PETS

Have we become too devoted to our pets? A slew of new books on pet psychology indicates that, we may be turning mans best friend into mans favorite therapy patient. Manuals like Birds on the Couch (Crown) and Memoirs of a Pet Therapist (Fawcett) suggest that with love and patience, owners can lift Sparky's depression or boost Tiger's self-esteem.

One reason that these how-to guides have become so popular is that there is less of a stigma attached to therapy; it's become a lens through which we view our world. We have always attributed human emotions and personality quirks to our pets. In a world where time is short and social interaction is on the decline, we want wore than ever to connect with our dogs and cats, because they are increasingly important to us as a source of support and friendship. Herbert Nieberg, Ph.D., director of behavioral medicine at New York's Fourwinds Hospital, says that the science of animal behavior is finally allowing us to do just that. "Pets have their neuroses," he says. "We're just finding better ways of controlling their behavior." Witness, for example, the recent FDA approval of two drugs to treat mental disorders in dogs. The better we can understand our pets, the more likely our relationships with these faithful creatures will weather human breakups and disappointments.