Relating to Animals: Connecting and Reconnecting

♪ [opening music] ♪ ♪ ♪>>Elizabeth Pascoe: So,
today for our last lecture, I’m delighted to bring
back Dr. Ann Weber! [applause]>>Dr. Ann Weber:
Your last class? The last class?>>Pascoe: Yeah, we’re
having a celebration ->>Weber: Oh god. God. So I’m leaving you with
a last impression – [laughter] – of her class. It doesn’t seem fair!>>Pascoe: So – I
brought you in right?>>Weber: What?>>Pascoe: I
brought you in.>>Weber: You did –
you did bring me in, yes! I’m the show, yeah.>>Pascoe: So, we’re doing our
pet lecture today and we have some – we have
some guests with us. We have Gary
the goldfish.>>Weber: Gary
the goldfish! Gary this is –
this is your moment. This is your moment. Gary – Gary born for
the silver screen. There we go. Got Gary? Got him? All right.>>Pascoe: We’ve got
Simba the kitty cat ->>Weber: The kitty!>>Pascoe: over here.>>[Audience]: Aww.>>Weber: Hold him up again –
and turn around – [laughter] for the camera. Okay.>>Pascoe: How
old is Simba?>>[Audience member]: He’s 3.>>Pascoe: Simba’s 3. And then we’ve
got my 2 dogs. This is Duffy. Duffy is about 7 or 8 we
don’t really know because he’s a rescue. He has no top teeth
but he’s pretty social. And this is Dilly also known
by the name of Princess. She’s a rescue too. She’s about
10 years old. She’s blind in her left eye. She’s a little bit shy. So if she comes to you that’s
great but otherwise if you reach for her she won’t do anything
but she will probably scoot away. She’s a little bit –
a little bit timid, but ->>Weber: Who’s this?>>Pascoe: Oh, and
that is Tootsie. That is Desiree’s dog.>>Weber: Where’s Desiree? Aww – Tootsie! Adorable! I didn’t bring
pictures of mine. I figured I’d tell you enough
about him in the course of it.>>Pascoe: Then we have a
new addition – a last minute addition, which is
Jim the ladybug.>>Weber: Oh yeah! [laughter] Are you – are
you sure Jim is ->>[Audience member]:
Jim is right here. He is on the edge [indistinct]
>>Pascoe: Jim the ladybug was acquired just
before class time.>>Weber: Are you sure
that ladybug isn’t a lordbug? Okay!>>Pascoe: So ->>Weber: Take it away.>>Pascoe: You can pet – you
can pet the animals if you wish, if you don’t then
just ignore them.>>Weber: I don’t mind
sharing the stage or the room with animals. What will happen is that
something cute will happen. Inevitably, something cute
will happen and people will go, “Oh!” and then other
people will go, “Oh!” and other people
will go, “Ohh!” and that’s fine, okay? I won’t go, “People!” You know? So – but, you know, but, in fact
that’s one of the things I want you to be aware of is that the
very – the very presence of the animals in the room, whether or
not they come to you or you get a chance to look at them or
touch them or anything like that – is all – has already
begun to change the environment here, okay? And one thing that happened
recently – I didn’t get a chance to add it to my PowerPoint
is – I came across a study, the title which is, “Humans are
Wired to Respond to Animals” – this is of course
the mass media thing. I can – I can, you know,
circulate this later. I don’t have this, but – I don’t
have this on my PowerPoint, but – the bottom line is that
a study of – a neuropsychology study of brain function found
that when patients – seizure patients – looked at pictures
of all kinds of things: objects, faces, human faces and animals,
cute animals or ugly animals, pets or predators – their
neurons in their amygdala began firing like crazy. The amygdala is part
of the limbic system, so this is a little zoom-in
life-size limbic system that I almost stole from my neurologist
and finally just asked him for, because he said, “You’re
the only one who’s ever looked at it.” So, I’ll pass this around and
what you’ll see is that – it shows you, you
know, a sagittal view. What this curved structure
over the top is called the hippocampus because it’s
– of its curved shape. Hippocampus literally
means “seahorse”. And at the undercurve is
this bulb and that’s called the amygdala, and there
are 2 – 2 hippocampi, you know, forks and 2 amygdala
and amygdala means “almond” because it’s kind
of almond-shaped. Most things get named for
what they look like because it’s millennia before anybody
knows what they do. The interesting thing is that
only the right amygdala fired like crazy when people
looked at pictures of animals. Now, the amygdala is arguably
the oldest part of the limbic system and the limbic system is
arguably the oldest structure or one of the oldest structures
in the brain evolutionarily speaking and what that means is
that it is highly relevant to us on the most basic biological
and biochemical level to pay attention to, to notice, to
respond to animals – not human, animals, okay, irrespective
of our purpose or our fear or anything else. So I’ll just pass that around
just so you can get an idea of – of – it’s really difficult to
get an idea of what the limbic system looks like in the brain
because whenever you show people the – the cross-section,
you don’t see it because, you know, you see the
base of it but see? No amygdalae. You know? Can’t – because you need –
you need the whole structure, but it’s right – right in
the center of the brain. You know, this coating
atop the cortex here, that’s our thinking
cap, you know? And all the rest of
it is basic wiring. And the limbic system
is among the most basic, basic wiring. It’s the basic wiring of our
emotional responses and its key emotions are fight and
flight but also pleasure, so there’s something going
on here that we should pay attention to or we
aren’t learning the story. It’s also interesting because
it’s one of the few studies of brain responsivity to stimuli
that didn’t strictly look at people’s responsiveness
to human faces. We are so into ourselves. Let’s see what people do when
they look at fake pictures of us, you know! Well what would happen if
we showed other species? Oh, why would people want
to look at other species? Well finally someone
is doing it! So, BOOM! There might be grant money in
it now – actually not with – not with the current
government, but, you know, one never knows. So I wanted you
to know that. I also want to
read you this study, which I was unable to get into
my PowerPoint today and this will set the tone for a lot of
what I’m going to tell you about psychology today. It’s called “Cancel the Lawyer
and Call the Labrador.” Okay? And -it’s – it’s a picture of,
you know – dogs let us do so much to them dammit, you know? “Let’s dress her
up for Halloween!” I have a Corgi. Do you know how tempted
I am to dress that dog – she’s a rescue Corgi. She would make a
perfect hotdog, rocket, you know, I mean anything but
are you able to see that at all? Okay. “Cancel the Lawyer and Call the
Labrador”: A study of 30 married couples conducted at Indiana
University concluded that husbands and wives were more
successful at resolving marital differences when there
was a dog in the room. It was felt that the mere
presence of a gentle animal defused tension between
the wrangling humans. Another study had husbands and
wives either alone or together solve problems – work on
mainly math problems – other kinds of problems. So one person would work on
solving these problems and they – they saw – they
worked on them alone. They worked on them with
their spouse present or with a dog present. Okay? Not their own dog – with a
dog and meanwhile all kinds of stress measures are being –
stress indicators are being measured you know? Galvanic skin
response, brain activity, heart rate, respiration – stuff
like that and it turns out – okay, so what do you think
was the most stressed that the women got? Husband – husband in room. Husband in room
not helping, okay? They did – much less stress
and they performed better alone. Much, much less stress, perform
way better with dog, okay? Something else, going on
here – no, no judgments. I’m going to explore a
few of these things today. Now, I just wanted to tell
you a few of those things. Now, I do – I know
that some of you have, like myself, gone through some
losses and – recently or not and I went through a pretty – I’ve
been through a lot of losses lately and – but I lost my cat. It was 8 years old. She just disappeared in July and
after – you’ve probably seen the posters, you know, got posters
of a gray cat all over town: “Ilsa, have you seen
Ilsa?” and everything. Finally gave up. Finally have decided
that probably a predator, probably a coyote –
coyotes got to eat too and, you know, at least it would
be fast but my point is that I understand what it is like to
be shown or told information or imagery that is
distressing. So what I’m going to do whenever
possible is give you a warning, okay? Upsetting information, you
know, or at least empathetic information or
upsetting imagery. You see I’ve done this work for
years and this imagery doesn’t immediately make me go bawling
and crying and screaming, you know? But I do cry
eventually about it. That’s something you just got to
accept if you’re going to study this kind of stuff and I’ve been
studying loss and grief – that’s my specialty and especially pet
loss and grieving and you got to just sort of say, “I’m gonna
cry for a little bit now.” So, I will try to
tell you , you know, when it gets chokey – also I
don’t see – there is Kleenex! Thank you. We might want to just,
you know, have that. Well, I’ll have it here
if anybody wants it. We’ll keep it over here. Just raise your hand if
you want the Kleenex, okay? You laugh. This stuff
is great. Okay. Lamp dimming. Is that
important? Think it’ll be okay? All right. Great. [makes vocal sound effect]
Bink, bink, bink! [laughter] Don’t know what
to do. Okay. All right, so I’m Ann Weber and
I taught here for 34 years and – and I, you know, I’ve met
most of you little bit before. I was the first person to teach
an undergraduate-only Close Relationships class in the
country in 1984 and I started – I took advantage of it and I
started sliding in units on pets and anything that was
interesting to me and my students and had a
great time with it. So, I’m going to pull up my
program so that I can keep track of the images
before they get, you know, distressing. Okay, lets see. First off, who has a pet? Okay, who has ever
had a pet? Okay. Dog lovers? Cat lovers? Bi-petuals? [laughter] Meat-eaters? Don’t
be afraid, okay. You’re wrong but don’t
be afraid to say – [laughter] Veggie-heads or
veggie-head wannabes? Okay, easier
than you think. I got recipes, okay. And non-humans are invited
at any point to raise a paw, flipper, whatever you call it
on a ladybug or a lordbug and so on. So, people and animals
have evolved together. Our species is pretty
damn new to this planet. Maybe modern human beings
have lived the way that we, you know, consider
semi-normal, you know, in social groupings and so on
in gatherings and then much, much later relying more
and more on agriculture and communication,
mass communication, for only about, you
know, 50 millennia. I mean we’re
babies on this planet. The first dog-human connections
probably began about 15,000 years ago with the proto-dog
being an evolutionary descendant of wolves and there’s some
interesting new research now that says that it wasn’t humans
who domesticated wolves to create the dog, it was the dogs
that domesticated themselves by sort of self-selecting. The dogs who weren’t afraid of
people had access to something that the afraid – that the
scaredy-cat dogs didn’t have: garbage. One thing that makes people
valuable to dogs: garbage! No one’s got garbage
like our species man! So the dogs that hung out with
the people – got close to the people – did better,
lived longer, produced more offspring,
begat more garbage and people-loving
doggies, right? And so what we have today is a
creature that resembles a wolf only very, you
know, basically. It turns out that, for reasons
we don’t entirely understand, genetically, when you select for
tameness and non-fear of humans, friendliness, you end up
with creatures that are less fearsome, have smaller
teeth, have shorter muzzles, have curlier hair, have
different kinds of fur, curled tails, patchier
fur, that, you know, for dogs they look less and
less like wolves. Cats! I mean, look at – what’s
amazing about cats is, you know, all kinds of breeds of
cats they’re all pretty much the same size, you know, which is
another thing that we think gives them appeal to people is
that they’re all roughly the size of a baby, you know? And we’re wired to
go, “Ohhh!”, which is, you know – So here’s an
interesting photo of a very recent finding: 7,000 year-old
remains found in Siberia of a dog that ate human’s food. They were able to identify from
some of the remnants there that the dog ate what
the people ate. The dog was buried. The dog’s body didn’t
just land in the pit. The dog was carefully laid
and positioned on it’s – his right side. They’ve ascertained it
was probably a male. It was buried with
artifacts, you know? To all intents and purposes
as if people burying the dog believe that the dog had an
afterlife and needed the same kinds of things that
the people would need, because there were 5 human
skeletons buried at the same layer with the dog. So, we’ve been
together from the start. I’ve got a lot of stuff on dogs
in here because dogs have been researched more than any
other companion animal and, you know, thus it’s
easier to convey it, but dogs have been domesticated
for about 15,000 years maybe longer – cats maybe
for about 9,000 years, okay? So cats are closer
to the wild, and, you know, they
operate differently. And here’s a Peruvian dog
sarcophagus circa about 1,000 years CE or
AD, you know? whichever initials you like. Here’s the mummy inside
the sarcophagus, okay? Animals were believed
to have an afterlife, at least by that time
among some peoples. So we started out together. We evolved together. There are scientists,
ethologists, anthropologists who argue that not only
did dogs become dogs because of people, but people
became people because of dogs. That we wouldn’t be what we
are if we didn’t have not only domesticated animals and
self-domesticating animals, but companion animals –
very special kinds of companion animals. So what divided us? Competition –
competition for survival, hunting, consuming,
welcome to your video debut. You know, we get cave paintings
and we’re still not entirely sure what’s going on
with the cave paintings. Did people throw spears at them,
did people have an artistic impulse but the cave paintings
feature people and animals more than any other subject. You know, Gork of the
Neanderthal cave didn’t just go in there and do like a
landscape, you know? It’s people and animals. Whoops. We divided our roles, okay? So that we began to have animals
that particularly helped us in traveling, okay, long distances,
horses and proto-horses for traveling, for
working, for lugging. Pretty much any animal that
could carry any amount of weight was used to do that from the
beginning of domestication. Of course animals have long
been our prey and our servants. You know, we eat them. You know, they’re a
portable food source – mainly as our food. So, you know, we’ve got a lot
of – like I say – a lot of cave paintings that
show that, you know, people were demonstrating, maybe
it was for instructive purposes, you know, they used bow and
arrow and spears and so on. This is a joke! I hope
you see that. [laughter] But the pursuit of animals
as prey and as food continues to this day although
we are – imagine walking into a grocery store with
a spear, well no, don’t even imagine it. It’s probably against the
Homeland Security Act or something. Humans once believed that animal
spirits would teach us and help us and it is no accident or
coincidence that a lot of peoples in various parts of the
world to this day will celebrate and, you know, their
beliefs, their religions, their transition rites with
the accoutrements that look like animals and, you know,
antlers and masks and so on. But animals became more
and more hunted things, used things for humans to use
and eat and as animals became things we took them. These, by the way, are
also cave paintings. You got to – this is
pretty clever: silhouette, hands on a cave. I mean, you know, most of us
don’t even think of that when we were kids, “Hey! That
would be really cool – ” But of course
hands to me look like grabbing too and of course
as animals became “things” as we objectified and
depersonalized animals, as animals became more
like “it” and less like “us”. They became easier
for us to take and use. Of course “things”
have no souls. We lost our spiritual connection
and we were divided and this is a somewhat upsetting picture
but it’s not one of the most upsetting ones so I’ll
try to give you a warning. I just lost my connection. I once taught Psychology of
Animals and I did a unit one evening on elephants and
preserving elephants in the wild and some distressing things
that elephants have to cope with because they’re being poached
and destroyed and things like that and then I warned people
that I was going to show some video footage that, you know,
it’s – showed humans at our most brutal and showed some
pretty rotten stuff happening to elephants and everything. I said, “If anyone wants to
leave or put your head down or whatever – perfectly fine. You know, there’s ways
to get this information.” And you know, at the end of the
class someone came up to me and she said, “I did not take
this class to be upset!” I said, “Boy, are you going
to have a hard time with the Liberal Arts!” [laughs] You know? One of the best ways to get
educated is to expose yourself to something that you suspect at
some point it’s going to upset you a little bit whether it’s
your worldview or your emotions because, you know, it
sort of yanks you out. Let me go down here and
see what’s coming up, okay. Agriculture by ancient humans
maybe starting about 10-12,000 years ago expanded the
“thing-ness” of animals. So now animals are
being corralled, maintained, cultivated,
led from place to place, herded and so on but of course
that makes them more and more like things. Modern “domestication”
continues to process – here’s cattle in a ranch. When you hear news about,
arguments between ranchers and other people this is what
ranchers do: they herd up cattle so that the cattle can be
destroyed and eaten – eaten. Of course, you know,
if they get damaged, this is not a bad and upsetting
picture but it’s an upsetting fact, this is a dairy cow
actually not even raised initially for meat, but what
cannot be used is discarded. If the cow is sick or injured
in the course of transport and always, always
some animals are. If you ever pass a
truck transporting pigs, chickens, cattle – some of
them in that truck already can’t breathe and aren’t going to make
it and when they can’t make it, they’re called “downers” and
downers are lugged off and – and this is an upsetting
fact so plug your ears, they’re thrown into a, you
know, what do you call it? Trash bins, whether
they’re alive or not. You know, they
could still be alive. They don’t all go to like
“Cow Heaven” you know? Whatever your
parents told you about, “Oh, we took Sparky to live
on a farm in the country,” you know? I’m sure that that did happen
sometimes, you know? But it doesn’t mostly to
real downers at ranches. Now, this cow is alive for the
moment and is being restrained and a bolt gun is going to stun
and kill the cow very quickly in like a microsecond in the
forehead and then – I’m not going to show you
any bleeding, yet, okay? and I’ll warn you before I do
but we do this so that we can get that. Now I hope you
know what this is, okay. I hope you know that
this came from this, okay? Because if you
don’t, you should. You should know where
your food comes from. Interesting thing: it’s very
hard to find out where your meat comes from. If you want to know where
your broccoli comes from, your cabbage, your snow
peas, your bean sprouts, you can go to a farm. They’ll take you on a tour! You go to a slaughterhouse
or a ranch and you say, ” I want to see, you know, how
you process the cattle or the pigs or whatever, you know,
before I have it for dinner or feed it to my kid.”
You can’t even get in. They got fences that are 12-feet
high topped with concertina razor wire, you know? Why is that there? It’s not to
keep them in. It’s to keep you out. You’re the consumer!
You’re the bleeding consumer. You’re not allowed to
see what goes on in there. I’d think about that. If you are interested
in that fact, I can recommend a wonderful
book for you but it’s not upsetting to read.
It’s calledEating Animals. It’s written by a man,
a novelist actually, Jonathan Safran Foer. His
last name is F-O-E-R. And he and his wife were
expecting their first child and they said, “What are we going to
– where are we going to send the kid to school? You know, what kinds of
things should we teach a kid? What are we going
to feed the kid?” And so he started just doing
research, you know. He had a background
as a journalist. He started asking questions
about food and as soon as he started asking about
meat people said, “Why do you
want to know?” He said, “Well
because, you know, I eat this, you know, and I’m
going to feed it to my kid.” “Well, I’m sorry, no you
can’t come in here!” Okay? Turkeys, chicken. My husband and I we went
vegetarian as much as we could 20 years ago after
we adopted our dog, our first dog, and now every
year for Thanksgiving we go to the Farm Sanctuary
site:, and adopt a turkey for
Thanksgiving instead of – you know, sponsor $10 –
sponsor a turkey. Keep it in feed for an
extra amount of time, instead of eating one. So, we do that to get that
because we think we’re going to get this! All right? And that’s what we get. I hope you can see the
difference between the two. This is on television,
this is in reality, okay? That’s an interesting thing too
is that notice when food – when food, especially meat food
is likely to be advertised, you know, it’s right around
dinnertime and just check and see – oops – it’s
not working there. I’ll try to – I’m sorry. I’m really – I don’t want
to show anything upsetting. This is my new Mac
and okay, there we go. Hamburger, hamburger,
hamburger, okay good. All right good. Oh good, not upsetting,
not upsetting yet! Okay. Real animals spirits do live
on in the minds of children. Another wonderful book I
recommend for you by a developmental psychologist
calledWhy the Wild Things Are. It’s a study of the way that
children’s imaginations and fascination with stories and
fairy tales are so consistently populated with animals,
all kinds of animals. Kids know this. Kids are much more connected
to animals as living things, and with spirits and
personalities than adults. That’s another thing. Somehow we got
divided again, okay. Why did adults get divided when
the kids didn’t get divided? But you know, many real animals
live as family members as you know, okay? I asked you, almost all of you
raised your hands who had ever had a pet or
have a pet now. I don’t have to tell you
the values or the amazing experiences involved in
that – the ups and the downs, really, you know,
and I don’t know. I have family members
who have said, “Oh, I cried so
much when my cat died. I’ll never have
a cat again.” And I say, “I cried so
much when my cat died. I must always have
a cat again.” Because the reason I cried so
much is because I loved her and it made me a better person and
I think it helped me maybe make the world a little bit better,
which doesn’t sound like a really psychologically
scientific thing to say but it is, okay! So,
think about that. There are 80 million
pet dogs in the US today. You will find that if you look
at numbers of families with pets and numbers of pets, the numbers
often don’t jive and it’s because a lot of people who
have one dog have more than one. A lot of people who have one cat
have more than one and a lot of people have a cat
and a dog so that’s, you know, 2 pets but
one household, okay? And for a while cats
were really ahead, okay? Because urbanization and
singlization was making, you know, cats are – cats are
so much easier to maintain than dogs, but dogs are ahead
again – dogs are ahead, dogs are ahead
in the race. 8 million pet
dogs in the US. As I mentioned they have
been domesticated for about 15,000 years. Here’s one of our earliest
bits of evidence, you know. Closest we can get to a
photograph – cave wall painting. Modern dogs are companions
they are also warriors, okay? This is a photo of my friend
Sgt. Sandy Parker in Vietnam and
this is his dog. He picked out this dog after
studying and training with a bunch of dogs and
then each soldier, each marine was
given a chance to, you know, pick the dog that he
could work with as a sentry, as a scout dog, as a search dog
whatever and all the dogs just had numbers so this dog was A538
and so once Sandy picked out this dog the – his CO looked up
the dog’s record and found out that the dog’s name was – Sandy. Sandy was euthanized in
Vietnam at the end of the war. 4,000 dogs served
during the war in Vietnam. 200 of them managed to make it
back to the States alive and were smuggled out by their
handlers – is what the men were called who trained with them. The dogs saved their lives. They saved the lives of the
squads but at the end of the war, a very unpopular
war and this is typical, most cases, the military
termed the dogs materiel, which is a fancy way
of saying “things”, okay? stuff, equipment, shit that
we can leave behind and they left them behind. They euthanized as many
as they could quickly. Others they executed
unceremoniously. In most cases it was the handler
whose job it was to dispatch the dog and a lot of the dogs
were left behind to the South Vietnamese, our allies, who did
not like the big dogs at all. Their culture was not –
they did not – did not favor the big dogs. Dogs are not, you know, there
aren’t a lot of fans of dogs in a lot of modern
Islam by the way, either, so dogs are at great
risk in war torn areas in the world and yet they bond so
tightly and lovingly and loyally to their people. I wrote to Sandy. I met him a few years ago, quite
a few years ago when I was first doing a unit on animals and then
I was first developing my People and Animals classes and I
asked him the other day – my birthday is
November 10th. November 10th is also the
birthday of the US Marine Corps. So Sandy, whose birthday
is actually November 18th, yesterday, he celebrates his
birthday on my birthday and the Marine
Corps’ birthday. So we always catch up and I told
him I was doing this lecture and I asked him what he would like
me to tell you – for you to know about the dogs and I also asked
the president of the Vietnam Dog Handler’s Association, a
site I really recommend that you check out. Abbreviation for the Vietnam Dog
Handler’s Association is VDHA, so their website is
and the president of the organization wrote me. It’s kind of rough. It wasn’t real eloquent
but he wrote me. He said, “Dr. W, the message
I would like you to pass on is that the dog handlers
love their dogs, the way parents
love their child. The dogs had good days and
bad, but the dogs were loyal no matter how hard
their life was.” And then there are a couple of
spaces and he just writes: “The Vietnam dogs met
such a sad end.” There are memorials to them by
the way and this is one of them. There is a memorial
at Fort Benning. I was invited to attend. I was one of the only civilians
invited to the dedication of the Fort Benning Memorial
to the War Dogs. That’s one of the places in the
United States where they train dogs for various
positions in military action. This is what my friend Sandy
wrote me for you to know. He says, “Thanks for
asking for my input. I think it is important that the
students of today realize there was a 50-year period between
World War II and the turn of the century, that all” – they call
them MWD’s – military working dogs – “a period that all MWD’s
were euthanized regardless, unless they were
killed in action. There are articles that
highlight the fact that 2-4,000 dogs were
euthanized after Vietnam. There is a terrific book now
made into a video calledAlways Faithful. It should be read by all who
want to know how this man, William Putney, spearheaded the
effort for 50 years to declass the MWD’s from
equipment to adoptable. Those of us who had to euthanize
our dogs or other MWD’s in country prior to returning
to the US live with that memory 24/7. Kudos to all who convinced
President Clinton to sign the bill to allow adoption of MWD’s
– ” that was in the year 2000. “I’m thankful for those
individuals and families that are waiting by the hundreds to
adopt a military working dog now and that they are available. Otherwise they would be coldly
and methodically euthanized, dissected, scrutinized
and discarded. Been there, done that. Why do I have PTSD?
Why do I cry? Age and memory is
the real enemy, yet I can’t forget.” So now you know something from
somebody who could tell you that I couldn’t tell you. There are – there are some great
stuff and I – if anybody’s got interest in this I mean
it’s really something that you should know. This next slide is upsetting
although it doesn’t show anything, you know, carnage
but this is the – you know, this is the last chapter. Military working dogs who die
in combat are brought home and honored and buried like
veterans, okay? There are canine cemeteries. So, you should know that because
that means that there are places you can go in this country
where you can honor them. Where you can
learn about them. Let me make sure that I’m not
coming up to anything else here. Now let’s talk about cats. Domesticated as I said
about 9,000 years ago. Honored, deified, mummified,
because they were hunters. No one could get the vermin out
of the corn supply like the cats and anything that handy and that
small and that easy to handle was extremely valued but of
course later in history we, you know, we get
enlightened peoples who, you know, hated cats. Cats are probably among the most
in history deified and loathed of domesticated creatures. Cats were slain and executed
by the millions in Europe and North America. Blamed as witch’s familiars
and evil totems and so on. Fortunately those days are over. There’s at least 65 million
pet cats in the U.S. today. Some numbers put it closer
to 80 million and – and going up
all the time. There are other
pets of course. Cats make cuddly
companions, you know, as I said before they’re a
perfect size even for children. A child can learn to hold
and handle a cat carefully. Then there are the so-called
“shelf pets”, okay? Gerbils – and breakdown in other
pets we have cats: 90 million – at the last time I did this we
had 90 million cats living as pets, 80 million dogs, shelf
pets or pocket pets: 13 million – rabbits, guinea
pigs, hamsters, gerbils, fish counted by tanks, okay? So not individual,
you know, fish. 9 million birds, 8
million reptiles, 7 million ferrets – people
have their preferred animals. Pet cemeteries are, you know,
there was once upon a time the first pet cemetery in the United
States – you can still go there. It’s enormous. It’s in New York State
just outside New York City.>>[Audience member]: My
uncle runs one in Texas.>>Weber: Really? Wow! And I – we decided to
bury ours on our property, so we have memorial stones all
over the place and little shade gardens and things
like that, you know, and people – people
who get it, get it, okay? People who get why you
love and mourn your pet, okay, get it and you don’t need
to explain anything to them. People who don’t get
it, you can’t explain it, okay? So, so that makes
this, you know, easy to kind of
move along to. This is – this is my first
cat, my first pet, Minerva. She didn’t live a
long enough life, but – but we loved each other
every minute and I feel very lucky because if
it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had
any of the others. It was her – it was she who
convinced me that I would miss out if I didn’t have more. So after Minerva came a stray
and then another stray and then a shelter rescue and then 2 more
strays and then a dog and then another dog and so, you
know, and life just got, you know, better and better. I do a whole unit on what it
means to lose a companion animal and one of the reasons I’ve
studied loss is because by studying loss and why loss is
experienced the way that we do, you learn what the
relationship meant, okay? And – and so here are
just some examples. When we lose an animal – when
we lose an animal companion, we lose access to
their happiness. That’s my dog Dixie racing
along the beach at Edisto. That’s our dog Bear,
who we had first. Bear’s attitude
to the beach was, “I’m going to be up
here on the dry sand, okay?” And Dixie was – for the longest
time she was freaked out. She was abused. We were
her fourth owners. You can tell she’s
a Border Collie, okay? We kept going to the
beach, going to the beach, [imitates Dixie] “I
don’t know about this! I don’t know
about this!” But then one day she
looked at the foam. She looked and looked and
looked at the foam and she went, “Oh! Sheep!” And she began running
underwater and circling and herding the foam. [laughter] And so here she is going, going,
just loving it, loving it, until the last 5
years of her life. She was about 8
when we got her. She lived 7 more years
and we took her to therapy. We hired training and all kinds
of stuff and everything but man once she learned how to really
play and wasn’t afraid and one day after an incident with
another dog when she – she got really growly – I sat
down with her and I said, “Look, you’re our dog. We’re going to love you forever!
It doesn’t matter, okay? You’re not going to
not be our dog anymore.” And I know this is
just me but after that, it’s like she got
it, you know? She stopped pushing us to
the limit and everything. I have a sad thing to
tell you about this. This is one of the last pictures
I took of her because the next morning when we went out for
a walk on the beach and after racing on the beach
she collapsed and died. She was 15. She was at her favorite place,
doing her favorite thing with her favorite people
and her favorite dog. She thought Bear was
a genius, you know? Bear would push
her around. Bear was just this
big, you know. Dixie was like this
and she was like, [imitates Dixie] “Wow, you are
so smart!’ And Bear is saying, “Yes I am.” And she was just a damn
great dog, you know? So when you don’t have – when
you don’t have that – there must be an easier way to sign in to
blinking Mac every single time. Don’t you love it how they tell
you don’t – don’t use a pet’s name as your password and
everybody uses the pet’s name as a password. I mean it’s just – just,
you know, just ridiculous. So, you know, comfort is
an amazing – after 9/11, it was discovered by some
counselors who were trying to get to the – who were
trying to help the families, especially the children
of people who had died in, you know, in the Trade Center
collapse and the plane crashes. The kids just wouldn’t talk.
They were mute. They bring a dog in the room –
somebody got the bright idea to bring a dog in, not
even a therapy dog, suddenly the kids
start talking to the dog. They’re whispering
things to the dog. They’re talking about
Dad or Mom to the dog, you know, and, you know, that –
it’s absolutely unconditional comforting and
acceptance. I mean, you know, these people
are not going to win any beauty contest prizes but their dog
thinks they’re the most beautiful creatures
in the world. Your dog doesn’t
say to you, “Woof! What did you
eat last night? Man, would you like, go brush
your teeth before you pet me this morning? You know? Or that color is not
your color, you know? Your dog just – your
dog is happy to see you. Your cat cuddles with you. My cat purrs a particular purr
– I have a brand new kitten, by the way, after we
couldn’t find our cat, our – after searching for
several months I – I went to the shelter and a little calico
kitten picked me out and when I touch her, her purring
changes qualitatively. It’s a totally
different sound. It’s really interesting because
it’s not my imagination. You know, it’s
unconditional love. Now maybe – there
are people who say, “That’s not love! They don’t love you if
you don’t feed them!” Your kids on the
other hand, right? They’ll love you no matter what,
even if you don’t pay their tuition, blah, blah,
blah. Loss of touch. Touch may be the most
important physical, psychological experience
involved in our relating to animals, especially
companion animals, okay? It’s – they accept our
touch. Who does that? I mean what person could
you walk up to and say, “Hi! So good to see you!
Miss you!” or something. Stop! Get off me!
You know? It’s just – it’s really – and
the thing is it’s a lot of the people who benefit from
the touch of an animal are people that nobody has
touched in years. No one has touched
these people, you know? It’s – it’s really an
astonishing opportunity. Why do we have pets and
why do we care about pets? Humans are, as far as we know,
the only species to keep pets, okay? Eddie Izzard, my favorite
comedian, mentions this. He says, you know,
“Giraffes don’t, like, adopt gazelles, you know?” If you don’t know who
Eddie Izzard is – you know, I-Z-Z-A-R-D
[whispers] fucking funny! Oh god! Anyway, one of the
reasons we like pets, one of the reasons
we find animals, especially baby animals,
irresistible is neoteny. N-E-O-T-E-N-Y. Neoteny is the quality of
retaining the features of infancy, okay? It’s not – the word
doesn’t have to be capitalized. N-E-O – new, okay? T-E-N – having to do
with the development, okay? The growth of that. It’s retaining newness,
retaining the features of infancy. Here’s an – here’s a sort
of scale so you can see the difference between
infants and adults and how, in a way, all infants,
especially all vertebrate infants, have these
distinctive proportions, okay? They have much larger heads
compared to their bodies than do – than they do in
their adult form, okay? Much bigger eyes in their
faces when they’re little, than they do when –
in their adult form, okay? They also have wobbly
movements, you know? They haven’t mastered
locomotion yet, you know? And we find that
cute. “Oh, look!” Why do we want to be
there for the first steps? I want to be there
for the first paycheck. [laughter] “They’re so cute!
They’re so cute! Amazing! First steps!”
you know? You know, so, small
bodies, large heads, large eyes, wobbling, okay? And it’s possible to use this
knowledge of the appealing power of neoteny. It’s also sometimes
called the “cute response”. You draw a picture
with, you know, large head and little
body and big eyes and, you know, wobbly
and people go, “Aww!” It’s called the “cute response”
or the “Aww” response okay? It’s been studied
by ethologists. So you can actually
translate that, you know, to other kinds of
things, like, that’s one reason why a
lot of adoption – pet adoption programs promote pet adoption
by showing you the puppies and the kittens. You know, we adopted our
dog – our rescue Corgi. She’s 11 now. We got her 3 years
ago when she was 8. She was on special because she
was old and no one wanted her. People don’t go in
and adopt old animals. We said, “Give us
that old dog!” She’s the best damn dog too.
We got really lucky. What’s cuter than a
puppy? A kitten! This is my kitten Ilse. This is the cat who
disappeared a few years ago. So I wanted to include this
because we’ve had her – we’ve had her since she
was born and you know, I’m just grateful
for all those minutes. But I mean is that cute or what?
Is that cute or what? You know? It just – it just, I mean,
you know, pick your – pick your species,
you know? What’s – you know and most pets
are also portable, you know? And we like that, you know? Oh don’t go there, okay? You know, at least for a
little while in their life, you know, before your
Great Pyrenees became, you know, a major dog, you know,
they’re portable for a while. All infant vertebrates display
these features of neoteny. Baby gorilla – see the
big eyes, the bigger head? The little pudgy
fingers, you know? Even hatching alligators –
I’ve always liked reptiles. I’ve liked reptiles all the time
and I joke is that explains some of my old boyfriends
but that’s unfair. [laughter] I’ve always liked – I – I when I
was a kid I wanted to be a herpetologist. I just – I love
alligators and snakes and you know – it just – you know,
they’ve always been interesting to me. Baby salamanders – look
at that: big eyes, big head, you know?
Friendly aliens! [laughter] Notice how cleverly
E.T. was constructed to look alien and
yet have neoteny. Do you think that’s
an accident? Too expensive to be
an accident, okay? There are people who design
aliens that look friendly and scary, okay? I was going to put in a bigger
picture of the alien fromAlien, you know, in the
Sigourney Weaver movies. It’s truly scary but you know
what also is scary and I really should have included a picture
of this in here because I used to do a unit on attraction –
the opposite of neoteny is, you know, the narrow face. The face that is
perfectly proportional, you know, small
head compared to body, longer limbs,
smoother movements, not smiling, eyes not wide open. In other words –
fashion show, right? [laughter] Not that I’m, you know, remotely
a candidate but, you know, aliens and professional
models, slit eyes [laughter] spooky aliens, okay. Animals as symbols! When we want to convey something
that’s otherwise difficult to kind of communicate,
we might say, you know, “Clever as a fox.” You
know, “Wise as an owl.” I mean, you know, these
things weren’t just made up by, like, animal simile
conventions – [laughs] These have persisted
in our language. Animal images are
still persuasive. They sell things, okay? This is – this is an ad
for headlights actually. So that you – you
see what each one is? It’s an animal in
the headlights, okay? You know, so that – you
don’t want to hit that – that cat or that frog or that
hedgehog or that ferret, you know, so get better – get
better headlights, you know? Of course we use animal images
to sell animal products and animal food. We even use animal
images for things that, you know, are not only not for
animals but look kind of odd but it also looks kind
of cute, doesn’t it? Look kind of cute! Look at that fluffy dog
with the big glasses, yeah! What a good boy! Therapy animals – comforting
people who are ill mentally and physically. I used to visit a nursing home
in South Asheville and one time I went in with several different
people who all brought pets of ours who weren’t trained as
therapy animals but were very calm and at that time, this
would have been about 1995, our calmest animal
was our cat Philip who, in fact, looked just like this
one only it was a lighter tabby, just like Simba, he was a gray
tabby and he had this – he was big and he was soft and fluff
and he opened his mouth and his meow went [imitates high pitch
meow] and he was this big guy. He walked like a
Boxer, you know? And then he went
[imitates high pitch meow]. It was very funny. Anyway, he was the gentlest –
gentlest of animals and so I brought him in his
carrier and – and, you know, some people were in the
mood to meet animals and some people were not, you know,
and most of the therapy animals that day – or the visiting
animals that day were dogs, you know, and I had the only cat
and I think somebody brought a bird and so we just
went from room to room, you know, with an assistant
or an aid who then said, you know, “We’re visiting. Would you like to get a
visit from an animal?” And sometimes people would
say no or sometimes they had a roommate who did. We went to one
room and she said, “Now this gentleman won’t
be able to speak to you. He had a stroke
about 6 months ago. He hasn’t spoken a word since
but he’s very kind and he smiles and I think he, you know,
we should, you know, try. So I went in with Philip and I
sat the cat carrier down before his wheelchair and I said,
“We’re bringing animals to visit the clients here – the residents
in the home and I brought my cat Philip and I wondered if
you would like to meet him?” And he looked and Philip
immediately climbed up into his lap and pushed his head
against the man’s hand on the wheelchair, okay? And the man’s fingers curled a
little bit and then he said, “Kitty. Kitty.” And the woman – the
nurse said, “Stay here! I got to go call
his family! He hasn’t – he hasn’t
said a word in 6 months!” Vroom! You know? [laughter] It’s just something’s firing in
there – something’s in there and, you know, I didn’t do
anything, you know? Philip – Philip –
Philip made the connection. By the way, I named Philip
after Phil Zimbardo [laughter] because when I adopted Philip,
a stray – I did! – I was working on writing
an intro Psych book with Phil Zimbardo and I told him, “If we
can catch this stray and – and if after we get him neutered –
if he decides to live with us I’m naming him Philip.” And he really is a Philip and
he looks just like this guy, you know, just
really cute as hell. Like Phil Zimbardo just a
big kitty cat actually. [laughter] I don’t know if he would
mind if I said that because he’s just a wonderful,
wonderful guy. He’s one of those people who you
wonder is he – he’s so famous and he’s so accomplished,
is he a jerk in real life and the answer is no. He’s just a great,
terrific guy, you know? So I got really lucky. Just want to see what’s
coming up here. Okay! The therapy animals – I think
I already talked about military working dogs. I don’t know how that – oh, that
slide got left in there because I had an argument with
my Mac this morning, okay. Cats as therapy
animals – there we go! It’s a cat. It’s
just perfect! Therapy animals of course also
you’re aware of therapy animals as assistance animals, okay? This gentleman here is Morris
Frank who was the first person in the United States to have
what we call a seeing eye dog and this is his first seeing eye
dog – the first seeing eye dog in America – a female, German
Shepherd named Buddy who was trained in Switzerland and
she was such a terrific dog. She lived with him and guided
him everywhere for 11 years. He was only 20 when he
completely lost his vision as a result of 2 accidents in a row
and he missed the independent life and then he heard about
this – that a lot of veterans from the war, after
the First World War, in Germany were relying on dogs
to guide them through cities and help them with tasks and things
and so he went to Switzerland where this woman was
training dogs to – you know, taking dogs who had the
best aptitude for this kind of assistance work and training
them to be a little bit better – more obedient and Buddy not
only was able to do all kinds of things for Frank, like walk with
him across a busy street with lots of people going
[imitates crowd noises], but also Buddy engaged
in what they called “positive disobedience”. When – if it was dangerous
to step into the street, even if Frank wanted to
step into the street, Buddy would pull
back because Buddy saw, you know, a bus coming,
stuff like that, you know? So, additional intelligence
going on there. Therapy animals today are so
common that there are many, many organizations. We don’t even question
their prevalence among us. One of the best known
is the Delta Society, which creates connections
between people and animals and trainers, hence
the name Delta, because it’s a 3-way
relationship. You know, and they don’t
have any other prejudices or stigma against sick or
older human beings. This is Oscar. I bet you’ve
heard about Oscar. He was quite the rage
on YouTube for a while. The “death watch” cat – he was a
resident cat in a nursing home. He had an uncanny ability to
sense and visit any nursing resident – nursing home
resident who was about to die. He would go in, you know, sit
on the end of the bed and – and that person would, you know,
usually peacefully die within the next 24 hours. It was like he knew – he knew
this is where he needed to be – and, you know, he wasn’t
like trying to be a bummer or anything like that [laughs], you know? But what happened was,
because people watched Oscar’s movements, they would go, “Oh
maybe we should keep an eye on Mr. So and So, you know? In room 12”, and that’s
what they would do. Children empathize with
animals in a unique way. I’ve already talked
about that a little bit. They accept us as we are. See I originally developed
this slide presentation – for presentations to
groups in the public. I didn’t originally develop
it as a – a class lecture. That’s why I have a whole lot
of like PR in here and a lot of common sense and a lot of
imagery because I’m talking to people who never went to college
and aren’t going to go to college and, you know, and I
started to take some of it out and I thought ah, nah –
it’s nice – who would mind extra photographs? Okay. You know, they go
into stores. I love that. I love it, you know, I love
sticking my cat in my handbag and running into the store
to see which toy she wants. You want this one?
Oh! Okay great! [laughter] Oh by the way, if you can’t
find the Sergeants brand sparkle balls in the
pet aisle at Ingles, it’s because I
bought them all! [laughter] All! I bought – I bought 30
sparkle balls because they are a favorite, favorite toy but I
have no idea where they are. I think they’re all under the
couch or maybe they’re in a new layer in the crust of the
earth or something like that. [laughter] A problem or an irony I do
need you to think about as psychology students and
beginning psychologists is that we are not, you know,
all saps about animals, you know, most
people eat animals. Most people eat animals.
Most of us eat animals. Most of us would say we like
animals – eating animals, okay? We’re studying psychology, well
how do you think a lot of that research got done, huh?
On dollies? You know? On pillows? No. I don’t know about you but I had
to take 2 years of biology and anatomy. I had to dissect
all kinds of things. My first dissection
animal was a cat. I was so stupid. I thought they’d all died
natural deaths and then been collected and put in
tubs of formaldehyde. How do we find
these things out? Well now – now we have computer
simulations for one thing. We have really,
really good alternatives. If you’re interested in some
of the alternatives by the way, there are organizations such
as Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, okay? You know, professionals with
M.D.’s and PhD’s and all that who are trying to find
alternative ways to learn about bodily and brain
function so that, you know, we don’t feel like
we’re stuck with this, you know? You know, we agree
that that’s very, very cute. Upsetting image! Look down if you
don’t want to see, okay? Very, very cute little
hamster or guinea pig. This is a guinea pig
subjected to testing, okay? This is what we do. Harmless little white
mice but we hate rats. Well what do we think? They’re not all
rodents, you know? A friend of mine, actually –
these are live rats – a friend of mine studied street rats
in Baltimore and bred several successive generations
of street rats, you know, common brown rats along
with the white lab rats that came from a bio-facility in
Pennsylvania or something like that, so – and once he
got, like, you know, 3 generations out of –
you know, so here are rats whose ancestors
had worked the alleys in downtown Baltimore and here are
rats whose ancestors had lived in the lab at Johns
Hopkins University. He, you know, tested them in the
mazes and the Skinner boxes – street rats? They could eat those
white rats for lunch, literally, okay? Smart as hell, walk right
into a damn Skinner box, [imitates sound
of pushing lever], get my food pellet and walk
over here, you know. [laughter] I mean, you know,
maze to the food? Are you kidding
me? You know? I would love to have held up a
brown rat and had him watch the white rat go, “I – I
don’t – is it left or right?” He said they, you know –
not only do rat studies not generalize to people, rat
studies don’t even generalize to rats! Studying lab rats doesn’t even
tell you a fat lot about rats! You know? What are we doing? It’s just – it’s
pretty interesting. This is a great – a scene from
a great movie about the life of Charles Darwin and I’m blocking
on the title but it came out just about 3 years ago but –
and this is – this is a baby orangutan who was captured and
kept in the London Zoo and he was fascinated by the way
her behavior so resembled that of human beings. Her name was Lucy and she lived
and died the rest of her life alone, you know?
That’s what we do. Put them in a zoo. We put them at risk. Why put a person in space
when you can send a monkey up? But before the Americans
sent up monkeys, the Russians sent up Laika. My next dog is going
to be named Laika. She was a mutt found on
the streets of Moscow. Nikita Khrushchev wanted to show
off the Russian – the Soviet space program and show up the
American president and so he gave his scientists 3 weeks
to arrange to send a dog up into space. So, of course, she didn’t
come back and of course she died probably almost immediately
although they said, “Oh well she probably ran out
of air and died peacefully.” Now they have statues
to her, you know, in Russia, but the scientists
who were behind that program have broken the silence,
broken the official governmental silence recently and said that
they hated what they were doing and they have always regretted
it and never forgotten Laika. Our big problem in our culture
and in many cultures is unwanted animals. As many cats are stray and feral
– feral means that they cannot be adapted to be – to
live with a family – as are part of
human families. Some can be caught,
neutered and released, you know, but strays
just get ignored. People don’t want to deal
with them or, you know, worried about them.
We pity them. We hand out food
but then we go away. Most of them are allowed
to die unwanted, though. There are organizations
that try to change that. Sometimes they’re caught,
captured and sheltered. Cages – cages are not
exactly, you know, homes. But this is to me –
is really poignant, you know, what does a cat do
when you put a cat in a cage? Try to get the
hell out! Okay? Got to hand it
to that cat. I used to volunteer at the
shelter some years ago and my job was to walk all the dogs
that were in cages because they had no access to
walking otherwise. All the dogs that were in these
cells – dogs that were in cages, that were stacked, they had to
be taken out and walked because they had no access to the
outside so the big problem was what do you do with these like
dozen or 2 dozen or so bigger dogs who can’t fit into the
little stacked crates and so you get volunteers
and I would go in, you know, everyday
and I would walk, you know, 12 dogs or whatever and I
got real attached to one dog who was a depressed lump
and man after 3 weeks of working with her everyday I got her –
somebody had named her Cindy – Cindy was on her tag
– she – jumping up, greeting me – happy, happy,
happy and you know how this story ends right? I go in one day and I say,
“Okay, hey! Cindy. Cindy’s not in your –
she’s not in her cell! Did Cindy get adopted?”
And they said, “Who?” I said, “Cindy! Cindy!” “I don’t remember a
dog named Cindy.” Next person said that.
Next person said that. Next person said that.
Began crying. Went into the cat
room to calm down, [whispering] because the
cats are so quiet and calm. And a kitten picked
me up. You know? I got something
out of that. I’m not quite sure what
the moral of the story is, basically, but – there is
a moral, you know? There is a lesson.
Some of them give up. Some remain hopeful. There’s nothing like a waggy
tail on a dog that is in a cage – even confident, you know?
Smiling at you. Ready to love you.
Some get adopted. Most of them are hopeless,
especially specific breeds. We’re real – you know,
we are racist as hell. We are racist as hell not
only with fellow humans, but with animals. Pit Bulls? Eww, evil, awful,
kill, must die, you know? Some are rescued like after
Katrina and actually reunited, but in this country about 3
million dogs alone will be euthanized in shelters this
year because they’re not wanted. Euthanasia, you know, literally
means the “good death”. Okay? And it is kinder than,
you know, some of – I mean someone
is with them. Shelter workers
know about this, okay? You can be a shelter worker.
You’ll get good training. It’s – it’s wonderful.
Reality alert! Pictures of destroyed
animals ahead! Put your head down, okay?
Can’t take it? I can just tell
you about it. The unwanted
bodies are piled up. There’s too many fad breeds
that end up getting bred, owned and discarded when
they act like animals. People go, “Oh! I thought it was gonna be like
Taco Bell Chihuahua and it ended up being a dog that
needed attention,” you know? So, gone. We don’t neuter them,
especially the tough dogs, okay? We’ll put chains around
their neck and then they’re not neutered. You know what –
what are they called? Neuticles? Have you
heard of neuticles? Those assholes – they’re not
even – the assholes are the ones who won’t get their animals
neutered because they want them to look tough. Then there’s this odd group of
human beings who actually do get their male dogs neutered but
get implants put in to look like great big testicles. Now I want this
person to get help! I want that dog to
have a new home. No one wants an aggressive
dog but if they treat the dog roughly they’re going to
get an aggressive dog. And they’re an awful lot of
trouble and believe it or not our rescue laws are
not very enlightened. Cats, of course, get piled up
by the bucket full or just tossed out into
the landfill. Where do you
think they go? You think they’re taken to
special biohazard discards? No, into the landfill. Okay, I think we’re approaching
– it’s safe to look again here now, okay. They need us. Okay,
safe to look again. They need us. Still
for some reason, I don’t understand,
they still want us. They want us. So
can we reconnect? That’s my question – and maybe
my question should be because you’re psychologists
in the making. How can we
reconnect? We must. We must if only for our
own little selfish sakes. We must reconnect somehow.
Safe to look again. We’re made for each other.
We’re made for each other. It’s the title of a book that
basically gets into the biology of the
human-animal bond. The biology of the
human-animal bond, basically is oxytocin. It’s the hormone of
lactation – nursing, nurturance, nurturing
love, companionable love. You can stimulate oxytocin
production and transmission in the brain by
stroking someone. It stimulates oxytocin
production both in your own brain and in the
other person’s brain. It’s especially
true for mammals. It’s especially
true for fur. We like the part of the –
we like to feel that fur, okay? It’s really astonishing. You pet a dog or a
cat for 10, 15 minutes, your blood pressure will go
down, your heart rate will decrease, your – your oxygen
level will increase. Everything gets better. This is going to be one of the
healthiest people leaving this room today – [laughter] Petting – petting does it. You
don’t need a prescription, you know? You just say,
“Ah! I need to pet a dog for a few minutes.”
Maybe we should! I know that sometimes now for
exam weeks a lot of universities are testing – are having like
cats and dogs hanging around in the dorms and student lounge
so you can take a break from studying and just go pet
an animal and it helps! It helps! You know? [imitates student]
“Ah! Should I have 3 glasses of beer
or should I go pet a dog and then study? ” Ooh!
Ooh! I know, okay? [laughs] So, you
know, think about that. The human condition is the
need for contact – for touch. It’s not – it’s not accidental
that we talk about something as being touching or use the
word “touch” in so many ways. Oxytocin is the hormone
of nursing , you know? All mammals need to touch.
All mammals need to touch. Look at that! I just
love that, oh god! And care – they all need to care
and be cared for and don’t you – I mean, see what I mean? It’s the aww – is that –
is that not wonderful? It’s just great! You know, touch
communicates and it comforts. It works across species.
We have a harder time crossing species than
many other species do. We hug each other,
even men, you know? [laughter] I don’t know. I – I’ve done
surveys about this and asked women, “Tell me some things
you’ll see men do that really, really turn you on.” And one thing that comes
up again, and again, and again is, “I love it
when men hug each other.” [laughter] You know? The guys go,
[imitates man] “Really?” Yeah. We snuggle, you know? Snuggling feels
great, you know? We pet. We need to pet. I’ve already talked
about that. We kiss. Who’s a good boy?
Who’s a good boy? We nuzzle! That’s the nose,
pushing the nose. My – my new kitten, every –
every morning she comes to my feet wherever I am and she just
looks up and goes like that. Holds her nose there and she
will not move until I touch her nose with my nose. I – I didn’t
teach her this. We lick, okay? You may not admit licking your
pet but your pet will lick you. This is a 9/11 firefighter
and a search dog – major, you know, improvement. We trust. We trust. It’s not too late,
all right? Here is the famous
signing gorilla, Koko, with her pet kitten. We can still communicate.
They’re listening. They know how to listen. Washoe the chimpanzee
learned to use symbols to speak. One of the most famous sets
of studies of language in psychology. Alex the parrot, who died just
a few years ago, used speech. He didn’t learn
to use speech. He already spoke, so the
convenient thing about that for his, you know, colleagues,
his human colleagues, was that they were better able
to understand how he was solving problems because he would be
describing what he was doing when he would look for
colors or look for numbers and things like that. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen
the video on YouTube of Nora the piano playing cat but you
need to write this down if you haven’t: Nora the
piano playing cat. Nora’s owners are 2 music
professors who have 2 or 3 pianos in their home and Nora
gets up and plays the piano and I got to tell you, you know,
nothing I recognize but she does it pretty well –
better than I would. They can still
teach us about giving. This is the dog on the left
would not leave the dog on the right who had been injured in
traffic and kept running out to get people’s attention until
somebody finally came and rescued them both.
Yes, happy end. We have so much to
learn from animals. Why not reconnect
with them? We can love. We can learn. We can coexist. Look at that! That’s a polar bear and dog! This is the famous
playing polar bear. There was an early thaw in – in
Ontario and this – and this guy who had his Huskies tied up
outside – his sled dogs tied up outside, you know,
in all this snow, saw a polar bear lumbering
down toward his camp, and he went, “Oh my god!
He’s gonna kill my dogs!” and instead, the polar
bear went, you know, the dog’s all, you know,
dancing around – moving around. They’re all in chains, okay?
And the dogs went – you know? Play bow and the polar bear went
– and they played and played for like an hour and the polar bear
came back everyday for 2 weeks. Exhausted everyday and then went
back – back into hibernation. So, when are we
going to reconnect? When are we going to do
it? They’re waiting. And that’s the end and
these are my honored pets. That’s Minerva down there
in the – in the corner. It’s not a good photo but it’s
the one I use for my profile. So, thank you. I think I’m right at time but
if anyone wants to hang around, I’ll hang around. [applause] Yes?>>[Audience member]: the Aww!
Response, what chemical is that? Why does it make
you feel so good? The Aww! Response
– is it oxytocin?>>Weber: Oh! It’s
probably – it’s probably – I mean the chemicals underlying
it are probably dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin but
the reason it feels good is because if it
didn’t feel good, we would step on them and
they would die [indistinct] – In other words, not only have –
have humans and other animals evolved so that the infant
vertebrates are cute to adults who then do not
kill them, okay? So the infants have a
better chance of surviving, but that – that has
to be a 2-way street. So that we’ve evolved so that as
adults we find that combination of characteristics,
which is how they’re born, okay, that we find those
characteristics irresistible. One of the reasons we know that
it’s – it’s got to be this way for humans is – the human brain
is so – is already so large at birth, that if we really
waited until that baby could, like, crawl and ask for help and
do other kinds of – the mother would die in the
process of birth, right? So the baby’s born really
helpless, so evolution has selected for responses
that care for the helpless. So once upon a time we had
almost ancestors who were jerks. All right? Well, no one mated with them
and they didn’t have offspring. So, nobody inherited
the characteristics of, you know, I mean – not as
many people inherited the characteristics of being
cruel to what is cute. I mean, that is why child abuse
is the exception not the norm, okay? So in other words, it – it is
selection for adaptation to survival. Yeah it’s extremely
cool. All right, great! Well good luck!>>Pascoe: We’re out of time. You know, we have the classroom
for a little while longer, so if you don’t
have class right away, and you want to ask
Dr. Weber questions, you can. Deadlines on the board,
most specifically your paper due tomorrow. Thank you to all
of our pet guests!>>Weber: Yes!
Thank you so much! Didn’t it make
a difference? Didn’t it make a difference
having them in here? Just knowing they
were in here?>>Pascoe: If you didn’t
get a chance to pet one and you want to,
feel free. ♪ [closing music] ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪

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1 Response

  1. Tina Thompson says:

    Ann Weber, I was your RA at CUA! Yup, that's Don in the picture, too!

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