Select one of the keywords
The Healing Power of Pets    Dr. Marty Becker & Danelle Morton order for
Healing Power of Pets
by Marty Becker
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

The Healing Power of Pets is a very readable explanation of the many positive aspects of living with pets. As any animal-lover knows, our furred, feathered, and yes, even scaly companions do more than provide companionship. They are unswerving sources of affection, loyalty, devotion, and amusement. However, they are also living creatures. Dr. Becker addresses both sides in this entertaining and moving book,

Part 1, by far the lengthiest section, details the many contributions that animal companions make. We are familiar with the impressive performance of guide dogs for the blind, and we all know of heroic pets who have saved their humans from disasters. Many of us are less aware of the wide range of aid offered by exceptional animals. Dr. Becker gives fascinating examples of dogs that sniff out cancer early enough to give the victims better odds of beating this killer disease, or give warnings of life-threatening or debilitating attacks, such as heart attacks, epileptic seizures, or agoraphobia.

Service dogs provide 'ears' for the deaf, loving assistance to sufferers of multiple sclerosis, or a lifeline for the lonely. Therapy animals have helped to reach out to traumatized survivors of abuse, rape, or violence, like the shell-shocked teenagers of the Columbine tragedy. They provide a focus for the tragic victims of Alzheimer's or the elderly who have outlived family and friends. They open windows for autistic children. They enable the physically handicapped to improve motor skills. These therapy and service animals are literally four-legged 'angels' who make the difference between living and mere existence.

There is evidence to suggest that growing up with pets confers many advantages on children. They are less likely to suffer from asthma or allergies; they socialize better; and they score higher in responsibility, compassion, and maturity. Just as a pet gives a senior who lives alone a companion to care for, children in one-parent families or whose parents both work find a 'sibling' to care for, one who depends on them and provides unconditional love. The many examples provided in the book are inspiring and emotional reading. In a world that seems awash with violence, cynicism, and negativity, The Healing Power of Pets is a celebration of the bond between very unlike species. In fact, this 'Bond' is so strong and so important in Dr. Becker's opinion, that he consistently capitalizes it.

Parts 2 and 3 address the needs of the pets. Dr. Becker writes of the importance of matching pet to person. He is concerned, and rightfully so, that matches are appropriate, to avoid injury to the owner (say, a frail person who takes on a large and hyper-energetic dog), as well as to avoid the tragedy of unwanted animals ending up in shelters. He provides check-lists as suggestions of how to choose a compatible pet. In part 3, he offers suggestions of how to better communicate with or 'read' pets, in order to improve their quality of life.

All in all, The Healing Power of Pets is an informative and enjoyable read. Dr. Becker writes with great humanity and feeling. (He co-authored Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Cat and Dog Lover's Soul, which I found demanded even more hankies!) He also provides a list of resources and a bibliography for those in search of more information.

For those of us who are already animal-lovers, this book is preaching to the converted. Hopefully the author's sincerity and eloquence will also convince the skeptical. Dr. Becker makes a good case for the integrity of all life. He delights in the variety and uniqueness of the many species of animal life on this planet; but as he points out in the last chapter, only a very, very few have developed this strong, even unbreakable Bond. Surely they deserve a matching consideration from us.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews