Loving pets is part of being human

It all started with kittens. They were far too tiny to be taken from their mother, and in all honesty my aunt was being devious in presenting these tiny furbabies to enamored children, but from the first moment we saw Wanda and Snowflake my sister and I were smitten.

According to Daisy Yuhas, associate editor for Scientific American MIND, our love for our companion animals may just be genetic—even small children seem to have an inherent affection for creatures from other species. As she told Leonard Lopate, our fondness is unique to humans and has many variations. There are dog people and cat people; those who adore cute animals (think golden retrievers and Persian cats); those who like odder beasts (shar-peis and hairless cats); and those who prefer something with fins, feathers or scales.

What unites all of them is the view that these creatures are members of our family and entitled to the same tender, loving care as humans. And we’re willing to put our money where our hearts are; according to Yuhas we spent an estimated $58 billion on our animal companions in 2014.

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The jury is still out about the therapeutic value of our animal friends, but Wanda and Snowflake—and all of the dogs and cats who followed them—taught us a lot about what it means to be a better human.

Listen to the discussion here:

A Dog’s Gift: The Inspirational Story of Veterans and Children Healed by Man’s Best Friend by Bob Drury (Rodale; May 19, 2015)

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Former military counterintelligence officer Terry Henry and his daughter Kyria realized something special was happening when they brought their golden retriever, Riley, to visit residents of a local nursing home.

Ten years later they’re the founders of the service dog organization, paws4people, which pairs dogs with human beings in need of healing including war veterans and disabled children. The author captures a year with the organization and the amazing dogs and people who came together.

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