Monday, February 16, 2009

Why We Love Cats and Dogs

Last night the PBS station in my area showed the Nature episode "Why We Love Cats and Dogs." I was touched by the stories of how people's bonds with pets can sustain them through difficult times. Most poignant to me was the story of Jerry, a German Shepherd dog, whose family really made the most of his short time with them after Jerry was diagnosed with cancer.

The show raised fascinating issues about the nature of empathy between humans and pets. Among other nuggets in this episode, Marc Bekoff speculated that cells in the brains of humans and other animals, called "mirror neurons," allow us to appreciate each others' states of mind (what researchers call "theory of mind").

As I type at my keyboard, what Kasey knows is that if he keeps dropping toys at my feet, then I will probably turn away from the keyboard and.....

I'm looking more like my dogs every day — it must be the shaggy fringe and the ears.
- Christine McVie (b. 1943), musician
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6 comments:

ZenYenta said...

Thanks posting about it. Sounds like something we'll want to see. I didn't know it was on last night - and we were so not watching anything at all that we turned off the TV. Go figure. However, I'm setting the DVR for the rerun, which is at 1:30 AM on the 17th. Looking forward to it.

dw said...

Zen, let me know what you think of it.

Andrea said...

Was Jon Katz on that show with his dogs: Lenore, Izzy and Rose??? I must record it if so!!!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

our npr station has been running blurbs stating that this show will be airing on our local pbs station on sunday..... the time as the oscars, but that's why humans created vcrs (we haven't advanced to the next level of technological gizmos)

the funny thing is in the 'ads' the show is presented in a manner that reinforces this notion that there are cat people and then there are dog people....I do hope the show disproves this bifurcation of our species and explores that humans are very capable of being both dog and cat and mouse and bird and snail and...... people -

since childhood my fantasy has always been to live in a world that resembles 'the peaceable kingdom'.....which probably explains much about the species that I share space with.....

word verification dayspa....how funny is that!

dw said...

Andrea - You know, I don't remember Jon Katz, but he could have been on and it might not have registered with me because I'm not familiar with his work. I'll look him up, though! Certainly there were lots of Katz as well as dogs. Okay, I don't believe I said that either.

mouse - Yes, there was a slight bit of that, but it came across as not too serious or rigid. Actually, there was a segment on a sort of personality typing they they use in Boulder, CO. It was more that they were assessing what kind of interaction style works best with what type of pet. They claim that they can reduce the number of returns to the shelter if they can give guidance to the humans concerning what type of pet would fit best with their interaction style. Something to think about. I most definitely wouldn't let go of that childhood fantasy, though, since some folks seem to do really well with all of Nature's species!

herhimnbryn said...

I reckon that like your G. S. our cattle dog has us well trained too!