A veterinarian who specializes in behavioral medicine examines the spiritual bond between humans and their pets.
In the early years of Virga’s career, when he specialized in emergency medicine, he was struck by the way his animal patients responded to the warmth of human contact. He experienced a life-changing moment while treating a dog in shock, and that led him to change his specialty. Exhausted, he slumped down beside the animal, and as the dog nuzzled against him, its vital signs improved. In the years that followed, Virga came to believe in the deep roots of our human connection to animals. “What I see in their eyes is my own reflection…we share much more than we recognize,” he writes. Two out of three Americans own pets, which they treat as members of their family, best friends and confidants. In addition to broadening our perspective, they “embrace a part of our human nature that's as vital to us as our hearts and minds.” Virga, who describes numerous instances from his practice, is convinced by his own experiences and modern research that “animals’ neurons are very much the same as ours, generating images, emotions, memories and thoughts.” That animal neuroses are also similar to those of humans—e.g., dogs with obsessive-compulsive disorder who obsessively bite their tails—is further proof. The kinship that we feel with animals, writes the author, “comes from our souls connecting with theirs.” They help us focus on the moment and experience the “heights of joy as well as heartwrenching depths of sorrow,” and they make us feel more connected to “the greater world in which we live.”
An insightful affirmation of our love of animals.