Animal Studies Journal


This paper reflects on my childhood fixation with nonhuman animals and considers my father’s relationship with the family dog as an example of a retreat to a traumatic wound. In my later work as a park ranger, I was confronted by the conditions by which certain nonhuman animals were categorised as those to be culled, or to be cared for. These memories, together with inspiration from Freud’s case studies, informed the writing of my second novel, Mateship with Birds. This novel is interested in what nonhuman animals might represent and where the divisions between nonhuman animal and human experience begin and end. I use psychoanalytic theory to draw attention to the role of nonhuman animals in formulating desire in the text and to explore how they are positioned to fill the gap between need and demand where human desire appears. I am aware that my writing about nonhuman animals does not reveal a great deal about nonhuman animals, but about myself. The nonhuman animals are portals through which I reclaim, reanimate and ultimately re-embody the trauma of my childhood. The novel, and my examination of it, concludes that love in human relationships with nonhuman animals can be a powerful conduit for empathy.