MADE FOR EACH OTHER: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond

The real reason you love your dog so much.

When Mickey Rourke accepted a Golden Globe for his performance in The Wrestler, he thanked not only the usual suspects, but also his dogs. There’s no arguing that dogs, and pets in general, are often truly our best friends. The question that Made for Each Other asks is: What is the scientific and historical basis of this interspecies bond? The cornerstone of the book’s answer is a hormone called oxytocin, which acts to promote socialization and connection between animals. Meg Daley Olmert expertly sums up a slew of scientific studies (some of which uncomfortably involve animal experimentation) that show oxytocin to have a hand in everything from the monogamous mating habits of prairie voles to the early relationship between a human mom and her newborn. But though oxytocin is definitely the scientific heart of the book, as a subject, it’s much less compelling than the examples peppered throughout that demonstrate the depth and power of the human-animal bond. In one study, caring for zoo animals was found to increase the attention spans of those with ADHD. In another, pet ownership was correlated with the survival of those with heart disease. For anyone who’s already an animal lover, these statistics won’t come as a surprise, but what they might do is inspire non–pet owners to take a trip to the Humane Society.