Dogs, Dr. Seuss, and the Moral MoleculeLeave a comment
May 1, 2014 by libroshombre
Most of my life’s been spent in the pleasurable company of dogs, and, like Mark Twain, I believe “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.” This is despite prolonged early encounters with P.D.Eastman’s “Go, Dog, Go!,” one the famous Beginner Books series co-founded by Dr. Seuss at Random House.
Beginner Books’ first title was Seuss’ immortal “The Cat in the Hat” of 1957, which he wrote and illustrated to prove that making entertaining reading primers was possible. Working with a 200-word vocabulary, Seuss said he grew so frustrated that he decided to build the story on the first two words that rhymed: “cat” and “hat.” An immediate hit, it sold a million copies in three years. “It is the book I am proudest of,” Seuss said in 1983, “because it had something to do with the death of the Dick and Jane grammars.”
In 1958 there were only four Beginner Book titles, but they earned a million dollars annually andRandom House became the leading American children’s book publisher. Seuss, whose real name was Ted Geisel, wrote and illustrated some of these books, like “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Hop on Pop,” and also collaborated with other illustrators using pennames such as Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone. Eastman wrote and illustrated “Go, Dog, Go!” in 1961 when I was nine and beyond primers. However, my brother was published in 1961, and I wound up reading Eastman’s classic dog book a jillion times. Like all the other Beginner Books authors, Eastman utilized simple words and drawings to introduce to children difficult concepts, like colors and relative positions in “Go, Dogs.” Repetition helps promote understanding, and kids possess an amazing tolerance for re-reading their favorite books. It can drive adult readers nuts.
Eastman took pity on his books’ grown-up readers by inserting amusing visual diversions here and there. In fact, even after bouts of “Go, Dog” with each of my four kiddos, I still enjoy a rousing, read-aloud rendition of “Go, Dogs, Go!”
Yes, I love dogs, and they love me according to an article by Paul Zak in TheAtlantic.com. Zak’s a researcher at Claremont University and author of “The Moral Molecule” which describes his team’s study of oxytocin. His team has “done dozens of studies showing that the brainproduces the chemical oxytocin when someone treats us with kindness … it motivates us to treat others with care and compassion. Their studies show that “when humans engage in social activities with each other, oxytocin level typically increase between 10 percent and 50 percent.” A stranger shaking your hand might induce a 10 percent rise, but if they’re attractive it might hit 50. A hug from your daughter can bring on a 100 percent spike, and really huge jumps occur during love-making.
Zak’s team studied oxytocin in humans interacting with animals and found “dogs reduced stress hormones better than cats (no surprise there!).” Apparently, the more dogs in your past life is a predictor of increased levels of oxytocin, and more cats predicts reduced oxytocin. Moreover, last year a Massachusetts man filed an Americans with Disabilities Act suit against his public library for having a cat live there and inflicting its dander on allergy suffering patrons.
The American Lung Foundation reports that twice as many people are allergic to cats, especially females, than to dogs. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation notes that cat dander is particularly sticky and can trigger severe attacks in 20 to 30 percent of asthma sufferers. The recommended treatment for dander is to remove the animal’s favorite furniture, and all carpeting, and scrub all walls and woodwork. Or you could simply forbid cats.
After an uproar by cat-lovers, and after agreeing to not allow any more cats, the ADA lawsuit against the Massachusetts library was dropped. But even that compromise is a mistake in my estimation. Your right to utilize your public library is constitutionally protected by federal court ruling from the late 1990s, and cats shouldn’t impede that.
Library dogs are another matter. Therapeutic reading with dogs has been shown to help many children. After all, like Andy Rooney noted, “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”