Reviewed by Aviva
Of all of the animals that have come along with humans on the wild ride of domestication, none have travelled as closely with us as the dog. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of a number of books about the emotional lives of animals, turns his focus in The Dog Who Couldn’t Stop Loving to the special relationship that has evolved between our two species over the millennia. Specifically he looks at the capacity for love, both intra- and interspecies that both dogs and humans seem to share. As someone very interested in the complicated relationship between humans and animals, I was very interested in what new insights Masson would bring to the discussion regarding the domestication of our canine companions. The animal lover in me was charmed by his theories and the anecdotes he uses to illustrate them. But the scientist in me was disappointed that, while calling upon a number of scientific works, Masson puts forth a thesis that is not only not backed by any hard evidence, but is so subjective that it can likely never be put to such a test.
The main thesis of the book, that dogs – domesticated long before any other species – have been partly responsible for the human ability to love is a compelling one to any human who has ever owned and loved a dog. The scientific evidence does seem to point to the fact that our co-evolution with this species has led to a bond that goes beyond what we have with the other animals that we share our lives with. For example, it’s been proven that dogs “read” human faces in the same way that other humans do – scanning from upper left to lower right – to gauge emotions, something that no other species does. However, given the scientific evidence, Masson goes one step too far in claiming to know the emotional lives of these animals and several steps too far with his thesis that the human capacity to love is a behavior learned from our mutual association.
If you’re looking for a readable, charming, and anecdotal account of the amazing connection shared by dogs and humans, The Dog Who Couldn’t Stop Loving is a book you’ll enjoy. If you’re looking for a scientifically sound exploration of the implication of this connection, you’re likely to find more satisfaction in some of the sources Masson refers to than in his own work itself.
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