The conversation: Sarah Harmer and Alissa York on Toronto wildlife

The conversation: Sarah Harmer and Alissa York on Toronto wildlife

The place: Dora Keogh on the Danforth. The people: singer Sarah Harmer and author Alissa York. The subject: human-animal bonding

(Image: Derek Shapton)

Torontonians are both freaked and fascinated by their run-ins with animals, whether it’s raccoons in our green bins, chihuahua-crazed coyotes in the Beach or white-tailed deer on Dundas. Alissa York, a Giller nominee for 2007’s Effigy, explores our uneasy co-habitation with urban fauna in her new novel about a ragtag bunch of animal lovers and haters in the east end. Sarah Harmer, who lives in the countryside north of Kingston, crusades to protect the Niagara Escarpment when she’s not recording music. We introduced them, bought them a round and listened in.

SH: I love people, but inevitably I hit a point where I’m not that interested in them. I’m more into turtles crossing the lawn, or pruning the trees in front of my house.

AY: I wanted to be a zoologist until the end of high school. Not just any zoologist: David Attenborough. I dreamt of being a British zoologist on TV in a safari suit with a really bad comb-over.

AY: Have you read Mark Rowlands’ The Philosopher and the Wolf? It’s the odd memoir of a man who lives with a wolf and tracks the difference between us apes and them. He comes to the same conclusion over and over: the wolf is the much nobler creature.

SH: I’m a farmer’s daughter. Anthropomorphizing animals is weird to me. My dad put the old rifle to my dying dog. It was terrible at the time, but there’s a certain humaneness to it.

Sarah Harmer

Oh Little Fire, in stores now

Alissa York

Fauna, on shelves July 27