[Harvey's] beautifully illustrated book is organised thematically and is perhaps best thought of as a series of essays on the various themes that the relationships between kept animals and humans throw up, such as choosing, naming, communicating and losing. However, for all its research into deeper matters, the real pleasure of The Animal’s Companion lies in its stories. And they come thick and fast... [T]he subject of our relationship with animals is a serious one, and has attracted much philosophical attention. Harvey shirks none of this — even though the reader may be impatient for the next juicy tidbit.
Collis Harvey has an eye for surprising details and a lovely way with a description: the bantam chickens that roamed her childhood home are evoked as “deep-bosomed and high-sterned as tiny Tudor galleons, sallying forth across the lawn like a miniature feathered armada”. She indulges in the occasional sweeping statement, such as the dubious notion that men who do not like cats are “not really at ease with women either”, and there is little space for the darker side of animal ownership (not all owners, or pets, are gentle and devoted), or the daily grind of pooper-scooping or clearing out cages. But this is a self-confessed “love story” and, while there are some (my young daughter included) for whom even a Yorkshire terrier is still too close to a wolf for comfort, this book is for those who believe “many a beautiful friendship begins with the exchange of a saliva-soaked tennis ball”.