Saturday, June 7, 2014

Suffering - in animals

Though suffering, in many permutations, and its "causes", are a focus of Zen practice, of Buddha Dharma, usually our focus is on human suffering. Nevertheless, if we reflect on it we can see that animals suffer. An interesting excerpt from an upcoming book explores some aspects of this, including the various uses of psychotropic medications. Here are the article's conclusions:

"In acknowledging parallels between the mental health of other animals and ourselves, we always run the risk of anthropomorphizing—projecting human emotions and desires onto nonhuman creatures. But it's impossible to imagine the experience or motivation of animals without using our own perspective. The trick is to anthropomorphize well—to interpret their behavior and emotional lives on their own terms, as accurately as possible.
When it comes to the animals dearest to us, this may mean, for instance, working harder to gauge our cats' opinions of particular houseguests, taking our dogs on more challenging walks, giving the hamster more places to hide or removing a bullying turtle from the tank.
Helping animals to overcome their emotional distress can be exhausting, expensive and, as my experience with Oliver taught me, both heartbreaking and uplifting. I can't imagine it any other way.

—Adapted from Dr. Braitman's new book, "Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves," published on June 10 by Simon & Schuster."