At their worst animal lovers are an embarrassment — especially to the animals they adore. The cat is not dignified by the owner who keeps a dozen other cats; no dog wants to submit to a team of hair stylists just to have a shot at Best in Show. In the relationship between humans and the animals over whom, the Bible tells us, we have dominion, Homo sapiens is the besotted fool.
For evidence that around animals, especially pets, we come undone, there is “The Divine Life of Animals,” Ptolemy Tompkins’s well-meaning but credulous investigation of whether there is an afterlife for his dog, your pet rabbit, Black Beauty or maybe Ch Roundtown Mercedes Of Maryscot, the Scottish terrier who won this year’s Westminster Kennel Club show, to pick just a few.
Tompkins was born in Washington, D.C., educated at Sarah Lawrence College, and currently lives in New York City. He is the son of best-selling occult writer Peter Tompkins, author of The Secret Life of Plants. As such, Ptolemy came of age in a New England “barn home” overrun by a bizarre assortment of orgiasts, Yeti-hunters, alchemists, spaceship communicants, and charlatans of every stripe. In 1974, Ptolemy’s father moved to Bimini with Ptolemy in tow to search for the lost continent of Atlantis.