"People detached from reality"

The Indianapolis News, December 16, 1998


The growing tendency to define a range of human behaviors as diseases or pathologies is by now well known. Individuals who were once considered egotistical or conceited now have a "narcissistic personality disorder. "

People with bad tempers have "intermittent explosive disorder. " Children who are easily distracted, overly rowdy or who have a hard time focusing on their schoolwork have "attention deficit disorder" and often receive prescriptions of Ritalin or Prozac.

The list goes on and on.

As one author put it, "In our culture, it is assumed that a little bit of therapy is good for everyone. "

Including our pets.

Pet therapy is a growth industry in the United States. The emphasis on emotions and self-esteem, the reliance on pacifying medications to "balance" certain chemical and psychological "disorders," the crank spiritualism and the alternative healing - it's all there. Only not for you, but for your pets.

As psychologist Tana Dineen, a sharp critic of pet therapy, explains, "Many of these so-called therapists operate in ways similar to those who provide alternative medicine for a variety of human conditions. " Warren Eckstein, in Santa Monica, Calif., is one of the most renowned animal therapists. He claims to enjoy telepathic contact with animals by reading their "parapsychology and body language. "

Carol Gurney, who describes herself as an "Interspecies Communicator and Bodywork Therapist for Animals," uses interspecies telepathy to resolve emotional problems in animals and to rescue animals that have been abused and neglected.

As Dineen describes it, pet therapy is not restricted to these alternative methods. Pets also benefit from the more mainstream self-help movement and the most popular genre in American culture, the self-help book.

Veterinarian Nicholas Dodman, the author of two self-help pet books, The Cat Who Cried for Help and The Dog Who Loved Too Much, says that animals can suffer from psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorders or schizophrenic behaviors. Dodman routinely prescribes kitty doses of Prozac as treatment.

People love pets, so much so that cats and dogs come to feel like members of the family.

But the growth of pet therapy is evidence that society has allowed sentiment to pervert reason, emotions to trump perspective.

Putting children on Prozac is bad enough - and often destructive to the development of character. But putting pets on Prozac is downright wacky.

It suggests a total loss of perspective on the uses and scope of medical science and therapy, an irrational understanding of the relationship between humans and animals, and a narcissistic effort to impose humanity's own disorders on beings that do not know any better, its pets.

It explains how animal rights activist Ingrid Newkirk, founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), can compare the killing of chickens to the human slaughter during the Holocaust: "Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but 6 billion chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses. " Another animal-rights organization, Envirolink, has gone so far as to draft its own Bill of Rights for Animals. The first article: "All animals are born with an equal claim on life and the same rights to existence. "

These are extreme examples, perhaps, but they exist in a culture increasingly dominated by sentiment rather than reason.

Of course, people's feelings are important. But the result of a world governed by raw emotion is that we lose the ability to make distinctions. they lose perspective.

Some people are so swept away by abstract forms of humanitarianism that we lose sight of difficult trade-offs and the unintended consequences of actions and policies. We begin to compare killing chickens for dinner to human genocide.

Mankind isn't there yet; but pet therapy is another example that our society, or segments within it, are increasingly detached from reality. We are left to wonder: What next?

THE INDIANAPOLIS NEWS December 16, 1998 Pg. A18

Copyrigh t© 1998-2007 Tana Dineen,