Wow! What a great surprise! Lisa Davis recently wrote an article about Pets and Emotions. Lisa mentioned The Right Spot because of her bringing Benny, a wonderful pit bull she was fostering, in for a massage!
Pets and Emotional Pain
Published on May 8th, 2013 | by Lisa Davis
Does Your Furry Friend Ever Get Happy or Jealous?
As a dog owner and animal rights supporter, I have often wondered if animals feel emotional pain. Do they get jealous? Depressed? Happy? From my experience working with dogs, my answer is yes.
Recently I fostered a dog named Benny. Benny had an interesting story – he was a former bait dog who was rescued and was in need of temporary housing until his adoptive family could take him. I fostered Benny for a weekend while my dog Boo stayed with a friend. (Unfortunately, Benny wasn’t ready to be around other dogs.) With Benny, I witnessed firsthand that a dog could express joy. Benny had the rare ability to literally smile when he was happy, like when he got a pet massage with The Right Spot. I could see his grin. Or when I would rub his belly, I could hear him laughing with this grunting noise.
My dog Boo, on the other hand, exhibited different types of emotion: jealousy and sadness. After Benny left my house, I picked up Boo from my friend. At first she seemed excited to see me, but then after she smelled Benny’s scent on my jacket and in my car, she looked at me and turned away, never turning toward me again that evening, not even for some ice cream I bought her as a truce.
A dog trainer at PetSmart in Mount Prospect, Illinois told me that Boo could smell Benny’s scent and that made Boo feel jealous, as if Benny was going to replace her. Of course, I felt terrible and worked to remove his scent, but still, it took Boo a couple days to warm up.
According to Marc Bekoff, PhD, author of the book, The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy—and Why They Matter, “No matter what we call it, researchers agree that animals and humans share many traits, including emotions.”
But not every scientist is so certain. Lynne U Sneddon, a senior lecturer in the Animal Behaviour Team and the Programme Leader for the B.Sc. in Animal Management and Zoo Management at the University of Chester in England, said some scientists suggest that only primates and humans can feel emotional pain, as they are the only animals that have a neocortex – the thinking area of the cortex found only in mammals. “An important issue in animal pain is empathy, and many arguments about what animals feel can only be based on the human experience and, therefore, may be tainted with anthropomorphism [the attribution of human characteristics and qualities to non-human beings],” said Sneddon. “However, research has provided evidence that monkeys, dogs, cats and birds can show signs of emotional pain and display behaviors associated with depression during painful experience, i.e. lack of motivation, lethargy, anorexia, and unresponsiveness to other animals.”
From my own experience, after Boo returned home, she didn’t eat, even turned down her favorite treat, ice cream. She also barely looked at me for several days, and seemed lethargic and sad. Some may say my observations were the result of anthropomorphism, but I disagree. I know my dog, and I know that she genuinely felt some type of emotional pain – jealousy or sadness – from me hanging out with Benny. And I know Benny experienced happiness and joy when he received his pet massage, as evidenced by the smile on his face. Regardless of what the skeptics say, I choose to believe that animals have feelings, good ones and even painful ones.
(Watch this video of a dog responding to being taken to his owner’s grave.)
About the Author
Lisa Davis is the editor-in-chief of Pain Resource’s print publication and also a contributor to several award-winning health, lifestyle and travel publications, including USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, About.com and more. When she’s not at the keyboard, she enjoys photography, hiking, yoga, playing tennis and working on her children’s book, featuring her puppy Boo, to be published in 2014. She is also a certified Pilates instructor teaching at health clubs in Chicago where she lives.