Ashley E.

First Place Winner

Temple Grandin's Animals in Translation has shown me the extent that man can understand animals. The book is a compilation of her observations and perceptions of animal behavior and thought. Her autistic condition provides Grandin with a unique view of the ways that animals think, through pictures rather than words. Grandin offers her insights to the reader as an alternative way to translate animal "speech". She points out the obvious, tiny details that catch the attention of animals and have an effect on their behavior; details that people tend to overlook or disregard such as reflections on a puddle or even a familiar object that is out of place. Grandin not only tells what animals think and do, she also explains the reasons why. For example, she asserts that most behavioral problems with domestic dogs are a result of their breeding. While selectively breeding for specific traits, other traits are distorted, most often in a negative manner. Rough coated collies have the desired characteristics of long muzzles and narrow foreheads, but this anatomical shape distorts the collie's brain, making them "brainless ice picks" (Grandin 82).

As an avid animal lover, I've found Grandin's book to be fascinating. I have grown up with a small herd of Scotch Highland beef cattle and enjoy working with them. I love combing them and halter training the calves. Years of experience has given me a good bit of understanding about them, but there are always moments when I don't know the reasons why they react the way they do. By using Grandin's insights, I discovered a few of those causes, but I still want to understand more. I can now understand why the anomaly of a familiar person approaching on crutches can send the entire herd galloping to the other end of the pasture, or why a cow will not walk over a bridge that has gaps between the decking. What I don't understand is why a cow will lie down on a muddy spot right beside clean snow.

I am especially interested in studying wildlife, and Grandin's principles are probably transferable to wild animals. My favorite aspect of annual backpacking trips to the National Parks in the western United States is seeing the diverse wildlife not found in the East. My favorite park is Yellowstone where I have been able to observe bison, elk, bears (both grizzly and black), birds of prey, wolves, and many other species. I have loved every minute of it. Each experience has made want to learn more.

Next year, I plan to attend Cornell University and major in Biological Sciences with a concentration on Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Eventually I hope to live in the Rocky Mountains and study the behavior of wildlife. I want to understand the meaning of animal body language: of animal "speech". Animals in Translation has caused its readers to view animals in a different light, and has encouraged me to better understand them in my own way.