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Animal Madness: Inside Their Minds Paperback – October 20, 2015
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Humans aren’t the only animals that suffer from emotional thunderstorms, and author Braitman came to the same conclusion that Charles Darwin arrived at: that nonhuman animals can suffer from mental illnesses that mirror those that humans endure. Starting her fascinating account of animal neuroses with her own dog, who snapped at nonexistent flies and jumped out of a fourth-floor window, Braitman began to read scientific papers and historical literature, eventually traveling to many countries in search of troubled animals and to observe what people did to help them. She found parrots that plucked out their feathers and primates who pulled out their hair, elephants that were so aggressive that their mahouts feared for their lives, tigers with facial tics, and a neurotic donkey who loves massages. The wonderful thing she discovered is that it is possible for these animals to heal, a message crystallized by her encounters with “friendly” gray whales who sought out human contact, even though they still bore harpoon scars from the whaling days. Acknowledging mental illness in other animals, and helping them recover, obviously can be a comforting experience. --Nancy Bent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I devoured books by Amelia Kinkade, A Celebrated Psychic of Animal Communication and took her workshop in June of 2012. Read PETS TELL THE TRUTH if you want to know how animals communicate not only with us, but with each other. ANYONE can learn how to "talk" to animals and be a steward to them and the world, gets Amelia's books and find out how. Laurel talks about science not really knowing about African Gray's - Hello, grab a copy of "ALEX & ME" by Irene Pepperberg, PhD - the total authority on African Grays (IMO). Then makes a statement about maybe soon vets will soon be urging owners to put blueberries in dogs food. Seriously, what rock has she been under? Dry dog food has been on the shelves for the past year or so with blueberries, cranberries, carrots and other antioxidant's for awhile, my dogs bowls are full of that now!! I honestly will never finish this book as I can't get part the first chapter that doesn't utilize and talk about so many wonderful tools every one of us has at our disposal to help our animal friends immediately with amazing results.
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. [p71]
Trichotillomania [pulling out your own hair] an anxiety reaction and now considered as a form of OCD in the latest DSM-V affects about 1.5% of males and 3.5% of females in the USA. It is also present in six other primates besides humans as well as among mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, sheep, musk oxen, dogs, and cats. [p144]
The author documents some animal suicide behavior with the most famous member being a dolphin named KATHY [the mani one of six] that played the part of FLIPPER on the 1960s TV show of that name. She literally died in the arms of her trainer, Ric O'Barry on 4/12/1970. [p166] I loved that show, and who didn't love FLIPPER?
We are told that 14-17% of all the dogs in the USA suffer from some degree of separation anxiety.. [p220] And how elephants become so attached to their mahouts that they are jealous of all other human companions of the mahouts to the point of being aggressive towards other humans, which can lead to a very celebate lifestyle for the mahouts. :-0
And last but not least we learn that 10-15% of the gray whales who come to the lagoons off Baja.Mexico to calve and mate prefer human company to associating with their own species and will actually come up to small boats and make eye contact and let people pet them. LIke, how cool is that!
This is a great book, easy to read, full of facts of which I have merely brushed the surface, and t goes a long way in showing the interconnectedness of mental process between humans and other species. HIghly recommended.
We aren’t particularly strong, fast, or resilient, we can’t peck through solid pine, generate perfectly symmetrical calcium shells, fly, change the color of our skin to match the background nor any of the other amazing things animals can do. But we have a special skill that has guaranteed our survival: we can complain.
More specifically, we can vocalize our thoughts. And because we talk, we can complain about the things that bother us, like mental health issues, and seek remedy.
Non-speaking animals, lacking this one slender skill, seem to suffer from many of the same mental health problems as humans — PTSD, abandonment issues, sexual dysfunction, suicidal thoughts — but since they can’t complain, they wind up stuck in cages and zoos and pens and farms and logging camps (elephants) and eventually, for some, on dinner plates — while suffering from extreme mental health issues.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that animals rely on the same (if, perhaps, less sophisticated) mental heuristics and evolutionarily adaptive cognitive strategies as humans. Sure, they may be expressed differently — some primates rely on grooming to strengthen social networks, for example, while humans rely on small talk and gossip — but the goals, broadly speaking, are the same: eat, reproduce and ensure the survival of the species. If we think about human mental misbehaviors as a misfiring or misappropriation of these cognitive systems, it’s natural — expected, really — that animals, whose brains are made of the same stuff as ours and who seek similar goals, would have similar issues.
Factor in the abysmal way they are treated — from circuses to street performers, from zoos to laboratories, from aquariums to (in some cases) family pets — and uncharacteristic neurotic behavior seems like the ONLY sane response.
This book is a tour of mental health issues in the animal world through (a short span of) history and across species as the author investigates how we think about animals and madness, which, of course, is more of a reflection about how we think of ourselves. Much of it is fascinating and depressing, with clinical observations from behavioralists, psychiatrists and psychologists — practicing on both humans and nonhumans — with lots of observational anecdotes of animals behaving strangely and tragically.
The book blends hard and theoretical science with the personal, and I found it a bit too personal at times. She uses her experience with her doomed dog Oliver as the narrative thread to hold it all together, which worked very well, but I found myself a bit bored by the often too-long descriptions of elephant and their mahouts in Thailand, or making eye contact with baby whales, etc. I wanted more and harder science; a tall order given that the main subjects can’t speak.
Descriptions of how doctors once thought humans could die of heartbreak or homesickness seguing into societal norms on slavery and the growing understanding of PTSD, projected onto murder charges against elephants, was the stand out section for me.
She’s a strong writer with a lyrical (at times, too lyrical) style that invites readers to share her journey to understanding. Her strong views on animal rights — notably, that zoos shouldn’t exist — will likely offend some, but I wanted her to go farther and tackle the moral ambivalence of dietary choices. In light of the clearly sophisticated cognitive landscapes of animals, so eerily similar to humans, it would seem her discomfort with imprisoning animals for our viewing pleasure should be matched, or even eclipsed, by discomfort consuming them. But that topic was only mentioned in passing a few times, and often in regard to intolerable conditions in factory farms; perhaps that’s another book in the works?
All in all, a worthy, depressing read.