Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs

Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs

by Suzanne Clothier


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446696340
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 10/18/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 198,145
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Suzanne Clothier is a dog trainer, lecturer, and award winning author. She is well known for her holistic approach to the dog-human relationship.

Pam Ward has performed in dinner theater, summer stock, and Off-Broadway, as well as in commercials, radio, and film. An experienced narrator, Pam has recorded many titles for the Library of Congress Talking Books program. She is the recipient of an AudioFile Earphones Award and the prestigious Alexander Scourby Award.

Read an Excerpt

Bones Would Rain from the Sky

Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs
By Suzanne Clothier

Warner Books

Copyright © 2005 Suzanne Clothier
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446696340

Chapter One


You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.


MY ONLY MISTAKE WAS LICKING HER KNEE. Until that moment, they had been quite tolerant of me panting quietly under the dining room table, a good place to lie on a warm summer's evening. I was a smart dog. I knew I might have been cooler lying on the slick tile in the bathroom, or even outside, shaded by the bushes along the foundation. But I would have missed being with my family. Seen from beneath the table, framed by a tablecloth, my family appeared as a collection of limbs and clothing: plump knees, knobby knees, scabby knees, tired-looking ankles rising pale and thin from sensible white socks, pleasantly grubby feet idly rubbing the rungs of a chair, a flip-flop dangling from a swinging toe. I shifted to lean against a woman's knee, eyes closed as I breathed in the sweetly familiar perfume that rose from a hollow on her ankle. Absently, she reached down to pat my head, and grateful for the attention, I licked her knee. With my aunt'sstartled cry, my blissful moments as the family dog came to an end. It was not fair, I thought resentfully as I was hauled out from under the table and placed unceremoniously in a chair with the command, "Sit here and eat like a human being!" All I wanted was a dog. If I couldn't have a dog, the least my family could do was allow me to be a dog. And everyone knows that dogs lick the people they like.

It was a typical middle-class family that owned me-no more dysfunctional than most, and certainly not one that encouraged such odd behavior in its eldest child. While tolerant of and kind to animals, neither of my parents were "animal" people. It was not for want of love or acceptance that I was drawn to animals, though for many children animals do freely offer the unconditional love and acceptance often lacking in young lives. Yet long before I knew disappointment or anger, long before I learned how hurtful and complex human beings could be, there was an instinctive gravitation toward animals. Animals of every description drew me to them simply because they existed; they were, and are, my Mount Everest-ultimately defying any explanation of their magnetism, unbearably inviting-there to be seen and possibly known if I am willing to undertake the expedition.

It was not enough to watch animals, or even to touch them. I wanted to see their innermost workings, to be inside their minds, to see and feel and smell and hear the world as they did. My experiments in "being" an animal were usually carried out in private, since my mother's tolerance for my animal behaviors had pretty much vanished by the time I had licked one too many knees. In playing house with my sisters, however, these skills and experiments were encouraged, as they allowed for exciting new story lines to be developed. Typically, my middle sister would play mother (a role in which she was and is extremely fluent), and our youngest sister would accept whatever role we assigned her. Without exception, I played the family pet. Sometimes I was a dog, sometimes a horse, and sometimes, stretching myself to more exotic roles, I played a cougar or a lion or a tiger until the requisite fierce roars had exhausted my throat.


In my lifelong quest for fluency in animal languages, fluency in Dog was the first and the easiest. After all, native speakers lived in my neighborhood and could be readily studied. Whether in the company of a living, breathing dog or only conjuring the countless fictional dogs in my head-Bob, Lad, King, Buck, Lassie-I practiced. I practiced panting, to the annoyance of my sisters and to my own dismay when I discovered that far from cooling me as I had read it did for dogs, panting only made me dizzy and left me wondering if dogs ever hyperventilated as I did. I tried lapping water and eating from a bowl on the floor, wishing each time my muzzle were longer and more suited to the task. I truly loved (and still do) gnawing on bones from a steak or a chop, and understood at least in part why dogs look so blissful when granted such a treat. I practiced not turning my head when I heard a sound behind me but instead cocking an ear in that direction. It frustrated me that lacking highly mobile and visible pinnae I was unable to display publicly just how skilled I had become. Tail wagging presented problems not easily solved-a rolled shirt or towel gave a rather dead effect, no matter how much I wiggled my hindquarters. Ultimately, I settled on a wag much like my ear movements -refined, subtle, and known (most regrettably) only to me.

I perfected several growls, a snarl and a snap that ended with a delightfully audible click of my teeth that rarely failed to alarm those at whom it was directed. My hurt-dog yelp covered the complete range of having my paw accidentally stepped upon to mortally wounded and was realistic enough to stop people in midstep. And of course, my barks were convincing-so much so that I was occasionally employed to bark menacingly if my parents weren't home and someone came to the door. In college, my one-man "dog fights" were guaranteed to liven up a boring night in the dorm bathroom. It's amazing how easily you can convince otherwise intelligent people that there are two poodles at war in a shower stall.

There were other languages to be mastered as well. Horses eclipsed even dogs on my passion scale, and when at age ten I began riding lessons, a new language of movement, gesture and sounds opened to me. By age twelve, I had mastered the basics: the greeting exchange of slow, careful breaths in each other's nostrils; the nicker; the whinny; the alarm snort; the head tosses and snaking neck movements of an annoyed horse; the slitted eyes and pinned ears of anger; even the high-headed, wideeyed sideways retreat of a spooked horse. To this day, when startled, I sometimes revert to a horselike shying. Annoying childhood pranksters attempting to dunk my head into the water fountain while I was drinking failed to realize that I had my ears turned back to hear them. They were always surprised when, as any horse might, I kicked them with great accuracy. Of course if they'd been able to speak Horse, they would have seen the pinned ears and the slitted eyes and known that they'd been given fair warning.

My only regret in learning the basics of Horse when I did was that it came too late to be truly useful. Between ages six and eight, I worked on my most ambitious role-the simultaneous roles of a Canadian Mountie, his horse, and his dog. If at that tender age I had known more than rudimentary Horse, my gallops through the neighborhood would have had far more authenticity.


To the best of my ability, my love of animals was incorporated into every aspect of my life. My mother encouraged my interests even though she did not always understand them or share my curiosity and delight in all aspects of the natural world. She learned to check with caution any container in my possession. A mere Dixie cup might be home to a frog or a collection of shed locust skins or even a deliberately grown mold. Her laundry basket might contain newly washed socks or neatly folded pajamas; just as easily, it might be home to a naked baby bird with hideously visible internal organs. Her card table, turned upside down and wrapped in chicken wire, became home to Buster and Dandy, a pair of Rhode Island Red chickens who, as much older chickens, repaid her tolerance by merrily eating every blossom on three flats of Mother's Day plants.

Without a single question and little more than a raised eyebrow, my mother supplied me with pie pans, flour, molasses, and a paintbrush. Though she may have idly hazarded a wild guess as to what I had in mind, nothing prepared her for the reality of what I did with these items. I had just finished reading The Yearling, as she well knew-she'd been the one to find me sobbing so fiercely on the living room sofa that she actually feared one of my friends had died. But seeing the book in my hand, she ventured sympathetically, "I suppose you've gotten to the part where he shot Flag, huh?" I nodded and sobbed louder. "Well, dinner's ready whenever you are." Once I had recovered from grieving for the yearling deer, I decided to use Jody and his pa's method to track honeybees in my own neighborhood to their hive. The book had discussed at length the seemingly simple matter of using molasses to attract bees who would then receive a dab of flour on their behinds, said flour then serving as an easily followed visual marker of the bees' flight. I can now categorically state that my Great Bee Experiment proved only that this classic book was entirely a work of fiction, and that bees object rather violently to having flour dabbed on their behinds. It was not the last of my Great Experiments, but it was one of the more painful ones.

Only occasionally did my enthusiasm overrun my mother's considerable tolerance. I'll never know what rare gleam in my eye warned her when I asked for a small kitchen knife one fine summer afternoon, but she hesitated as she reached into the kitchen drawer. When further questioning revealed that I meant to carry out an exploratory autopsy on a dead rabbit I had found, she flatly refused me the loan of even a spoon. To this day, I am left wondering if a potentially brilliant career as a veterinary surgeon ended there and then.

But it was probably just as well. The proficiency in math that veterinary schooling requires was not my strong suit. Very often, school bored me. I might have fared better as a scholar if the rather dull Home Economics class had been replaced with a truly interesting course, say Barn Economics or Kennel Management 101. Had my teachers been wise, I could have been encouraged to love algebra at a tender age if only the math problems had been: "Seventeen zebras who left at noon are traveling west at nine miles an hour. Six lions who left at four o'clock are headed east at eight miles an hour. When will the zebras and lions meet, and how many zebras will be alive after that meeting?" The requisite cars, planes and trains usually invoked in these problems left me cold and disinterested.


Even my spiritual life was woven through with animals. Despite the emphasis our church placed on Jesus (who, I noted, did not even have a dog!), I felt a more natural alliance with Noah, my childhood hero.

(Jonah, having had such an intimate relationship with a whale, was another favorite of mine.) Given a Bible with a concordance, I immediately looked up every verse-and there are many-that contained mention of an animal: eagle, ass, horse, sparrow, lion, dog, sheep, lamb, cattle, goats, swine. I took to heart the notion that all of God's creatures were his creation, just as I was. As such, I assumed they were as welcome in Sunday school as any of the little children. And so it was that at a very tender age I had my first crisis of faith, which began with a coonhound I met on the way to church.

He was a grand dog, black with rusty tan, just the perfect size for draping a companionable arm across his back as we walked. And he was an agreeable dog. It took little effort to convince him to accompany me down the stairs and into my Sunday school class, where he settled politely next to my chair. How the teacher missed our entrance, I'll never know. I was not being secretive; it had yet to dawn on me that this was not a perfectly appropriate guest. In fact, I thought as I settled down to hear the day's Bible story, a dog and Sunday school was a heavenly combination.

Singing out the names for roll call, the teacher would glance up from her list to bestow a beaming smile on each child as they answered. "Suzanne?" she asked brightly, her teeth gleaming as she turned her head my way. Perhaps it is only in my imagination that she gasped and stepped backward; perhaps I've only dreamed of how her lips twitched and snarled with unspoken horror. At any rate, I do recall her question, "What is that dog doing here?" There was an unpleasant emphasis on the word dog. I thought it was fairly obvious and said so. "He's here for Sunday school."

Her response shook my innocent acceptance of the church's teachings: "He does not belong here."

I was dumbstruck. Doesn't belong? Isn't he one of God's creatures? Didn't God make him too? Surely Jesus would be glad to have a coonhound in church, especially one that wasn't bothering a soul. If I could bring this scene to life on film, I would cast an articulate, passionate child who, with tremendous presence, argues the dog's case, quoting Scripture so fast and furious that the teacher eventually bows to the greater command of the Bible as a weapon, yields to a deeper understanding of God's love for dogs, and allows the dog to stay. Unfortunately, I was not articulate in the face of wrath and could only weakly protest as I squirmed under her glare.

"He smells." With that final statement, the teacher revealed the limits of her love for all of God's creatures. (In retrospect, I realize that had I brought in a real leper with stinking bandages or a drunk down on his luck and reeking of the gutter, the teacher's Christian charity might have fled as quickly. But I am older now, and a touch more cynical.) I was outraged, and protested with vigor: The dog did not smell. Well, to be perfectly honest, he did not smell bad, he just smelled the way some dogs do. And that's how God made him!

My arguments fell on deaf ears. The teacher insisted that I take the dog outside and return, sans canine, to my chair. Sadly and slowly, I climbed the few stairs, opened the door and stood for a moment with this dog. I apologized to him, and though I lacked the words to express my deep sorrow at the powerlessness of being only five years old, I think he understood. He must have, for his power and mine were similar; his world was also full of larger, stronger people who set rules that had to be obeyed. I hugged him-the memory of that warm, slightly greasy black coat, of that rich musky dog scent has stayed with me all these years-and he leaned into me, wagging his tail. With tears in my eyes and newfound doubt in my heart, I left him standing in the sunshine and returned to Sunday school, infinitely older and wiser.


How people interacted with and reacted to animals was endlessly educational. I learned, for instance, that many adults were not nearly as brave as they seemed. The summer that I was ten, I carried a coffee can with me at all times.


Excerpted from Bones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne Clothier Copyright © 2005 by Suzanne Clothier. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1.In the Company of Animals1
2.A Black Dog's Prayers13
3.Dances with Dogs31
4.The Quality of Connection50
5.Walks with Dogs58
6.Take It from the Top66
7.Calling Dr. Doolittle82
8.Pigs in Pokes93
9.And Nothing but the Truth103
10.What I Really Meant to Say Was ...118
11.Take Me to Your Leader132
12.Leadership Is Action149
13.Whose Couch Is It, Anyway?165
14.I'll Go First--This May Be Dangerous175
15.My, What Big Teeth You Have!185
16.Put Down the Pancakes and No One Gets Hurt203
17.What Timmy Never Did to Lassie219
18.In Search of Soulful Coherence237
19.Matters of the Heart253
20.Cold Noses, No Wings275
Recommended Reading302

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Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the first chapter Suzanne Clothier lets you know how much she has tried to understand dogs behavior from their point of view. She looks at the world from their eyes and then determines what is the best way to address an issue. She never looks at the relationship she has with the animals as being one of dominion nor ownership, but rather as a partnership with a sentient being with it's own needs and desires. She treats all animals with the respect and compassion that I would hope would be shown to me in any given situation. This is a book I will turn to again and again. Thank you for expressing the feelings and beliefs that I also share about animals. I wish more people would approach those we share this world with in the same manner.
MatthewKarns17815 More than 1 year ago
Going into this book I was assuming I would be reading another series of stories about the author's dogs and her experiences with them. A good read to be sure, but nothing spectacular. Boy was I wrong. This book is so much more. It delves into the spiritual being of dogs, their thoughts. viewpoints, and motivations behind their actions. Time after time as I read this book I thought to myself: "Wow, I never considered that my dogs were thinking this and doing that." It will really make you rethink all you do around your dogs and how you interact with them. The last two chapters discussing death and spirituality of our canine friends are amazing. To summarize, I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who owns a dog and wants to understand them better and truly deepen their relationship with them. Excellent.
CinqueCani More than 1 year ago
This book is without question the best book I have read about our lives with dogs (and I've read hundreds, many of which are excellent). Clothier's approach is probably the most enlightened I've seen, focusing on understanding the world from the dog's point of view, respecting dogs for who they are, and developing a reciprocal relationship that enriches the lives of human and canine alike. As a human psychologist and therapy dog trainer, I think that everyone who has any contact with dogs (owners, veterinarians, dog trainers, AAT practitioners, rescue/shelter staff) will benefit immeasurably from this book and its message. While making the case for positive training, this book goes beyond training methodologies to the development of relationship. It's also a very enjoyable read. This book is solid, enlightening, and, I hope, the way we will all approach our companion animals in the future!
billtaichi on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a fantastic book, it is one that I know I will read again as it is one of those books that when you are done you just Although this book does center around relationships with dogs, it really can apply to any relationship. There are parts that made me laugh out loud and parts that made me cry (which I had never done because of a book).
Antares1 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Suzanne Clothier's Bones Would Rain from the Sky was a wonderful book. It should be required reading for any dog owner.It is not really a training manual for dogs. It's more of an exploration of life with dogs, and trying to understand the world from their point of view. If anything it should teach dog owners to have more patience with their canine companions. The dog afterall is having to learn a whole new language that he/she is incapable of speaking.Clothier does give some training tips. The main thrust is that each dog is an individual, just as people are. What works for one dog, may not work with another. There are no exact recipes as she puts it. It's up to the owners and trainers to find out what works for each individual dog. It appears a daunting task, but if we love our dogs as much as we profess, shouldn't we try?Hanky warning: The last two chapters deal with the loss of a pet. They aren't easy reading, as she vividly brings the emotions of grief to life. They're important though in that they teach us much of how to deal with the grief of losing our pets.Some may fault her prose as being long winded, but I enjoyed the various antedotes of dealing with troubled individuals.
RosanaHart on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The book that has most increased my own joyous sense of relationship with dogs is tBones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs, by Suzanne Clothier. The title is based on a Turkish proverb, "If a dog's prayers were answered, bones would rain from the sky."I began reading the first chapter in a bookstore one day. The author is telling of being a child, under her family's dining table, pretending to be a dog. The first sentence is "My only mistake was licking her knee."My immediate surroundings fell away, and I was under the table too. Of course, I bought the book, and as I drove home, I was in a reverie about my own childhood love of dogs, with its intense yearnings and joys. In the next few days, I devoured the book. I felt like I was in the presence of a zestful and compassionate friend who also happened to be a good storyteller. The chapters range around all things related to dogs. It's not a how-to book, but lots of how-to ideas came to me as I read.It's a book to read slowly and reflectively, really, and so it has stayed by my bedside, where I can pick it up and read a bit. Clothier writes so beautifully and so much from her heart that as a writer I am jealous. And as a person who loves connecting with dogs, I am inspired.
Hadar More than 1 year ago
Excellent insight into humans relationship with all dogs.
AdavarreRahndi More than 1 year ago
Clothier definitely knows animals. And she shares generously of that knowledge. I have a deaf dog and her insights and suggestions about how dogs learn and communicate with us have helped so much. I feel like Helen Keller's teacher now that Lilybelle and I are actually communicating with intension and purpose. Thanks Suzanne from Kate.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
While, in general I did enjoy the book and it did give me a new way of looking at my training methods. I liked the idea of thinking of a new relationship with my dogs. She lost me in the last 3 or 4 chapters as she seemed to rant and rave.