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So we’ve been trying to finally find someone to interview about the human animal bond, a show topic that’s been in the works for quite a while now. I was shocked to learn in my research just how much the relationship between humans and animals had changed over time. About 100 years ago, dogs in this country were primarily used for work on the farm, and rarely allowed inside the home. Today, 60-80% of dogs sleep with their owners at night in the bedroom, either in or on the bed.

Why have we gotten so much closer to these creatures? Is it our growing sense of displacement from nature that makes us want to form a bond with something non-human? Is it the same longing many people for natural places that a recent guest talked about in our show Pagans Ancient and Modern?

Of course, our desire to get close to animals is not new, as this amazing article from the New Yorker points out: the earliest artworks human beings are known to have created were cave paintings of animals. Maybe we bring animals into our home today for the same reason those first artists chose not to depict themselves but rather the living creatures around them. We want to get ahold of that wildness somehow. But I have to wonder what those cave painters would think if they could see us today, feeding the fish, changing the kitty litter, or doling out doggy anti-depressants.

(photo: m-louis/flickr)


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5 Comments

My Ragdoll cats, Paddington and Tennyson bring many opportunities to experience a dependence which is guileless. The pure pleasure of watching relaxation,alertness, indifference,playfulness and love for one another and for myself brings much fullness to my life. Their purring is a soothing song and stroking them is a sensory connection that allows my mind to wander and forget and still be connected. They are an amazing example of being in the blessed moment.

Bonjour! I am just back from teaching in France for five weeks, where I observed the wonderful 'inclusion' of animals, especially dogs, in all venues!
I have been researching the animal-human bond for over two years now. I will be happy to share my review of the literature and many stories I am collecting. I have recently been awarded a grant to work with a colleague, a veterinarian here at my university. I have a certified therapy dog who works in schools and libraries as children read to her; she also works in assisted living centers, nursing homes and hospitals. It is VERY interesting. Currently, I am working with the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice and youth with retired greyhounds. I provide writing workshops and am in the process of writing a book on the changes over time that the presence of the dogs with these girls who are training them to become pets. The name of the project is aptly: " A second chance at life and learning". It's a second chance for the girls, and the dogs. I am thrilled to find this interest with SOF!

The change in relationships with dogs is the central theme in the book "The New Work of Dogs" by Jon Katz, and I have heard him speak several times.

And it would be interesting to hear about the divide within religous traditions relative to the spirituality of dogs/animals and the "do dogs go to heaven?" thought. I have attended a church where the Pastor's terrier has greeted parishoners in the pews, and relaxed behind the altar, with complete acceptance from everyone there, but I have also heard people being appalled by this. Death and afterife is an interesting approach as well - almost all rescue sites I have seen have a link to or reference to "The Rainbow Bridge" where our pets wait for us to cross. I sense a strong need for pet owners to believe in an afterlife, to know that the pets we will inevitably outlive have gone "to a better place" and that we will see them again. Perhaps that also is what is behind the growing field of animal communicators (pet psychics).

I can't wait to hear this program when it's on.
Good Luck.

Jeanne

I absolutely agree! I live alone and my two Ragdolls Thomas and Bingley help me to think beyond myself and my own needs. It strengthens my spirit to know that those two cats need me--if only to care for them and give them some love. I think people are hard-wired to care for others and pets give us (especially us single folks) the opportunity to consistently care for something every day.

I think it is time to cut to the chase on our animal companions sophisticated abilities to communicate with us and our abilities to communicate back. To do this is really about taking time and being consciously acquainted with stillness, to really trust that we can listen and see them taking interest in us; telling us what they need; bonding in the consciousness before awareness that animals give energetically to the world around them everyday.
My animals have felt depression, pain, ecstasy, unquestionable loyalty on such levels of unconditionality that I would only hope to share with another human being at this point in my life.

apples