Southwestern

Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Environmental Studies

Dr. Laura Hobgood-Oster

Dr. Hobgood-Oster pondering the intricate relationship between humans and other animals.

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    Dr. Laura Hobgood-Oster with Milo

March 01, 2014

Dr. Laura Hobgood-Oster has pondered the intricate relationship between humans and other animals for years. Her most recent scholarship focuses on an environmental history of humans and dogs. This culminated in the publication of A Dog’s History of the World: Canines and the Domestication of Humans. In this book, Dr. Hob-O (as her students call her) suggests that humans might not be here - or at least would be very different - had they not connected with dogs thousands of years ago. Together these two species domesticated other animals, likely hunted some other animals to extinction, and traveled the globe. As a matter of fact, at the end of the fifteenth century when Europeans first invaded the Americas, dogs were the only other animal species that humans globally had in common. Dogs fill sacred roles (afterlife journeys and healing ceremonies), pragmatic roles (herding, hunting), and most recently have shifted into the role of companion. The 30,000 year story also traces the ways the humans have dramatically changed the planet - introducing a new era - the Anthropocene.

She brings this work with dogs and other animals into the classroom in two courses she teaches - the First Year Seminar/Advanced Entry Seminar “Going to the Dogs” (team-taught with kinesiology and environmental studies professor Dr. Jimmy Smith) and “Animals and Religion” (a course cross-listed in religion, environmental studies and feminist studies). Students in both classes not only think about and with animals, but engage with “real” other animals inside and outside of the classroom.

Dr. Hob-O has been the faculty advisor for SEAK since it was founded in 1999. She thinks that the work students have done through this group has been the driving force in making Southwestern a much more sustainable community. SEAK is, in her words, “an amazing success story.”

Another way that Dr. Hob-O connects her research with the community is as a volunteer with dog rescue in central Texas. She helps with dog rescue at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter and is the dog rescue coordinator for Georgetown Animal Outreach.

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