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Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, Gorillas on Drugs, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves | [Laurel Braitman]

Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, Gorillas on Drugs, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves

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?
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2014 Laurel Braitman (P)2014 Simon & Schuster Audio

What Members Say

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3.4 (18 )
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  •  
    Kathi Sterling, VA, United States 06-11-14
    Kathi Sterling, VA, United States 06-11-14 Member Since 2010

    Love fiction--classic to light, serious to comedic. Selective non-fiction. These days lots of mysteries (not too violent, please :-)

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    "Fascinating book!"

    This book will touch you deeply and leave you believing there is hope in the world. Laurel Braitman begins with the story of her own adopted dog Oliver, who was clearly emotionally disturbed (at some point diagnosed with separation anxiety, phobia of thunderstorms and a form of animal OCD). Her interest in the plight of Oliver eventually led her to start combing the records for stories of other animals who had strange behaviors, not always understood by their owners, to see if there were indications that other animals have emotional illnesses, much as humans do.

    The stories she tells, of dogs, cats, elephants, gorillas, etc...who exhibited unusual, sometimes frightening behaviors, have often resulted in tragic outcomes. But she is able to trace many of the conditions described to similar backgrounds for the animals--such as too early separation from a mother, abusive care from humans, being uprooted from familiar surroundings. She talks with animal behavior specialists and human psychiatrists about treatment for such animals.

    There is extrapolation from the suffering of animals to the suffering of humans--in both cases leading to mental illnesses (and in more recent times the knowledge and ability to treat them). But she is very careful not to anthropomorphize (project our human beliefs and conditions onto the other animals). This book is fascinating to listen to. If you love animals it should be a "must read" (listen) on your list. It reminded me, in some ways, of the very moving book by Virginia Morell, "Animal Wise," in which she shows repeatedly how our fellow animals have a wisdom in life that we often miss.

    The narration is very good, but in books of this sort, I often find myself wondering why they are not read by the author. Nevertheless, this book is wonderful. I stayed up late into the night listening to it. Highly recommend!

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Irene Keller, TX, United States 06-29-14
    Irene Keller, TX, United States 06-29-14 Member Since 2005
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    "If you love animals.... you will love this book"
    If you could sum up Animal Madness in three words, what would they be?

    We're not alone.


    What other book might you compare Animal Madness to and why?

    I am not sure there is a book that compares the kind of writing this book has. It moves from animal treatment - pet, zoo and wild - to the pharma industry pretty seamlessly.


    What about Madeleine Maby’s performance did you like?

    She read the book like it was her own. In fact, I thought she WAS Ms. Braitman.
    However, one thing that bothered me was she mispronounced the word "supposedly" several times. Suppos-ob-ly. Yikes. When you listen to books, word pronunciation is so important. I have not liked a couple of books solely based on the readers, and that is unfortunate.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Come into the world of synapses, mania, depression, prozac, fido and zoos.


    Any additional comments?

    I did not want this book to end! It was so full of great stories and information. I picked it up because of a pet who has had some "issues." I found out that we are not alone. Then I found out that there is a world out there that is so much bigger when it comes to these kinds of things. It made me think about brains, mental illness and all animals in an entirely different way. I have never been a fan of caged animals but this gives a whole new meaning to the word.

    Really - cannot say enough good about this topic, writing and book.

    I would have liked end notes, footnotes, etc. I contacted both Audible and the author. When there are so many things referenced in a non-fiction book, a file of some sort should be included. A paper book is easily flipped through but not so with audibles.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    nancy boynton beach, FL, United States 07-31-14
    nancy boynton beach, FL, United States 07-31-14 Member Since 2005
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    "a magazine article at best"

    This is a meditation that goes nowhere. The narrator has a very pleasing voice and delivers the prose in a robotic formula. Altogether I just could not finish the book. I am interested in the subject but the subject never really seemed to arrive. Altogether too personal both in the prose and narration and never really finds the rest of us.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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    Heidi MORRISTOWN, TN, United States 07-04-14
    Heidi MORRISTOWN, TN, United States 07-04-14 Member Since 2011

    My rebellious spirit never allowed me to enjoy classics when I was in school, so I have some catching up to do... 😉

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    "We have so much to learn."
    What made the experience of listening to Animal Madness the most enjoyable?

    Probably the author's innate curiosity and desire to know what made her dog act as he did. It was very relatable.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Hmmmm... Probably the stories about primates and a close second about the elephants. There are so many people in rural parts of this world who sacrifice so much just so, for example, an elephant doesn't have to cry himself to sleep.


    What about Madeleine Maby’s performance did you like?

    She disappeared into the story. She didn't get theatrical and let the stories stand on their own merit.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I hate crying while listening because I don't want to look like a nut, but the parts about the abuse of circus, and other, elephants hurt me to my core. That, and the testing animals had to go through so we could learn fundamental truths in psychology.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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