Commentaries

My Dog, Myself; Myself, My Dog

Those of you who read the monthly commentaries may have noticed that I finally replaced the picture. Aside from the previous picture being so out-dated it came dangerously close to violating truth in advertising laws, this particular picture has a story behind it that continues to haunt me. It all began when I needed a photograph to accompany a series of articles I write for a veterinary journal. As luck would have it, the weather was brutally hot and humid and the first photo session ended in a pictureless disaster. However, it did include one photo I treasure in

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Faith and the Human-Animal Bond

A fundamental principle of healing that goes a back to Hippocrates if not longer reminds us that the success of any treatment relies on the patient’s faith in his or her own ability to heal the self. Faith in any professional overseeing the treatment ranks second, and faith in the treatment itself comes in third. When our animals develop medical and/or behavioral problems, we must add a second part to step one: Not only must we have faith in our animals’ ability to heal themselves, we must have faith in our own ability to properly support them throughout this

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Coming Full Circle

Did you ever read something that struck you as so profound that you immediately made it part of your personal philosophy, even though you never even realized you had a personal philosophy until that moment? That’s what happened to me many years ago when I read Norman Cousin’s remarks about differing world views in Celebration of Life: A Dialogue on Immortality and Infinity (Harper and Row:1974). Cousins wrote that, when we believe that the world is flat, the farther two people go, the greater the distance between them. But once we realize that the world is round, the farther

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End of the Year Thoughts While Bathing Dogs

Normally I find I can keep the dogs reasonably clean with routine brushing, but the day we stepped outside and the scent of skunk hung so heavily in the air that I could almost see it, I knew they would need a bath before the holidays. Just walking through that skunk-scented cloud instantly tipped their coats from acceptably dog-scented to a scent that would cause me find some reason to move in the opposite direction any time they approached. Although I’m sure neither of them agreed, the dye (or should I say “scent?”) was cast. Come hell or high

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The Reality of Behavioral Pain

In a recent study reported in ScienceDaily, a trio of psychologists (Naomi I. Eisenberger, Matthew D. Lieberman, and Kipling D.Williams) discovered that the brain responds the same way to social isolation as it does to physical pain. Given the part of the brain involved and role the response to physical pain plays in animal survival, it seems reasonable to speculate that behavioral pain plays a critical role in domestic animals, too. Briefly, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to monitor the brain activity of a group of college students who participated in a game called Cyberball which

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Puppy Play Groups, Doggy Daycare and Dog Parks: The Best of Canine Times or the Worst?

Until about 5-10 years ago, the idea of socializing a pup referred to accustoming that animal to a variety of different people under different circumstances. We wanted to do this because domestic dogs live in a human world and those who get along well with people fare better than those who don’t. However, in the past decade or so, there has a been a shift in emphasis from socializing dogs and people to socializing dogs and other dogs. I suspect multiple reasons have contributed to the shift. Almost certainly guilt plays a role. As human lifestyles have become more

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Multidisciplinary Meetings and the Human-Animal Bond

Last month I was privileged to attend and present at the annual meeting of my most favorite organization, the International Society of Anthrozoology (ISAZ). Naturally any organization that devotes itself to the human-animal bond appeals to me. However, ISAZ embodies the added dimension of being multidisciplinary, an orientation that also perfectly reflects the multifaceted nature of the bond. This month I’m going to indulge myself and reflect on the value of this approach because I believe it should be the rule rather than the exception if we seek to gain meaningful knowledge about anything, but especially the human-animal bond.

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Human Relationships, Pets, and the Human-Companion Animal Bond

When my son Jeremy married in July, our family gained not only a wonderful daughter-in-law, Melissa, but also her delightful cat, Lena. When Jeremy’s brother Dan married Ellen, we gained a dog named Spike. For as often as such human-animal mergers occur, the roles our animals play in those relationships normally don’t gain a lot of attention unless problems arise. When problems do arise, the animal or his or her behavior often becomes the target of any blame. However more often than not, when problems arise, they arise because of a lack of understanding of the human-animal bond as

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Advanced Directives (“Living Wills”) for Pets

Several years ago I formulated my advanced directives describing my wishes for my care should I become incapable of making those choices on my own. I did this because I saw the confusion and heartache that arise when loved ones become incapacitated and did not want to impose that on my family and friends. Around that same time I was working on Preparing for the Loss of Your Pet  (now available in an updated version, The Veterinarian’s Guide to Pet Loss )and realized that writing advanced directives for our pets made good sense, too. However, while I devoted a whole

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The Human-Animal Bond and Addiction

Is the human-animal bond addictive? The first time that question popped into my mind years ago, I immediately wanted to dismiss it with a definitive, “No!” Like so many animal lovers, I wanted to believe that nothing but good could come from our positive feelings about animals and theirs about us. However as the years filled with interactions with both pets and their owners mount up, I’ve had to accept the possibility that the bond does have its dark side and that such an addiction could be one of them. Even more disconcerting, I’ve had to accept that while

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