In my travels thus far, I have had the good fortune to make some acquaintances. We all have. And sometimes I sit back and consider the list of names and faces and marvel. This past weekend we drove north at the behest of one of the coolest of the cool, the owner and operator of The Animal Behavior Center in Toledo.

Lara Joseph is nationally recognized for her work in animal behavior, most notably birds. She rubs elbows with the likes of animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg, coworker of the late Alex the African Grey parrot, and Rocky the cockatoo (www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzdIj9p59dQ). Saturday and Sunday, she coordinated her first Animal Behavior Seminar. Since we live with animals of different natures, we welcomed her invitation.

What we heard from Joseph and scientists and behaviorists from around the country included behavior myths and misconceptions in dog training, how teas can impact anxiety and other issues in animals, hot topics in nutrition and how an animal’s diet might have a huge impact on behavior and health issues.

What we retained was that just about everything that was shared could be applied to people. For instance, do you prefer to be alone in the garage at night during a thunderstorm? Neither does your dog.

I learned that people in the Great Lakes region have a higher level of aluminum in their bodies because we have clay soils. That dogs typically have higher levels of arsenic in their systems because they are closer to the ground (a lesson for lawn care). That teaman Jason Crean develops teas for zoos, including a brew for Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium that will calm fish during transport. And the teas themselves? Same ingredients that you find on the grocery store shelf, except higher quality and much prettier.

At one point Crean noted the various kinds of tea that he drinks. He most decidedly does not drink coffee. I cringed from my position next to the coffee table, glad that the Starbucks latte that I bought in Bowling Green was still in my car.

“Just where can you get the materials to make these teas?” asked an attendee.

First off, this question is rude. The guy had a tableful of teas to sell that he’d packed here from Chicago. In the end, he sold quite a bit.

Second, I held my right hand with my left to prevent it from raising above my head and bit my lip. What I wanted to say, was, “Um…in my back yard.”

On the way home, we stopped to buy a ferret tunnel, fruit wood blocks for animal enrichment and vowed to be more patient with the six-year-old puppy with selective hearing, as well as each other. The next day I gathered wild raspberry canes and peppermint, lavender and rose hips to dry for tea and gave fresh leaves to the birds. It’s good to be at home in the back country.