Amy Sutherland got a close-up view of how animals are trained. In her new book, “Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers,” she chronicles students’ lives at the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at California’s Moorpark College. At the two-year program, students learn how to interact with all sorts of exotic animals — and each other.
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In a recent “Modern Love” column for the New York Times, Sutherland wrote about how she used training techniques she learned on her husband in order “to nudge him a little closer to perfect ...” Within days, the article became one of the most e-mailed articles on the Web. She was invited on “Today” to discuss her book and her insights into human behavior. Read an excerpt of Sutherland’s Times column:
Modern Love: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage
As I wash dishes at the kitchen sink, my husband paces behind me, irritated. “Have you seen my keys?” he snarls, then huffs out a loud sigh and stomps from the room with our dog, Dixie, at his heels, anxious over her favorite human’s upset.
In the past I would have been right behind Dixie. I would have turned off the faucet and joined the hunt while trying to soothe my husband with bromides like, “Don't worry, they’ll turn up.” But that only made him angrier, and a simple case of missing keys soon would become a full-blown angst-ridden drama starring the two of us and our poor nervous dog.
Now, I focus on the wet dish in my hands. I don’t turn around. I don’t say a word. I’m using a technique I learned from a dolphin trainer.
Amy Sutherland is the author of ''Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers'' (Viking, June 2006). She lives in Boston and in Portland, Me. To read an excerpt of her book, click here.
Reprinted courtesy of nytimes.com. To read the full article, go to nytimes.com/shamu.