Book Review: Paws & Effect by Sharon Sakson

Copyright © by Jessica Schneider, 2/27/08


  I admit that I am a dog liker but a cat lover. Still, despite my like for dogs I was interested in reading Paws & Effect because as an animal lover, I have always been curious in knowing more regarding their “healing power”. It has been observed that dogs have an uncanny ability to not only sense physical danger (as in natural disasters) before it happens, but also an ability to detect cancers and illness in people.

  Paws & Effect provides readers numerous anecdotes where not only dogs detect illness but also the book details the ways in which the physical comfort of an animal can have a healing power on the person. In the beginning of the book, the author discusses how after the death of her mother she had suffered a depression so severe that she contemplated suicide. But ultimately it was the presence of her dog that forced her to push past it and live on, since the human-canine bond had made her realize that her dog needed her and so therefore she must stay alive because of that.

  Several of the other examples include one dog that began to scratch and bite at its owner’s mole (which turned out to be cancerous) as well as another dog that went up to a man with heart trouble and rested on his chest. There are even dogs that are trained to respond to those humans suffering from seizures, and one of the other points the book mentions is the importance of that human-dog bond and how more often than not, it is the dog which chooses the person and not the other way around. One man who was ill and dying of AIDS was at least comforted by his dog snuggling up against him while the man shivered with fever. Then, upon falling so ill, the man had to be rushed to the hospital. The doctors began to administer drug therapy and the book notes that for several days he showed no response. Then once he came to learn that his dog would be taken care of he instantly began to show improvement. This isn’t necessarily something that has to do with dogs per se, but rather, once he knew the creature he cared about was being cared for, he was comforted by that fact, and his body and mind were able to focus on recovery.

  The book covers both the psychological connection humans have for their dogs as well as the dogs’ natural ability to sense malaise, illness, and even approaching death in people. One anecdote the author mentions is how when one girl had to go to physical therapy--at first she was not eager to do her exercises because she was feeling so depressed. Yet once she had the presence of this one little dog, her depression lifted and she was more willing to go through the steps (literally) in learning how to walk again.

  Just to give a bit of my own background, there is no denial of dogs’ abilities when it comes to aiding humans. From their keen instincts to aiding the blind, dogs have certainly proven themselves to be worthy of the title of “man’s best friend”. Yet for me, cats have always been more mysterious and natural hunters and so for that, as well as their independence, they have always fascinated me more on a personal level. I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced any deep bond with a dog but I have experienced many with cats and I am no less an animal lover. I can certainly empathize with those who love their dogs.

  Paws & Effect is a read that would interest any dog lover, (an most likely any animal lover) yet despite the many anecdotes, the book didn’t offer much information that I didn’t already know. For those who already know of dogs’ “healing powers” this book will just reemphasize that point with examples—many of which the author set out to investigate herself. The book description notes that she sought out “academic institutions, veterinarians’ offices, dog breeders, charitable organizations, and even the military.”

  There is also an introduction by David Frei. Paws & Effect will provide readers with a good summation of the human-dog experience and give readers something to enjoy as they curl up with the book and most likely a dog (or in my case a cat) not too far away.


[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on The Moderate Voice website.]


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