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Do We Expect Too Much From Our Pets?

Jul 13, 2008
Pets have therapeutic value. Although studies have shown that patting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and reduce stress, dogs and cats aren't allowed in most hospitals and nursing homes. Baby seals, however, are - if they're robotic baby seals. A Japanese company has created Paro, a robotic seal to be used to comfort people with autism, dementia and other socially isolating problems. The six-pound robot is equipped with sensors that enable it to respond to light, sound and touch. Why doesn't the robot look like a dog or cat? Because people have experience with those four-legged pets and have expectations a robot can't meet. That's why Paro got the seal of approval.

If dogs could give a seal of approval, they'd give it to Leona Helmsley for wanting her $8 billion fortune to be used for the care and welfare of canines. Because the real estate magnate's wishes were presented in a mission statement for her estate, the estate's trustees can use their discretion in distributing the money. In fact, the $12 million trust fund Ms. Helmsley left for her pet dog Trouble was reduced to $2 million by the discretion of a judge. What Trouble needs now is a legal beagle that would make a dogged attempt to retrieve the other $10 million.

Then there's the story of Nuru, a stray, white terrier in Baghdad that became the pet of one of the American news bureaus. When the decision was made to have Nuru neutered, many of the Iraqi employees were horrified. In Iraq big families are considered a great achievement - this includes big canine families. For Iraqis an important part of having a dog is giving its puppies to family and friends. Instead of neutering Nuru, the veterinarian wanted to find the dog a mate. Even with American intervention, it seems that country is going to the dogs.

My son didn't want a dog for a pet. He wanted two, male rats for a science fair project. His hypothesis was that the rat fed Coke and M&M's would have higher cholesterol at the end of two months than the kibble-fed rat. The junk food rat did, as expected, have higher cholesterol - and considering how much Coke and M&M's were used during the experiment, I'm sure my son did too. What surprised everyone, however, was that a high cholesterol diet caused a male rat to have babies.
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KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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