Both fantasy and science fiction often deal with people or animals who are either transformed into a different species or are hybridized with another species. When I saw the book Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide by Charles Foster at my library, I thought it might provide me with some insight into animal senses or behavior. Unfortunately for me, the author took a completely different approach that didn't provide me with useful tidbits of information.
Foster set out to live like five different types of creatures: a badger, an otter, a fox, a red deer, and a swift. Among other things, he digs out his own badger home in the dirt, eats worms, scavenges garbage, spends hours in a river during all parts of the year, and allows himself to be tracked by a bloodhound. I should point out Foster is British, as I doubt his escapades would be tolerated so well in the United States, especially when his children are involved. Foster takes a shamanistic approach to his communions with different animals, and he describes his experiences in poetic language.
Can anyone really enter the mind of another creature, particularly one whose senses are much different from ours? By the end of the book, Foster reports he's learned much more about sorting out various odors and navigating the world by smell. However, he still seems to impose his own human interpretations on his experiences, and I suppose that's impossible to overcome. For writers writing from an animal's point of view, this book might make an interesting supplement to traditional research on an animal's physiology and habitat. At the very least, you won't have to crawl in the dirt and eat worms yourself.