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A once in a lifetime pet

Cover of How to Be A Good Creature:
A review of How to Be A Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery

Have you ever had a truly special pet? Not just a pet that you love and care for, but a pet who profoundly changes you? Naturalist and National Book Award finalist Sy Montgomery refers to "a lifetime dog" even though she's known three or four of these and many more animals that she considers notable. I, too, have had three of these "lifetime" pets in my world, plus a few that were honorable mention. 

Montgomery shares stories of thirteen creatures who have had a significant impact on her life for a variety of reasons spanning from the time she encountered them, to the duration, to the effect the animal had on others. Christopher Hogwood, a pet pig, was popular with neighbors and school children far and wide. You can't help but smile reading about Pig Spa where the kids bathed and braided and decorated 750 pound Christopher to much delight. The story of Octavia, an octopus, melted my heart. Even the tarantula story had some incredible moments, although that's not a creature I'm hoping to encounter.

This was a peaceful book to read aloud before bedtime. The book is 180 pages long, chapters are short and line spacing is generous. There is sensitive content in a few of the memoirs about pets dying and Sy's bout with depression that may not be appropriate for sharing with all children. The school-age child in my home who lives with an aging dog and has experienced other loss handled this content beautifully. We were able to discuss how we feel about the animals we love and what's special about the time we have together. The cover art and illustrations by Rebecca Green are charming as well.

December 17, 2018