interviewee. Through such a declaration “it becomes clear the blind person does not simply identify with the dog, but rather feels through the dog a part of a shared bodily and agential experience that . . . is extraordinarily empowering” (44). Thus, TV series such as the ones mentioned above fail to successfully orient themselves around this transspecies discourse, and indeed the audience’s reviews comment on its failure. When Blind Justice went off the air, viewers complained that the dog was underdeveloped as a character, thereby marking a shift in the changing perception of service animals. To sum up the powerful impact of this chapter, I quote McHugh in her entirety, regarding both her view of these narratives and her view of our new transspecies, co-constructed, narrative ethology. She states:
Considering especially the self-descriptions of blind people working with guide dogs, I am tempted to say that these representations of highly specialized cross-species relations at their best show how intersubjective forms transcend the terms of human identity, asserting an irreducibly social unit instead of an individual human as a more fundamental basis of action. But this would only dodge the more troubling aspects of the history outlined above of their literary and cultural representation of a very specific human identity, of their circling inward toward congenitally able-bodied, if adventitiously blinded, white male detectives working with German shepherd dogs in situations in which rights are often violently suppressed. Instead, I can only say (with a nod to the Maclain novels and Sue Thomas especially) that such stories demonstrate how all forms of humanity could use the help of animals in the ongoing struggle for democratic power sharing among differently embodied agents. (64)
Therefore, one can hope for an animal rights relationship, where both individuals can have mutual happiness, nourished and cultivated by an equal and ethical partnership, if one is careful to understand our shared democracy and individuality.
If shows such as Blind Justice functioned within a masculine rhetoric, then narratives surrounding females and horses work within the same dynamics to further enforce gender roles regarding women. When examining the Equestrian Olympics today (a supposedly coed sport) the channel chosen to broadcast the events displays a extremely gendered problem. McHugh notes:
Because the network scheduled these prime slots exclusively on its Oxygen Network, branded as a cable channel for women, this decision proved no simple victory for gender parity. Cast alongside chick flicks and other programming typecast as “women’s interest,” this global achievement of gender equality in sport becomes harder to see, and along with it the significance of its mediation through animal bodies. Instead, it just seemed to many a nobrainer. Girls and horses have a natural affinity, right? Strange as it sounds, before the twentieth century, images and stories pairing girls and horses were as rare as hens’ teeth. (65)
Indeed, McHugh points to the nineteenth century gender roles of men on horses to depict prowess, virility, masculinity, class, and more importantly, the “natural” capability to tame the wild beast and control nature. McHugh relays the Freudian analysis of horse-crazy girls as an embodiment of penis envy (and since it’s Freud, what else would this affinity invoke?). Women’s unconscious desire to supplement what nature robbed them of by becoming one with the horse doesn’t exactly convince McHugh of women’s affinity to horses, so instead of a male psychoanalysist, she turns to women’s autobiographies for a more valid (and perhaps I should say co-constructed) answer.
The shift between male dominance and female independence happened slowly within and along the context of fluctuating ideas of what horses represented. Still perceived through a lens depicting class (horses are still considered an upper-middle class and above luxury), horse depictions also created and upset racial as well as gender divides. To illustrate this point, McHugh turns to National Velvet where a young self-admittedly misanthropic girl would fit in just fine, if only she were a boy. Her depiction as ugly, as well as her possible bulimia and disinterest in reproductivity, is meant to embody/castigate her defiance against classical female idealism. However, McHugh interestingly notes that such characteristics can also embody her refusal to participate in mass consumption of the animal body, as her family home acts as a slaughterhouse. The focus on the female body and its mutable representations, such as the level of corpulence or sexual interest, function as superficially as garments. To make her point, McHugh returns to the nineteenth century’s huntress, focusing on her forced position within society and on the saddle. Dressed in a rather dangerous and poorly purposed gown, the huntress would often endanger herself with the socially enforced and acceptable outfits, as the gown would trail to the ground beneath the horse and would often lead to accidents or fatalities—a classical Victorian punishment for the femme fatale. Out of fear of appearing indecent, especially when lumped with the famous prostitutes who were displayed on top of horses at auctions and other events, many women were discouraged from riding but those who weren’t had to suffer back injuries and malformations from riding side-saddle at a young age. As with everything else in the Victorian era regarding women, manuals were dispersed informing women as to whether they should ride and if so, how early. Because women were forced to ride side-saddle, the age in which one began posed dangerous health risks and malformations of the spine, as riding side-saddle forces one to arch their back in order to stay centered. However, an easy, yet slow-to-rise solution was the appearance of female breeches, which made a forward seat acceptable for a female rider. No longer did women have to choose whether to ride, nor ask a man to race their horse whose answer often rested on her acquiescence to a marriage proposal, but could now ride against the men who sought to control them, bringing forth a revived independence and empowerment. Despite this cultural and social shift, depictions of strong female riders often end in the fatalities mentioned above, perhaps in an attempt to discourage such revolutions against patriarchal idealism. Yet, even when we look at more current films, such as The Horse Whisperer or Water for Elephants we still notice a masculine overtone, where the female rider dies, or the male veterinarian not only saves all the animals, but the women and children as well. From off the pages of novels and off the sets of televisions comes a possible reason as to why most young female riders quickly give up the dream of racing horses professionally and replace it with the goal to become a veterinarian; a field outnumbering men but yet still lies within the tensions of portrayed gender constructions.
Chapter 3 (Part II):
McHugh’s third chapter focuses on nonhuman sterilization without advocating for one argument over another. Rather, she wants to explore the discourse surrounding these issues and address the tensions and questions which they pose, such as for whose benefit do we sterilize and de-sex animals? Is it for the individual’s health or is it another form of biopower that aims to trump other forms of sexuality and intimacy among marginal groups? To navigate these issues, she highlights the subtle yet common practice of digitally castrating animals on TV or on advertisements, where one might not even notice a stallion’s lack of genitalia while rearing for an impressive and classic camera shot. In another instance, while gaining a voyeuristic perception of how animals act in the wild on shows such as National Geographic, we should ask ourselves whether our media still pedals a heteronormativity that may not be accurately “animal” but yet another example of human construction and bad fiction. That is, we police others’ and other forms of sexuality, dictating where, why, and when someone couples, as well as with whom. A wonderful example is McHugh’s analysis of a photograph of two dogs, assumed to be male and female, lying in bed together in a traditional bedroom. While the picture is meant to be a parody of human relationships, the dog’s gaze off the camera and likewise off the TV to an unknown person beyond the lens cues us into the interspecies relations inherent in our everyday lives. The dog’s interest in his human, despite the proximity of a female of his own species, demonstrates the agency of nonhumans in potentially choosing their companions and partners, while it simultaneously demonstrates our own disruptive behavior in intra-species coupling.
As the previous chapters have shown, narratives depict our ever-present concerns with gender roles, both as defined by and for the human and displaced upon the nonhuman, as illustrated in May Sarton’s, The Fur Person. In this work, we witness a couple sit at their dining room table discussing their cat’s neutering, mainly in the hope that it will prevent him from fighting with other cats, and in essence, redefine him as a gentleman-cat who avoids violence. Nonetheless, the text cannot avoid the irony of violence, as one’s discouragement away from violence can only be instilled with a violent act on himself—that of de-sexing. Therefore, “the narrative thus tempers its own conclusion with the idea that this form of feline domestic bliss incurs tremendous human responsibilities in lockstep with unwitting feline sacrifices” (130). Despite the overlapping rhetoric surrounding sexuality when it comes to humans and nonhumans, the complete lack of zoophilia portrayed demonstrates what “Michael Warner has called heteronormative culture, their treatment of sodomy highlights how heterosexuality’s juridical, economic, and aesthetic structures extend beyond sex acts and, in this case, into nonhuman animal bodies and behaviors” (132). That is, we tend to pick the sexual partners of our breeding companions and may at times, have the desire to marry them to their sexual partners to fit them into our heteronormative culture.
Even though there is a dearth of zoophilia in these narratives, that doesn’t mean sexualities do not overlap, nor does it mean that boundaries are not blurred between human, animal, male, and female. For instance, McHugh analyzes works such My Father and Myself which portrays a son’s need to discover his father’s homosexual affairs. He uses his dog, or rather their dog (as the ownership/relationship was shared between the two human men) as a possible portal into his father’s secret life. As the dog must have seen these liaisons, he becomes a co-conspirator with the father: “In this complicated situation, the problems of claiming ownership of Ginger mirror those of owning Roger as a father, and their constant companionship in traveling to the secret orchard make them collaborators in transgressing domestic boundaries” (136). Likewise, in a scene from We Think the World of You, even more positions vacillate between humans and animals, regardless of their sex. Johnny although married to a pregnant woman, has a homosexual lover, as well as a female canine companion. This double couple repositions Frank from jealous outside lover, to the desirable subject of interest once he adopts the female dog whose sterility assuages his own non-reproductivity, thereby depicting the ethical conflicts inherent in policing others’ sexuality. While Frank looks around to his fellow dog owners he realizes he has joined a “‘human conspiracy’ against canine sexual agency” (147), all the while intending to keep them safe and healthy within overpopulated urban environments. Not to mention the identities of the female dog and wife are constantly overlapping and muddled during conversation. Thus the dog becomes a co-conspirator of identities for both the gay man (in her sterility) and the pregnant wife (in her sex).
While these texts help illustrate how fragile these lines are between human and animal sexuality and gender constructions, a large majority of media still insists on perpetuating these seemingly stagnant and universal ideals of heteronormativity. For instance, McHugh highlights the dearth of displayed animal threesomes or homosexuality in the animal kingdom and notes how homosexuality among nonhumans is rushed to be classified, categorized, and contained. That is, if a ram often has sex with another ram, but then will mate with an ewe when presented, is he gay or is he simply a sheep? The answer to this question acknowledges our obsession with restraining and forcefully extending our own constructions onto nonhumans—a rather unfruitful way of being. With echoes of Vinciane Despret’s work, McHugh asks us whether “we prefer living with predictable sheep or with sheep that surprise us and add other definitions to what ‘being social’ means” (160). That is, when viewing animality, are we asking the right questions or are we simply constructing a false environment that will provide us with equally false information? Animal studies can then provide a useful reanalysis and reformulation of sexualities and agencies through both an investigation of narratives and in-the-field animal research.
McHugh’s fourth chapter focuses on the difference (or lack thereof) of farm animals and meat animals. This interchangeable appellation demonstrates how we reduce all forms of life to a use value. Are farm animals different from meat? In an uncomfortable (and slightly nauseating) discussion of muscle-derived stem cells grown in a lab, McHugh relays the shifting boundaries and discussions surrounding agency, or at least a proto-agency in kind-of-alive beings (165). She asks in what ways do animals take part in their own perception and representation, and for the sake of this chapter, especially farm animals and (in some instances) lab grown beings? Furthermore, in terms of farm animals’ agency and subjectivity, “What are the visual and narrative processes by which animals engage with their own representation? What happens to representation itself when humans imagine animals as having their own stories, even as having history, in the broadest sense? And how do these representational processes relate to ideas about agency in (semi-)living forms?” (170). She uses a discussion of Enviropig, Babe, The Jungle, Animal Farm, and Oryx and Crate to help explore these questions.
McHugh argues Enviropig illustrates how our desire for the flesh transforms social bodies in ways similar to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, in which human and animal bodies share the fate of missing limbs and fatalities, thus blurring the boundaries between social being and meat. These representations, however, function to give an animal voice within the meat industry—whether they are successful is another question. For instance, although George Orwell’s Animal Farm grants power to the farm animals in their rebellion, the maneuver stops short of any real power since these animals stand in as ciphers for human concerns—mainly the Cold War. Interestingly, she suggests this failure has to do with the lack of technological expertise for the farm animals, wondering how the novel would have changed if the windmill had worked:
What if the animals’ technological literacy was cultivated (in today’s terms) in order to green farming? Among the more faithful adaptations of Animal Farm, it remains uncertain whether they transform only themselves, their kind, or their communities, and to what end, particularly with regard to crossspecies intimacies. (185)
Understanding the pigs’ position, even in films such as Babe And Oryx and Crake, “involves grappling first with questions of how animals share human technologies, and what happens to them in this process of engagement” (ibid).
If we turn to Babe, we gain a better understanding of the animal-cyborg hybrid—what she coins as the animalacra: “Animalacra emerge not as humans pretending to be animals, machines pretending to be humans (or machines), but as animals pretending to be other animals in such a way that humans and machines are implicated” (187). For example, if we turn to the duck in Babe, who becomes both a rooster and an alarm clock to enact his own agency while simultaneously transforming the actual alarm clock into a mechanical rooster, we begin to see a shift in social bodies beyond the limits of corporeality, mechanics, and subjectivity. Likewise, unlike Animal Farm, Babe leads a complete revolution of the farm and a co-construction of narrative as every animal’s position depicted changes throughout the movie. From the mice who segue each scene with lines from the movie (thereby asking the audience to question who is really speaking and who has authorial power—the mice or the character who says the line in the following scene), to the farmer whose silence repositions him from the “human master” to the voiceless farm animal, we realize a complete revamping of the farm’s dynamic. Babe, then, “needs to secure more than just a place for himself other than as dinner on the humans’ table; he must work to redefine the human as another kind of animal. Cheering on pig, sheep, man, and themselves for their part in a peaceful power transition, humans and animals see themselves and one another as no longer antagonistic and instead are deeply integrated in these new potentials” (191). Despite Babe’s success, however, the movie remains gendered (as in the case of International Velvet and other representations discussed in chapter 2), since the corpulent wife, Mrs. Hogett, is aligned with her cat and thus with the femme fatale. Not to mention her name is Mrs. Hogett. Her traditional gendering aligns her as against Babe’s agenda and may therefore be why she is stuck in a regressive analysis. Likewise, Fly, the bitch who adopts Babe, is dominated by Rex and eventually injured and killed, perhaps punished for her transspecies and progressive agency.
Finally, her analysis of Oryx and Crate discuss the humanized pigoons who escape from the lab with their advanced brains. They refuse to be seen as meat animals and form a squadron whose goal it is to hunt humans instead. This shift in positions then humanizes the animal while simultaneously mechanizing the human within the lab. What these narratives’ mutinies are meant to depict, McHugh argues, is our blasé attitudes when it comes to our ethics concerning animal lives—that is how we are unwilling to completely circumnavigate our own human story in the face of our concern for animal lives: “Especially in contrast to the polarizing patterns of interpretation, these fictions beg questions about how the interests of all life forms— human, animal, plant, tissue, cellular— converge in the multiform intimacies on which meat industries depend and the viability of narratively and visually representing intercorporeal life” (207). We must then ask ourselves what and who shapes our mutual histories and future of farm animals, meat animals, and undead meat, and whether they can be seen as agents, simple commodities, or as commodities gone feral.
In an anecdotal fashion of Jane Goodall response to Tarzan (“I’d have been a better mate for him”), McHugh traces the conflation and influences the sciences and humanities have on each other in shaping our ethics, realities, and perceptions. While science attempted to discredit such narratives written by those whom Theodore Roosevelt termed “Nature Fakers”, these authors prevalence and popularity prove that one cannot simply based their ethics in the lab, nor can the humanities and sciences wholly fracture themselves from one another. Instead narratives "indicate how a more pervasive struggle with animal agency continues to move across literary, scientific, and popular imaginaries" (214). Furthermore, they demonstrate how stories become "a means of negotiating alternatives to nature/culture, animal/human, and related hierarchic dualism in thought itself" (ibid). Thus, these nature fakers, or those who relay a narrative from an animal voice or seek to instate or mimic agency in stories are the ones who set the standards for ethnological research—gaining their information from real animals and unreal environments, and not the scientist who disclaim their validity. As McHugh states “it is on narrative that the popular triumph of field over laboratory animal science hinges, and not the other way around” (ibid). These stories help acknowledge how animas are positioned “between and beyond our disciplinary ways of knowing” other species (215). Because of this, we cannot definitively say that animals act only as metaphors for understanding human life and culture, nor can we continue allowing science and discourse to perpetuate anthropocentric agendas and benefits as their goals for research. Rather, McHugh argues we have to look beyond ourselves in both our urban, evolutionary, and ecological livelihood to the co-constructed margins of animal stories. This reconception of narratives as a more heterogeneous interplay and dialogue is what she defines as a new narrative ethology. She claims, “What the stories gathered together in this book indicate further is that forms of representation matter to the development of theories of species life, and, moreover, that these forms do not illustrate or define so much as they promise to deconstruct disciplinary habits of mind” (218). It is then our responsibility to approach stories critically, to keep in mind that these forms of animal treatment and narratology may be and are culturally constructed to a purpose, and that the good stories will be ones that challenge our constructions, question the acceptability of our actions, and seek to find other way in which to think about, speak along, and live with nonhuman companion species, much as McHugh’s work has sought out to do.