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The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog

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In this powerful, soul-searching memoir, beautifully written in the vein of A Pack of Two and Wild, animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell recounts for the first time the compelling story of her dark past, memories of which are triggered by a troubled dog named Will. World-renowned as a source of science and soul, Patricia McConnell combines brilliant insights into canin In this powerful, soul-searching memoir, beautifully written in the vein of A Pack of Two and Wild, animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell recounts for the first time the compelling story of her dark past, memories of which are triggered by a troubled dog named Will. World-renowned as a source of science and soul, Patricia McConnell combines brilliant insights into canine behavior—gained from her work with aggressive and fearful dogs—with heartwarming stories of her own dogs and their life on the farm. Now, she reveals that it wasn’t just the dogs who had serious problems. For decades Dr. McConnell secretly grappled with her own guilt and fear, which were rooted in the harrowing traumas of her youth. Patricia is forced to face her past by her love for a young Border Collie named Will, whose frequent, unpredictable outbreaks of fear and fury shake Patricia to her core. In order to save Will from this dangerous behavior, she must find her own will to heal, and along the way learn that will power by itself is not enough. Interweaving enlightening stories of her clients’ dogs with tales of her deepening bond with Will, Patricia recounts her fight to reclaim her life. Hopeful and inspiring, the redemptive message of her journey is that, while trauma changes our brains and the past casts a long shadow, healing, for both people and dogs, is possible through hard work, compassion, and mutual devotion.


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In this powerful, soul-searching memoir, beautifully written in the vein of A Pack of Two and Wild, animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell recounts for the first time the compelling story of her dark past, memories of which are triggered by a troubled dog named Will. World-renowned as a source of science and soul, Patricia McConnell combines brilliant insights into canin In this powerful, soul-searching memoir, beautifully written in the vein of A Pack of Two and Wild, animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell recounts for the first time the compelling story of her dark past, memories of which are triggered by a troubled dog named Will. World-renowned as a source of science and soul, Patricia McConnell combines brilliant insights into canine behavior—gained from her work with aggressive and fearful dogs—with heartwarming stories of her own dogs and their life on the farm. Now, she reveals that it wasn’t just the dogs who had serious problems. For decades Dr. McConnell secretly grappled with her own guilt and fear, which were rooted in the harrowing traumas of her youth. Patricia is forced to face her past by her love for a young Border Collie named Will, whose frequent, unpredictable outbreaks of fear and fury shake Patricia to her core. In order to save Will from this dangerous behavior, she must find her own will to heal, and along the way learn that will power by itself is not enough. Interweaving enlightening stories of her clients’ dogs with tales of her deepening bond with Will, Patricia recounts her fight to reclaim her life. Hopeful and inspiring, the redemptive message of her journey is that, while trauma changes our brains and the past casts a long shadow, healing, for both people and dogs, is possible through hard work, compassion, and mutual devotion.

30 review for The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    3.5 Stars This book was recommended to me by one of the aides in my Veterinarian’s office, she’d just finished reading it and suggested it as a memoir of an animal behaviorist whose own dog had developed some behavioral issues, and how moving this was. How their journey as animal behaviorist / dog owner and beloved / troubled dog, working together had brought them even closer together. Having owned many dogs throughout my life, most have been very well behaved, some have been purebred, some have 3.5 Stars This book was recommended to me by one of the aides in my Veterinarian’s office, she’d just finished reading it and suggested it as a memoir of an animal behaviorist whose own dog had developed some behavioral issues, and how moving this was. How their journey as animal behaviorist / dog owner and beloved / troubled dog, working together had brought them even closer together. Having owned many dogs throughout my life, most have been very well behaved, some have been purebred, some have not, some have been rescued, and some have not. I wasn’t looking for behavior modification tips, but she made this sound interesting, so I got on the wait list at my library and waited. This is well written, but it’s really less about dogs, raising them, loving them or any variation on that theme as it is about a basic understanding that problems, emotionally based troubling behaviors don’t just appear out of nowhere, absent of internal or external problems. This is true of people as well as dogs. ”That was when it hit me. Willie like I knew myself. I knew what it was like to fight the demons inside and still want so badly to be good. To be so fearful that the slightest noise blows you off the ground as if a bomb has gone off under your feet. I know what it was like to be happy and friendly on the outside and yet spend much of your life in fear.” While this book is a memoir, it is less about her dog Will, than it is about the events that affected much of her adult life. Molestation as a child, repeatedly. Rape as an adult. Both of these are relayed somewhat in detail. It bears mentioning since this might be a trigger for some readers. ”As I worried, it occurred to me that Willie was acting like a dog with PTSD. Given my own symptoms, you’d think I would have figured it out sooner.” As the years pass, she sees how the lessons she’s learned over the years in dealing with her own traumas have helped her perception and treatment of her dog’s problems, and perhaps, in turn, how owning a dog with problems has helped her to see her own issues, how they may have affected her relationship with her dogs, how her working on her issues helped her understand how to work with her dog, how to see her dog’s thoughts and feelings through his behavior. ”’Take one dog and call me in the morning’ is not a prescription you will ever hear from your doctor, but it would be a reasonable one. Healthy, happy dogs can be good for us. The research is clear: The mere presence of a dog can elevate your levels of oxytocin, the hormone that makes you feel all warm and melty toward someone you love. Oxytocin can also decrease feelings of fear and anxiety. Shock and trauma are not just theoretical concepts; they affect your entire body, and they not only compromise brain function, they actually change the size of the areas of your brain that mediate emotion. Stroking a dog, or even just looking at one, can increase your levels of oxytocin and can be as therapeutic as taking a drug.” The writing remained a bit detached for a memoir, but given the trauma involved I can understand that it would be difficult to write out, but it is worth noting. I didn’t love this, but I can’t say it is without merit for someone else.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    Patricia McConnell is a fantastic writer about troubled doggies and the relationships and practices that help them. Unfortunately this - a venture into a more literary memoir - falls flat on a number of fronts. Most seriously, her straightforward, scientifically-informed style, which works so well in a non-fiction dog training book, does not translate to material that is personal. McConnell's attempts to be literary result in too-frequent and hackneyed similes and endless descriptions of landsca Patricia McConnell is a fantastic writer about troubled doggies and the relationships and practices that help them. Unfortunately this - a venture into a more literary memoir - falls flat on a number of fronts. Most seriously, her straightforward, scientifically-informed style, which works so well in a non-fiction dog training book, does not translate to material that is personal. McConnell's attempts to be literary result in too-frequent and hackneyed similes and endless descriptions of landscapes and birdsong. But what really matters is treated so matter-of-factly that the drama and power of it is lost. It's too bad because the nugget at the heart of the story is fascinating and important. The idea of equating and exploring the experience and influence of trauma in and on a dog and his human could have provided useful and riveting insights.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    so so much of value here: recounts the author's practical steps to healing deeply buried wounds to her psyche and spirit. she is intelligent, candid, wise, sweet, human...and pretty funny. couldn't stop thinking of the saying I read from Jon Katz (who was quoting someone else): "if you want a better dog, be a better human being."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ruthie

    I love Trisha McConnell and I know this must have been so difficult to write. But I didn't LOVE it. There was a lot of repetition and there was something missing; some depth she didn't dare go into. And I don't blame her.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Story Circle Book Reviews

    If you have an aggressive dog, you may have heard of Patricia McConnell. For decades, she has written and taught about animal behavior. She is known as a scientist writing about dog training and as a consultant on behavior problems. Her new memoir, The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog, reveals a more private story about her world and one special dog. She shares her wisdom gained from self-discovery and recovery from personal traumas that have haunted her since childhood. If you have an aggressive dog, you may have heard of Patricia McConnell. For decades, she has written and taught about animal behavior. She is known as a scientist writing about dog training and as a consultant on behavior problems. Her new memoir, The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog, reveals a more private story about her world and one special dog. She shares her wisdom gained from self-discovery and recovery from personal traumas that have haunted her since childhood. Even if you aren't a dog lover, you may find opportunity to grow as you read and listen with your heart. This is a great book about herding dogs—and hurt. "Take one dog and call me in the morning.", Patricia McConnell writes, knowing the soothing effect that many feel in the company of dogs. Unfortunately, to heal some of the deepest wounds of self, the work is a little more difficult. I found myself "leaning into the sharp points" of this tale, right along with the author. One of McConnell's main reasons for telling this story is that through talking about what happened, she faced deeply-rooted fears and learned to cope better. Through listening to other women's stories, she eventually developed self-compassion. "After I realized that part of my resistance was the need to hang on to a familiar narrative, I could feel a shift inside, subtle but discernible, like the soft change in light just before the sky begins to glow at dawn," she writes. In dog training, the term "trigger stacking" refers to the effect of multiple factors building up and setting off a reaction. Facing the "demons within" was the first step in her recovery. For much too long, she says, "I willed myself to forget." She pays homage to nature's gift to heal wounded human souls in the portrait that she paints of her beloved Wisconsin farm. She embraces the duality and acknowledges that farm life isn't always easy, but nature is a great teacher about life, death, transformations. Yet as brutal as living with the land can be, I wouldn't trade my connection to it for anything. Sometimes I think I owe my life to it. It might seem strange to talk about the healing force of nature, and how it has helped me specifically, by telling the sad story of the effects of a drought. But it is not just beautiful flowers and awe-inspiring vistas that do a body good. Patricia McConnell's artful intertwining of her story with Will's story allowed for plenty of juxtaposition of darkness and light, fear and love. She learns resilience from her dog. "Dogs have a silent voice that is easy to hear, but most people don't know how to listen." Whatever happens to you during and after a trauma doesn't disappear as if it never happened. It just gets easier to deal with, if you know how to face it. Stuff comes up—it will always come up—and you have to look it in the eye and back it down, like a dog standing nose to nose with a ram. But you can do that if you've done the work beforehand, if you have a good support system, and most importantly, if you have the faith that what you need is inside you. You just have to take the risk to find it. Patricia McConnell offers a memoir as medicine, with the potential to help many women work through their own issues. As her contemporary, I related to the family dynamics she described of the 1950's and 60's and her relationship with her father. I found myself sharing wise quotes with friends young and old, who, also late in life, are unraveling a life of hidden traumatic events. "Lesson learned: I will never finish dealing with trauma," McConnell writes. "But when I take the risks necessary to face it, I get better and better at it." by Martha Meacham for Story Circle Book Reviews reviewing books by, for, and about women

  6. 4 out of 5

    Magen

    3.5 stars Trigger warnings: Trauma (view spoiler)[ including molestation (detailed), rape (detailed), faked kidnapping (it's the opening story otherwise I wouldn't have been so specific), and watching someone die unexpectedly (hide spoiler)] . Also, if you are concerned about what happens to Will, the main dog in this memoir, open this spoiler: (view spoiler)[Will does not die at the end of this book. There are other dogs who die and one of those stories is detailed enough that it is incredibly s 3.5 stars Trigger warnings: Trauma (view spoiler)[ including molestation (detailed), rape (detailed), faked kidnapping (it's the opening story otherwise I wouldn't have been so specific), and watching someone die unexpectedly (hide spoiler)] . Also, if you are concerned about what happens to Will, the main dog in this memoir, open this spoiler: (view spoiler)[Will does not die at the end of this book. There are other dogs who die and one of those stories is detailed enough that it is incredibly sad and impactful. There are others which are fairly sad and could impact readers. Will does sustain injuries and the recovery process is detailed. I did not find this particularly distressing, but it could be to some, so I am mentioning it (hide spoiler)] . This is a hard book to review. McConnell revealed very personal stories, including ones which could negatively impact her professional career as a dog behaviorist. It is brave, honest, raw, and validating. We need more books like this where people honestly discuss their trauma and the process they took to recover. On the other hand, there's a lot less details about her recovery than I expected. When McConnell first discusses it, it seemed like there would be as much detail about the process as she gives about working with dogs. There are some times where this is true. But there are other times, especially when she gets to dealing with her shame that she glosses over and generalizes. The biggest problem I had with this book is that her story was not chronological in order to fit the chronological story of Will's recovery. It was hard at times to get straight what happened when and this is a problem because of the importance of understanding her story to better understand her recovery. I found this to be a strong book that could have benefited from a few more drafts to get a better chonology and more details about her recovery. I think it is an important book and one I do recommend to all readers, but if you have a trauma history, do check out the trigger warnings first (you have to be on the website to open them). This book has the potential to be very triggering. I hope this book is one many people will read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    An imperfectly perfect memoir about a woman and her dog, The Education of Will is a testament to the 15,000 year old bond between humans and dogs. Patricia McConnell and Will give each other impetus and courage to face their traumas and fears. Together, they make mistakes, fail, try again, succeed, heal and thrive. As an aside, a friend of mine knew Patricia McConnell. I stayed at her farm a couple times and helped care for her dogs and sheep. I have some photos from our visits, including a shot An imperfectly perfect memoir about a woman and her dog, The Education of Will is a testament to the 15,000 year old bond between humans and dogs. Patricia McConnell and Will give each other impetus and courage to face their traumas and fears. Together, they make mistakes, fail, try again, succeed, heal and thrive. As an aside, a friend of mine knew Patricia McConnell. I stayed at her farm a couple times and helped care for her dogs and sheep. I have some photos from our visits, including a shot of me with Luke, Will's uncle. Luke was pure magic. The dog is woman's best friend. Men can have diamonds.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Diane Yannick

    Patricia and Will helped each other find peace in an often scary world. Her efforts to help Will to cope with his scary version of the world felt super human. Just the number of recuperation would have worn me totally out. I see how the author tried to mesh their anxiety and recoveries, but it often didn't work for me. Her personal stories of trauma were often repetitive with no added depth. Her life as a pet therapist was often disjointed with no clear message. I loved learning about border col Patricia and Will helped each other find peace in an often scary world. Her efforts to help Will to cope with his scary version of the world felt super human. Just the number of recuperation would have worn me totally out. I see how the author tried to mesh their anxiety and recoveries, but it often didn't work for me. Her personal stories of trauma were often repetitive with no added depth. Her life as a pet therapist was often disjointed with no clear message. I loved learning about border collies as sheep herders and could clearly picture those sections. One of my pet peeves was the writer's attempt to add figurative language. The attempts were amateurish, inconsistent and jarring. A dog friend suggested this book to me. I knew the author was going to be in the area at a dog training facility so I put it at the top of my list. In addition to promoting her book, she charged a $50 entrance fee. Unusual, in my experience with author visits.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    This book was WONDERFUL. Patricia McConnell is one of my very favorite writers, but it has been a long time since I've read one of her books. I'd forgotten how enthralling her writing was, as I absolutely could not put this book down (I read it in less than 24 hours). Though most of her books are about dogs and the people who love them, this book is primarily about Patricia's own life in parallel with the life of one of her current dogs, Willie. I literally both laughed and cried throughout. The This book was WONDERFUL. Patricia McConnell is one of my very favorite writers, but it has been a long time since I've read one of her books. I'd forgotten how enthralling her writing was, as I absolutely could not put this book down (I read it in less than 24 hours). Though most of her books are about dogs and the people who love them, this book is primarily about Patricia's own life in parallel with the life of one of her current dogs, Willie. I literally both laughed and cried throughout. There is some very heavy material in this book that I had NO idea about when I started. However, she never gets totally bogged down in the very traumatic and difficult topics she addresses. There is always a ray of hope in her words.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    McConnell made me laugh and cry. what a powerful memoir and a perfect intertwining of two stories into one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    I didn't know much about this author, but a woman who was writing her memoir that included the journey of a dog, count me in! She had a lot of traumatic things happen to her in her lifetime, but at the end you take that and turn it into life experiences and become more relatable to humans and dogs alike. Being a dog person, and while not owning Border Collies, but having seen them work, and owning herding breeds my whole life, I loved that aspect. She stated she wasn't going to go too in depth o I didn't know much about this author, but a woman who was writing her memoir that included the journey of a dog, count me in! She had a lot of traumatic things happen to her in her lifetime, but at the end you take that and turn it into life experiences and become more relatable to humans and dogs alike. Being a dog person, and while not owning Border Collies, but having seen them work, and owning herding breeds my whole life, I loved that aspect. She stated she wasn't going to go too in depth of dog stuff, which I would have loved if she had, but I get it, you can't get it all in there. She has a PhD in animal behavior and worked for years with troublesome, fearful and aggressive dogs, and that is not easy. To work with an animal that can't tell you why it's doing that or what is wrong, is quite a career choice in itself, but to take her own experiences and learn years later that dogs suffer trauma and to learn to deal with it while teaching the dog to do the same is profound to me. I have one dog that can be reactive, and one dog that can be high strung, but when they are working they are so happy and focused, and to get to a state of my dog really gets it and I get it, we are a team, we move together, we trust each other, is great. Not all amazing dogs can walk around the neighborhood and ignore other dogs, they can't, if there was one thing I took away from this book, it was that. My one Aussie is almost 11, I take out treats and work on his ability to not bark at the hair dryer. He's good, he's got this, he is my partner. Kudos to the author for putting her traumatic experiences out there. Dogs are healers, and yes, they provide a companionship that you can't find anywhere else.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heilet Van

    This is a book for animal lovers like myself, especially if you like dogs. Right from the start I connected with the gentle, intelligent way the narrator spoke about dogs. But the book is much more than simply a narration of different relationships between humans and dogs and how humans easily fail to understand the subtle signs of canine language, fascinating by itself though. This is a personal story about overcoming trauma, explained so convincing and well, that it made me understand a whole This is a book for animal lovers like myself, especially if you like dogs. Right from the start I connected with the gentle, intelligent way the narrator spoke about dogs. But the book is much more than simply a narration of different relationships between humans and dogs and how humans easily fail to understand the subtle signs of canine language, fascinating by itself though. This is a personal story about overcoming trauma, explained so convincing and well, that it made me understand a whole lot more of post traumatic stress syndrome and the way out of it, based on confronting the trauma and re-wiring the brain. The book has a hopeful message, it is possible to acquire peace of mind and feel happy and at ease again with the little things of life, even after horrendous experiences.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Solita

    I give it five stars for the story she is willing to share. The writing is fair. What is beautiful to me is that a troubled dog triggered her memories of traumas and the buried emotions that manifested as irrational fears, fantasies, and reactions. That compelled her to see a therapist and begin her journey toward healing. We don't get to know what made Will behave aggressively. He was lucky to meet someone who was willing to work with him. And she was lucky to have met a dog that goosed her int I give it five stars for the story she is willing to share. The writing is fair. What is beautiful to me is that a troubled dog triggered her memories of traumas and the buried emotions that manifested as irrational fears, fantasies, and reactions. That compelled her to see a therapist and begin her journey toward healing. We don't get to know what made Will behave aggressively. He was lucky to meet someone who was willing to work with him. And she was lucky to have met a dog that goosed her into confronting some issues of her own.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    This book touches some difficult topics and I appreciate the author's vulnerability and honesty. I enjoy reading books about dogs and dog obedience and this book contains elements of that as well. But there is something - unenthusiastic? - about the writing style.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    "No matter what the cause, he behaved as though he had been psychologically traumatized. My heart broke for him every time he exploded off the carpet, startling to the quietest of sounds. The only problem was, I did, too. No wonder we were soul mates."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    Bio McConnell Patricia. The author has published many dog training books. This, however, is a personal memoir of her life, understanding how her effort to train her dog , freed as well. Her childhood abuse ..

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    So it took me a bit to get into this one. An older woman living on a Wisconsin farm and full lots of lots anxiety is not something I can relate to. The story is drawn out and repetitive so it seems like a long love letter to the author's country life and the sounds and smells of it. As the story went on though and you realize that her anxious new border collie is bringing up her many hidden traumas that are causing her own anxieties. She has witnessed a horrible accidental a teenager, been moles So it took me a bit to get into this one. An older woman living on a Wisconsin farm and full lots of lots anxiety is not something I can relate to. The story is drawn out and repetitive so it seems like a long love letter to the author's country life and the sounds and smells of it. As the story went on though and you realize that her anxious new border collie is bringing up her many hidden traumas that are causing her own anxieties. She has witnessed a horrible accidental a teenager, been molested by her sister's old boyfriend as a teenager, and endured a very horrific date rape (which has particularly haunted me long after reading it--I hate that she and so many other women have had these experiences). The author has a PhD and is a trained dog behaviorist who works on problematic dog behaviors. Much like her consultation with pets, she starts looking into her own behaviors and what might be driving her own behavior. Through much personal work, nature, and the help of her dogs, she learns how to take better care of herself. As a side note, I was exhausted reading about all of her own dogs' issues and can't believe how much she has had to go through. I feel like most people would have given all her dogs away they sound like so much work even for an expert like her. I know no dog is perfect and sometimes a dog is not a good fit for a home and needs rehoming or unfortunately being put down of dangerous. I appreciated her look into the complex world of our pets that have both the pros and cons. Makes you look at your own pet with more understanding and compassion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sassafras Lowrey

    Patricia McConnell is one of my favorite dog writers, she's a brilliant behaviorist whose columns and books I've been reading since I first came into dogs as a teenager in the mid/late 90s. Her writing has always connected me to the heart of what I love about building family with, and working with dogs. To read her memoir of trama interlaced with her work with a special needs/ behaviorally challenged dog? pretty much everything I could want in a book like this. As a fellow trauma survivor, and g Patricia McConnell is one of my favorite dog writers, she's a brilliant behaviorist whose columns and books I've been reading since I first came into dogs as a teenager in the mid/late 90s. Her writing has always connected me to the heart of what I love about building family with, and working with dogs. To read her memoir of trama interlaced with her work with a special needs/ behaviorally challenged dog? pretty much everything I could want in a book like this. As a fellow trauma survivor, and guardian of a reactive/trauma surviving dog whose healing alongside my own I felt a lot of kinship to this book and the intertwining of interspecies healing and growth. I am a better person for the work that I have done as a result of being brought together with a challenging dog. Our own natural trauma responses closely aligned, the joy that has come from working together to build new responses. this is such a great read. i checked this one out from the library but i probably should buy a copy.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    I've known of Patricia McConnell for years, though haven't read as much of her books as I probably should, and bought this one when I went to see her on the book tour at Third Place Books. Her talk was inspiring and engaging, despite the difficult subject matters at hand, and I wish I could see her give more talks in person especially on some of the deeper behavioral subjects that are her expertise. This book is a memoir, not a scientific or training discussion, and it is valuable in its own righ I've known of Patricia McConnell for years, though haven't read as much of her books as I probably should, and bought this one when I went to see her on the book tour at Third Place Books. Her talk was inspiring and engaging, despite the difficult subject matters at hand, and I wish I could see her give more talks in person especially on some of the deeper behavioral subjects that are her expertise. This book is a memoir, not a scientific or training discussion, and it is valuable in its own right for exactly that reason. Patricia's story of bringing home Will, a border collie boy who turned out to have severe behavioral problems, intertwines with her own history and brings her previous traumas back to the present where she has to deal with them and heal at last. These aren't pretty, and not everything is in the book, but they include rape and molestation, in clear detail that conveys the horror and trauma of living through those experiences and their aftermath for years or decades. As Patricia faces the trauma that she'd hidden for so long, she gains the tools and confidence to work through them and to talk about them, and starts applying what she's learning to helping young Will become the dog he's capable of becoming as well. Her writing is a joy to read, making me laugh out loud and surreptitiously cry at the lunch table at work, with eloquent turns of phrase and ways to get her point across clearly and memorably. There is still not enough discussion of rape, not enough help for survivors, and too much blame placed on the victims, and this book is a step towards improving that situation. There is also not enough discussion of trauma and brain issues in dogs, with most people blaming dog behavior on the owner or some nebulous "he was abused" comment about the dog's past, and this book lays out why that needs to change and some ideas for where to go from here. This is a really important book for many people to read, especially women and dog trainers. I think pretty much everyone should read a book like this one at least once, just to see why rape is such a big deal and how it can traumatize a person for life. I'd keep this book in the hands of mature teenagers and above, because the specific topics might be too much for younger or more sensitive teens and children, but keep it for them when they are ready.

  20. 4 out of 5

    MrsEnginerd

    I briefly met Dr McConnel at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, WA and had a book plate signed. Her book, The Other Side of The Leash, had been instrumental in my journey to understand our foster dog Zach who was fearful/reactive to strangers and other dogs. We never knew exactly why he is the way he is, and reading about her experience with Willie made me aware that sometimes all we may never will know why he is the way he is. Patience, training/conditioning and understanding is all we can I briefly met Dr McConnel at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, WA and had a book plate signed. Her book, The Other Side of The Leash, had been instrumental in my journey to understand our foster dog Zach who was fearful/reactive to strangers and other dogs. We never knew exactly why he is the way he is, and reading about her experience with Willie made me aware that sometimes all we may never will know why he is the way he is. Patience, training/conditioning and understanding is all we can do to help our dogs through life, hoping we are doing good by them. Patricia intercalates her own aha moments as she realized Will's struggles reflected her own. Her fears and traumas resonated with me, as my own reactions to Zach opened old wounds. She opens up about very private and devastating aspects of her life in the hopes that other people can benefit from her healing process; topics like rape and PTSD come up throughout the story and are used in parallel with the storytelling to illustrate that we can all survive and overcome our shame, anger or fears with lots of self love and understanding. If you liked her previous books this one is not going to disappoint. Disclaimer: It is not a "how to diagnose your dog and fix them" story. She is very candid and gets very personal about traumatic events in her life that may trigger self reflection or bad memories. Approach the book with an open mind.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christie Bane

    This was a great book. Patricia McConnell is a great writer, pure and simple. I listened to it on Audible and had no complaints about the reader, either. I found Will's story pretty interesting. I never knew that obsessive sniffing in a place where other dogs had been was predictive of anything when done by a puppy, but now I know it is. I was a little shocked by the extent to which this dog messed up her life. All the trouble she went to trying to make as much improvement as she could with the This was a great book. Patricia McConnell is a great writer, pure and simple. I listened to it on Audible and had no complaints about the reader, either. I found Will's story pretty interesting. I never knew that obsessive sniffing in a place where other dogs had been was predictive of anything when done by a puppy, but now I know it is. I was a little shocked by the extent to which this dog messed up her life. All the trouble she went to trying to make as much improvement as she could with the little genetic potential she had to work with! And what a terrible effect it had on her! I have to wonder, though, if her over-the-top emotional reactions to his behaviors didn't somehow bring those behaviors out. (She wondered that too, which makes me like her more for daring to ask that question.) My dog is dog-reactive, has been since she was about 4 months old, but I would never dream of taking the time to organize my life around what would or would not risk making Frieda worse. We go where I need to go, and if she growls at some dog, oh well. She doesn't get to pick which puppy lives with us; I do. Good for Patricia McConnell, I guess? Anyway, a great dog book that practically any dog lover would enjoy, and she even managed to make the personal, non-dog-related parts of her memoir interesting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patti

    Patricia McConnell has given her heart and soul to help owners travel hard journeys with their troubled dogs through the years and give them a chance for a good life. She, however, also taught puppy classes in which she made clear the owners were the ones she was training, not the dogs. And what wonderful training it was. Now Tricia with the help of her dog, Will, has bared her heart and soul and delved into the difficult areas of her past life that she needed to take ownership of. She shares the Patricia McConnell has given her heart and soul to help owners travel hard journeys with their troubled dogs through the years and give them a chance for a good life. She, however, also taught puppy classes in which she made clear the owners were the ones she was training, not the dogs. And what wonderful training it was. Now Tricia with the help of her dog, Will, has bared her heart and soul and delved into the difficult areas of her past life that she needed to take ownership of. She shares the very hard journey she took to arrive at a semblance of peace with the past. As Will was enabling, challenging and supporting her, Patricia was assisting him in his own journey to a better, more enjoyable and peaceful life. Patricia then opened up and gave those who read her book the gift of sharing with, and indeed training, others who might need to take the same hard journey. I think we all should ask Tricia to give Will a scratch behind the ears for his role in presenting us with another life training tool.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Primrosebarks

    I wish this book had been marketed with a clearer trigger warning, as I was looking forward to learning more about training dogs---a light, educational and well-written read similar to the author's earlier books. Instead it was a very personal journal addressing deeply painful wounds, with Willie being the catalyst who flipped the switch on a deeply traumatic past. This is not the author's fault: the cute little b.c. face on the cover and book description by the publishers gave almost no warning I wish this book had been marketed with a clearer trigger warning, as I was looking forward to learning more about training dogs---a light, educational and well-written read similar to the author's earlier books. Instead it was a very personal journal addressing deeply painful wounds, with Willie being the catalyst who flipped the switch on a deeply traumatic past. This is not the author's fault: the cute little b.c. face on the cover and book description by the publishers gave almost no warning that this book deals with graphic violence and sexual abuse and PTSD information interspersed between lighter moments with the dogs. Well-written, but I felt I had been lured into something far more traumatic than I expected, and found it very painful to read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I had asked Patricia McConnell to be the 20th annual Book Club Cafe author (in Madison, WI) before the publication of The Education of Will, and now that I have read the book I know I made the right decision. McConnell has written many books about dogs (she is a professional animal behaviorist), but this is a book that is as much about what it is to be human as it is about pet lovers' canine companions. Written with honesty and compassion, The Education of Will is a book that is hard to put down I had asked Patricia McConnell to be the 20th annual Book Club Cafe author (in Madison, WI) before the publication of The Education of Will, and now that I have read the book I know I made the right decision. McConnell has written many books about dogs (she is a professional animal behaviorist), but this is a book that is as much about what it is to be human as it is about pet lovers' canine companions. Written with honesty and compassion, The Education of Will is a book that is hard to put down. And I'm now confident that those lucky enough to be at the May 10, 2017 Book Club Cafe are in for a real treat.

  25. 5 out of 5

    glace

    This is an amazing story of resilience and survival. A very personal memoir by a courageous woman (who I already admired as a PhD canine behaviorist) learns to face her traumas and heal as she helps her dog to do the same (and vice versa). Putting this here so I will remember it: "The resistance that was dragging me back from what was good for me was this: If I am no longer the woman whose life is scripted by a series of traumas, then who am I? What would be my story now?"

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    An incredible journey of a partnership that was not all rainbows and butterflies. Not everyone can share their life traumas outside their own safe circle. This was way more raw and intense than I was expecting. Bravo to her for being brave enough to share her story with the world. I know it helped her and I'm sure it will also help others who find it as well.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This was an intense, private and heartfelt memoir, more than a story about a dog, it encompasses the story of the author's own healing. Loved it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Great dual memoir of a woman and her dog, both of whom are struggling with trauma.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    3.5/4 stars. Let me first say I LOVE Patricia McConnell. She was first introduced to me by my boss and mentor at work, and she is absolutely the best resource out there for all things dog behavior. I am constantly recommending her blog to anyone that asks (or doesn’t ask) for advice on loose leash walking, reactive behavior, and dog introductions. I use her blog myself when I want to reinforce concepts that I feel less confident about. So I was VERY excited to read her book. This is not your typ 3.5/4 stars. Let me first say I LOVE Patricia McConnell. She was first introduced to me by my boss and mentor at work, and she is absolutely the best resource out there for all things dog behavior. I am constantly recommending her blog to anyone that asks (or doesn’t ask) for advice on loose leash walking, reactive behavior, and dog introductions. I use her blog myself when I want to reinforce concepts that I feel less confident about. So I was VERY excited to read her book. This is not your typical “Marley and Me” story about a person and their dog. It is told from the perspective of an expert, and it is intertwined with her own personal struggles. I will say I preferred the sections on Willie and other dog cases to the memoir sections, but I still enjoyed the book overall. I’d love to see her do a case study collection of dogs she worked with over the years. There are several moments that I found very powerful in this book, the first being her discussion of the emotional turmoil working with behavior cases can bring. “But I was not prepared for the emotional toll of “Do I have to kill or rehome my dog?” cases day after day, week after week.” I applaud her confrontation of the issues of rehoming, humane euthanasia, and aggression as a response to fear. These issues are not discussed nearly enough, which results in a lot of shaming, guilt, and lack of support both for and from shelters and rescue organizations. If a shelter uses humane euthanasia, they may be boycotted by people who do not believe in the practice. If a person rehomes their animal, they may be shamed or seen as unfit to adopt another. If a dog behaves “aggressively”, we may design a backstory of abuse or see them as a bad dog. Often times, it is just that they are afraid, and no one is listening. There are often good reasons for these actions, and I encourage everyone to read this book and more to learn before passing judgement. Another moment I love was McConnell’s take on responsible dog ownership. “The dark side of being a responsible dog owner is being plagued with guilt and its handmaiden, shame.” I know plenty of reactive dogs, and I know how long it can take to see improvement in the behavior. Months or even years can pass with only small changes that aren’t obvious to the general public. Your dog may have gone from lunging, snarling, and barking to just barking at strangers, but as the owner you will likely still be treated with a nasty look or comment, especially if you have a bully breed. I work with reactive dogs every week, and seeing their progress is so rewarding, but so much effort. Another aspect for people to learn more about before judging an owner or a pet. The only issue I really have with this book is the structure. There are a lot of jumps between time periods, and I think it might have been better to remain on a linear timeline for clarity’s sake. However, I understand that the goal was more to connect traumas between author and dog, so it isn’t too much of an issue. I hope to one day be as knowledgeable as Dr. McConnell and to help as many dogs as I can. If you have any interest in canine behavior, trauma, training, and one of the best behaviorists out there, read this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    Despite the adorable picture on the front cover this not really an animal story. It is about how a dog’s behavioural issues results in his owner starting the road to recovery, from her tragic past. The book was very different to what I expected, which was much more of animal-centred story and one of the reasons I initially chose the book was because I own a border collue myself who suffers from serious fear aggression. Of course, there are various tales about dogs included, as the author is an a Despite the adorable picture on the front cover this not really an animal story. It is about how a dog’s behavioural issues results in his owner starting the road to recovery, from her tragic past. The book was very different to what I expected, which was much more of animal-centred story and one of the reasons I initially chose the book was because I own a border collue myself who suffers from serious fear aggression. Of course, there are various tales about dogs included, as the author is an animal behaviourist with dogs of her own, but the main narrative is about the author facing up to her past. The subjects discussed in the book cause it to be quite a heavy book, with little lighter relief. There are many different narratives included in this book including tales about dogs the owner has worked with, stories from her childhood and past, the tale of the titled Will and centrally the story of the various abuse suffered by the author and how she recovered from it. The book is not linear and at times feels quite disjointed. Some parts of the story are also slightly repetitive and become tedious, such as the descriptions of the countryside and the birds singing. Overall though the book is very courageous and honest, if not always relatable, however this is just a personal opinion and I can believe that someone who has suffered PTSD may find this book to be very relatable. Whilst the book was not what I expected or the most relatable, I found a lot of the subject matter interesting. I really enjoyed reading the author’s thoughts on how storytelling is so important to humans, the importance of language and about personal forgiveness. Loving border collies, I found some of the descriptions of sheep-herding interesting as well as tales of dogs she had helped save my helping them to overcome their problems in her day-to-day job. I also found the role of the subconscious and how it alters us to danger, giving us a 'gut-feeling'. I also loved the quote which summed up for me what I liked the most about the book: : “We are hardwired to remember negative events over positive ones, so we ruminate on our mistakes and the slights of others. Our ability to use language means that we can spend hours mentally criticizing what we did in the past or worrying about what we'll do in the future. No wonder we love dogs, who don't need meditation retreats to get over the shame of getting into the garbage last Thursday.”

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