My wife is an independent educational therapist who works out of our home, working 1-on-1 with children who have learning challenges. She works miracles with these kids, and she swears that part of the magic is our unofficial therapy dog—Ernie, our 3-year-old Lab/Pit mix who’s about 75 pounds of face-licking love.
There are few things in life more heartwarming than a dog . . . unless it’s a puppy.
When host James Corden handed out puppies as “consolation prizes” at last month’s Grammy Awards show, the look on the recipients’ faces—especially Jerry Seinfeld’s—said it all. (Some animal rights’ groups were outraged . . . unnecessarily so. The pups were merely borrowed for a brief time for the gimmick, and immediately returned after the show to their rightful owners, none the worse for wear. And Corden isn’t the only TV host to bring puppies into his show; Jimmy Fallon trots them out every year to pick the winner of the Super Bowl.)
But here’s the thing: Puppies are irresistible, and science proves it.
“I challenge anyone to be unhappy while holding a months-old, fat-pawed, sleepy-faced puppy,” writes Abigail Marsh in The Washington Post.
Marsh speaks from experience, and not just the warm fuzzy kind from actually holding something so totes adorbs. The Georgetown University psychologist, one of the nation’s top experts on the science of compassion and altruism, says our brains are wired for puppy love.
As Marsh, whose research is partly funded by the Templeton Foundation, says one explanation is called alloparenting.
“Alloparenting means ‘other parenting,'” Marsh explains in her WaPo essay. “[H]umans, like all mammals, are neurologically equipped to find our own babies adorable and to want to love and care for them. But we don’t stop there. We adore and care for babies in general.
“Scientists believe that human babies are so vulnerable and needy that our species would never had survived unless every adult member of a human troop was willing help take care of them. So we alloparent. Across every human culture in the world—and unlike most other animals—we care for babies other than our own. We cradle, cuddle, carry, feed, entertain, clean and protect our nieces, nephews, grandchildren, neighbors, even the occasional stranger’s baby.”
(No word on whether humans applied alloparenting to the ancient dinosaur Allosaurus, whose bite was a little more dangerous than that of little Labradors.)
So, next time you go all ga-ga and cooing ridiculous sounds over a cuddly little canine, you’ll know why. You just can’t help it. It’s neurologically impossible to resist.
And of course, there’s only one way to conclude this post: