Throughout my career I’ve perceived myself as a seed-planter instead of a guru or messiah and my books, monthly commentaries, and articles for various publications reflect this. Although I cover a wide range of topics, all of them directly or indirectly revolve around the same basic theme: the interaction of animal health, behavior, and the human-animal bond. The more we understand the ways in which these most basic connections affect us and animals, the more we can appreciate their benefits and minimize any costs.
Also, because virtually everything on this site relates to the human-animal bond in one way or another, it makes sense to define exactly what that term means. Mention the bond and some people immediately start talking about service dogs or grief counseling for those coping with the loss of a pet, while others mention the studies of the beneficial effects of animal companionship on human physical and mental health. And, indeed, you will find articles and commentaries that discuss all those subjects in the following links. But you’ll also find information about those unique qualities of the human-animal bond as these effect animal health and behavior.
As you read this material, you may notice that many times I refer to human-animal relationships rather than the human-animal bond. I do this because over the years there’s been a tendency in some quarters to equate the word “bond” only with those warm fuzzy aspects of human-animal interactions. But these are only one of the many ways humans interact with members of other species. Most of my friends will attest to my more optimistic view of reality, but even I realized years ago that some human-animal bonds work better than others. Some relationships that work for humans don’t work for the animals involved. Conversely some relationships that work well for the animals don’t work for the people with whom those animals interact. On a daily basis, anyone who routinely associates with animals may experience euphoric highs or lows that plunge them into the depths of despair. As some animals’ problematic behaviors and chronic or recurring health issues make clear, there are days when living with us isn’t always a picnic for our animals either.
Because of this, for me any discussions of the human-animal bond that don’t take into account the full spectrum of possible responses and their physiological and behavioral effects on human and animal components only tell part of the story. Although I like a happy ending as much as anyone, all those decades spent working with clients and animals whose bonds resulted in the most complex and sometimes horrendous problems proved to me just how strong and powerful the human-animal bond really is. This site is a tribute to them, all they taught and teach me, and all they daily inspire me to learn.