Love, Animals & Miracles
by Bernie S. Siegel, MD with Cynthia J. Hurn
c.2015, New World Library; $21.95; 289 pages
Last night, as you walked in your house, you slammed the door.
The humans in your home, sensing a bad mood, ran. But your dog met you coming in, tail wagging, and it was hard to stay mad.
Your pet isn’t just a pet. He’s a member of the family. And as you’ll see in the new book Love, Animals & Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel, MD (with Cynthia J. Hurn), he might also double as caregiver.
So you’ve got a pet; maybe two or three. And you do everything possible to make sure they’re healthy. Perhaps not surprisingly, your furry family members might be doing the same for you.
“Having a loving relationship with an animal,” Siegel says, “is one of the most powerful factors in healing and maintaining well-being.”
When his children were young, Siegel encouraged them to raise, rescue, and study all kinds of animals, not just domestic ones. While that led to a lot of humorous family stories, it also led to lifetimes of compassion because “allowing your children to grow up with animals is a gift that never stops teaching.”
Our pets, of course, keep us company and love us, which is undoubtedly one of their better traits. Just knowing that they’re there deflects loneliness which, Siegel says, “affects the genes that control immune function, making you vulnerable to illness and other problems.” Petting an animal also releases oxytocin, a bonding hormone; petting is also calming and may lessen the effects of depression.
In the stories found in this book, the love and care that animals offer comes through loud and clear: a cockatoo comforts his owner with a “kiss, kiss, kiss.” A homeopathic doctor gives “treatment” to a herd of cattle, thereby healing the farmer. Two beloved dogs offer comfort to cancer patients. A woman’s future is changed by a horse who needed her. An unwanted Newfoundland becomes a lifeguard, and sometimes takes matters into his own, um, paws. And you’ll read stories of animals helping creatures of other species, which is common because, after all, “the love between humans and their animals constitutes an interspecies relationship too.”
If share your life with an animal, you already know who takes care of who in your relationship. In Love, Animals & Miracles, you’ll read dozens of tales from kindred spirits who underscore that knowledge. One of them is Siegel who, with Cynthia J. Hurn, also offers insights from a retired surgeon’s point of view.
While most of this book consists of tales of dogs, readers will also find other tails: cat lovers weigh in, as do bird keepers and horsey types, and stories of wild animals are also recounted. Readers probably won’t mind the anthropomorphizing that a few chapters contain, but there’s a pretty fair amount of new-ageyness here, so beware.
Even so, what pet lover can resist a good animal story?
Terri Schlichenmeyer is a professional book reviewer who has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book.