Dogs, Bees and Us: Are we more affectionate with animals than humans?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Dogs, Bees and Us

Rob Pasick book Conversations with My Old DogDo you know about Jane Goodall’s “Roots & Shoots” program? Founded in 1991 by the famed primatologist, it is a “program about making positive change happen—for our people, for animals and the environment.” Marc Bekoff, author of Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed, teaches for the program, and for years, has done so for inmates at the Boulder County Jail in Colorado. (All this week, we’re looking at Marc’s new book; you might also enjoy an interview with Bekoff.)

What does Marc Bekoff’s experience with inmates tell us?

“Many inmates find it easier to connect with animals than with people,” writes Bekoff. “Animals don’t judge them.” The inmates “trust and empathize with animals in ways they don’t with humans.” To model healthy relationships, Bekoff tells the inmates about the social behavior of animals who live in groups, such as wolves, and how they cooperate with and depend on one another.

But, I think, the observation that it’s easier to connect with animals extends beyond the prison population.

“People are able to express more emotions and physicality with their pets than with one another,” says Rob Pasick. A practicing psychologist and consultant, Pasick also is author of Conversations with My Old Dog.

We play with, touch, and talk to our pets in ways that are outside social norms for most human-to-human interactions. “Pets give us permission to do things that would be made fun of” otherwise, says Pasick. Pets can be “substitutes for interactions we wish we had with people,” but that society does not value, sanction, or permit.

Do you know people who connect more easily with animals than humans?

What does this tell us about society and what we value?

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