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Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves Hardcover – June 10, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2014: As a kid, Laurel Braitman read Charlotte’s Web and suspected that animals really could talk. As a PhD student at MIT studying scientific history, she again honed in on animals in her research. But it wasn’t until she and her husband adopted a Bernese Mountain Dog named Oliver that animal psychology became the puzzle she most urgently wanted to solve. Oliver was inexplicably, uncontrollably anxious, snapping at invisible flies and shredding furniture when he was left alone. When he chewed through a screen, leapt from a fourth-story window, and—incredibly--survived, Braitman became intent on finding a way to help him. In Animal Madness, she shares how “one anxious dog brought me the entire animal kingdom.” Elements of memoir make the story more poignant, but it’s primarily a lively, deeply researched history and an unflinching look at the trauma of modern-day captivity in medical labs and faux-natural zoos. What she discovered about how animal minds go awry and the ways their disorders--from depression to anxiety to OCD and PTSD--look so much like our own (and vice versa) challenge and transform our understanding of the animal experience. What she discovered about how they heal illuminates how humans, too, can come back from the brink. --Mari Malcolm
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Top Customer Reviews
Beginning a serious, very intense study of animal behavior, Braitman spends three years at animal sanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, water parks, and animal research centers throughout the world, creating a body of work that is thorough and academically rigorous enough to have earned her a PhD in the History of Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She recognizes, however, that the audience for this book is quite different from the academic audience to which she presented her original research. Here her goal is to show that all animals do share some basic characteristics and needs with other animals, including humans, and they are often subject to the same psychological problems as humans. She also understands and hopes to assuage the emotions of guilt, helplessness, and sadness among pet lovers like herself who have discovered that love is not always enough in dealing with a seriously disturbed animal.Read more ›
Overall, I would describe this book as a book on the history of animal mental distress. It discussed many stories of animals that have mental problems and why that may be. The book, however, will not provide much insight on how to cure animals of mental illness.
- This book is easy to read
- The book contains a ton of interesting stories about animals that are struggling mentally and discusses their life history.
- The author covered a wide variety of reasons that animals may develop mental problems beyond just bad life experiences. This was very interesting to read about.
- The author fails to discuss why some animals go "insane" while others do not in similar situations. I feel like discussing why some animals in zoos struggle while others thrive would have helped our understanding of animal "insanity".
- I would have liked the author to spend more time discussing effective treatments for struggling animals. I felt like she skimmed over changes that help to improve animal well-being.Read more ›
Early in the book the author does a nice job of showing how Alzheimers in humans and dementia in dogs are closely correlated, with the primary difference being that due to the shorter life span of dogs they don't have time for plaque to build up in their brains but instead suffer dementia from atherosclerosis [hardening and narrowing of cranial arteries].
She also points out how anxiety occurs among the lower ranking animals of a pack or group with their brains being constantly bathed in stress hormones as opposed to the higher ranking members who suffer from much less stress which can correlate nicely to the differences in human society between the very well off and the middle and lower ranking members of society trying to make do.
Something that I never realized before is the primate mothers who were raised in isolation as babies, say in old time zoos and circuses do not know how to nurse and will often push their young away. They are now provided with lactation consultants by watching other primates nurse theier young and sometimes even human surogates, this use of human females as surrogates more frequently done in poorer countries.
We are also told that as late as the later 19th century, it was thought that animals contracted rabies as punishment for some evil act they had done, and throughout the 19th and well into the twentieth century homesickness was considered a physical illness with the terms nostalgia and homesickness being used interchangeably.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very fun read, very interesting, makes me wonder about the feral Siamese cat we've fed for 6 years that's as scared of us as the first day - no doubt this is the very meaning of... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Alice Friedemann
why should we be surprised that animals suffer emotional disturbances just like human animals do?Published 2 months ago by M Duvall
Absolutely loved this book. For the naysayers who point out that the author isn't an animal behaviorist or psychologist, who cares? That is why authors do research! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Judith A. Welch
This is an interesting book and an interesting thesis. It is really more about us (we people) than about animals, and how we project what we are thinking about our mental health... Read morePublished 6 months ago by M. Spencer
Humans are lucky animals.
We aren’t particularly strong, fast, or resilient, we can’t peck through solid pine, generate perfectly symmetrical calcium shells, fly, change... Read more
A real thought provoking book filled with views of many animals minds and feelings and how not unlike humans they truly are.Published 7 months ago by Patricia M. Conway