For the first time, a
historian of science draws evidence from across the world to show how humans
and other animals are astonishingly similar when it comes to their feelings and
the ways in which they lose their minds.
Charles Darwin developed
his evolutionary theories by looking at physical differences in Galapagos
finches and fancy pigeons. Alfred Russell Wallace investigated a range of
creatures in the Malay Archipelago. Laurel Braitman got her lessons closer to
home—by watching her dog. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, ate
Ziploc bags, towels, and cartons of eggs. He suffered debilitating separation
anxiety, was prone to aggression, and may even have attempted suicide. Her
experience with Oliver forced Laurel to acknowledge a form of continuity
between humans and other animals that, first as a biology major and later as a
PhD student at MIT, she’d never been taught in school. Nonhuman animals can
lose their minds. And when they do, it often looks a lot like human mental illness.
Thankfully, all of us can
heal. As Laurel spent three years traveling the world in search of emotionally
disturbed animals and the people who care for them, she discovered numerous
stories of recovery: parrots that learn how to stop plucking their feathers,
dogs that cease licking their tails raw, polar bears that stop swimming in
compulsive circles, and great apes that benefit from the help of human
psychiatrists. How do these animals recover? The same way we do: with love,
with medicine, and above all, with the knowledge that someone understands why
we suffer and what can make us feel better.
After all of the digging
in the archives of museums and zoos, the years synthesizing scientific
literature, and the hours observing dog parks, wildlife encounters, and
amusement parks, Laurel found that understanding the emotional distress of
animals can help us better understand ourselves. Download and start listening now!