A New Way of Being in the World

Sitting in her kitchen in Peterborough, New Hampshire,

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas ’54 is talking about animal consciousness when her two dogs, chihuahua Chapek and pug mix Kafka, begin madly snarling at each other. “What are you doing, and why?!” she demands. She appears to believe the dogs really understand her, and judging by their sudden hush, they might.

Thomas would know: she has spent half a century chasing stories about life on earth, and has written 14 books, from anthropology texts to novels to studies of cats, deer, and canines. The Hidden Life of Dogs (1993)—for which she traveled to the Canadian Arctic to research wolf packs—became an unexpected New York Times bestseller. As she explains in her memoir Dreaming of Lions (2016), “While wandering down the road of life, it helps to look for something more meaningful than oneself. Some find it in religion…I find it by keeping my eyes open.”

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