More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
The Joy (and Health Benefits) of Pets
by John McManamy
Monday, March 12, 2007

Writing full-time on mood disorders is very serious business. Most of last week was spent putting together a newsletter issue that featured the fine points of brain science. In 2000, Paul Greengard PhD of Rockefeller University shared a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on ?signal transduction pathways.? Most of his more than 20 years on the project involved investigating a single molecule, which turned out to be the virtual Rosetta Stone of brain function.

Much of what we know about what happens inside the neuron and with neurotransmitters we owe to Dr Greengard. My mission was to do justice to two decades of his life, and to present an extremely complex topic in a way that would give people like you and me a greater insight into our illness. The piece required my undivided attention. One-pointed concentration, absolutely no distractions.

Yogi, BooBoo! What are you guys doing?

A brief interruption here. Rewind back to a week or so ago. The Yogi BooBoo Entertainment Network just walked into my room.

Yogi and BooBoo are my housemate?s two black and white kittens-going-on-cats, who have adopted me as their pet human.

They have jumped onto the ledge where my computer and various peripherals reside. My computer houses more processing power than the entire NASA program that put a man on the moon back in the 1960s, but the two cats are not impressed. To them, the tower is simply a perch by which they can stalk prey. And they both have one lined up in their sights ? a spider on the ceiling.

The spider is just out of reach. The two cats are leaning over as far as they can, slapping at the ceiling with their paws. They?re not yet aware that their limbs don?t stretch like Elastic Man. But who knows? One more try and that front limb may mysteriously grow six inches.

But no, BooBoo has concluded enough is enough and decides to put the concept of flight to the test. Suddenly he is off his perch and lunging for the spider.

Now we have a Wile E Coyote over-the-edge-of-the cliff moment. You?re all familiar with one of those. Gravity doesn?t kick in until Wile E Coyote figures out there is no ground beneath him. First you see him tentatively testing the air with one foot as the realization slowly begins to sink in. Then you see him look down as if to confirm his own worst fears.

As we all know from Newton?s Fourth Law of Motion, gravity first waits for acknowledgment from its victim before it becomes operational. Then it waits one more second for furry creatures to hold up the sign that says, ?Yikes!?

So here we have poor BooBoo, suspended in mid-air, at precisely the ?Yikes!? stage of his imminent supersonic descent to the bottom of the canyon.

But cats are no mere coyotes. As we all know from Newton?s Fifth Law of Motion, gravity allows cats an extra 24 hours to figure a way out of their predicament. Newton?s Fifth Law, of course, is contingent upon the equation that Einstein came up with right after relativity. Something about E=MC cubed. The C, of course, stands for cats. For cats walking on air, according to Einstein, one-billionth of a micro-second equates to a full 24 hours.

So BooBoo had all the time in the world to negotiate a spectacular triple axle toe loop somersault pitch-roll-yaw on all three axes and stretch his front limbs (My God! Cats really do have Elastic Man superpowers!) to the curtain rod.

Contemplate the sight. One cat hanging by his two front paws from the curtain rod like a wet shirt on a clothesline.

Poor BooBoo. Gravity has now become fully operational. It?s time to rescue the little fella.

I extricate BooBoo from his predicament and give him a warm cuddle. Yogi is totally unimpressed and scoots off. But BooBoo needs lots of meow time. I?m back in my seat and BooBoo is on my lap meow-meow-meowing away.

Yes, BooBoo, that was quite an adventure you had there, I let him know, as I scratch him between the ears. You are a very brave cat.

You missed a spot, he meows. Neither of us are going anywhere for awhile.

Of course we all know that people who bond with their pets live longer and enjoy higher quality of life than the other poor slobs out there. So when the Yogi BooBoo Entertainment Network decides to put on a show, I?m smart enough to stop what I?m doing. Brain science can wait.


I couldn't imagine my life without my dogs. They have given me a reason to keep going when no other reason existed.
All of the previous posts ring true. Numerous studies have shown that pets are emotionally connective, facilitating feelings of warmth and compassion in even the most hardened hearts (hence their use in prison programs and with youthful offenders), and also beneficial physically, as the act of petting a cherished animal lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels.

I have had more than one client relate to me that there were times that they could not have gone on if not for their beloved pet, and as a proud parent of two wonderful rescued dogs, I know the feeling well. Whether our animal companions become our friends, our surrogate children, our family members, or simply our little loved ones, there is a special bond between the pet who loves unconditionally and depends on us completely, and us, the loving but ever-flawed human who cherishes that love.

Pets are a blessing, and deserving their love is a great responsibility. I once read a great quote that stated "If only I was as wonderful as my dog thinks I am..." If only we are we all were. Luckily, our dogs don't judge. But I better give mine another jerky treat just in case.....

Take Care,
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