"Calling All Pets" syndicated show started in Madison

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Posted by madcityradio.com on January 01, 2010 at 12:14:31:

Her dogged curiosity has led to a ruff life for pet seer
Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:04 p.m.

One of the first memories Patricia McConnell can still recall vividly is of her as a young girl. She was lying on the living room floor of her childhood home with Fudge, the family’s terrier.

“I wondered, ‘What is she thinking?’” McConnell says. “‘‘How could I ever know what she’s thinking?’ In many ways, that’s still what I’m doing.”

The one advantage McConnell has over the little girl she used to be is a wealth of experience digging into the answers to those questions. Now she’s one of the world’s foremost experts in pet behavior, particularly dogs. The subject is the crux of her research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and of the conversations she’s had for the past 14 years on her weekly syndicated radio program “Calling All Pets,” which airs locally from 7 to 8 a.m. each Saturday on WGCU, 90.1 FM.

On Wednesday and Thursday, McConnell will visit Naples for two events geared toward raising funds and awareness for the Brody Project, a local charity that helps provide animal assisted therapy for seniors.

Pets, or companion animals as McConnell most often calls them, have tremendous medicinal properties, she says. They help raise levels of certain brain chemicals, can increase the level of physical activity a person gets and, according to the CDC, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“These are just biological facts,” she says. “The amount of biological benefits are overwhelming.”

McConnell says animals also play an important role in our social development, one that used to be played by, well, playing.

“Children don’t play as much outside, for whatever reason, as they used to,” she says. “Companion animals can help connect us with the natural world in ways we might have gotten other ways in the past.”

Pets have been around pretty much since the dawn of civilization — at least since man began to settle into communities, McConnell says. But there may be no other time where they have played such a major role in our lives.

That is in part the reason for her show’s success. When she went on a local public radio show in Madison to answer pet questions, her hour-long segment got more calls that the station ever remembered getting before. So her one-time segment became a regular guest spot, which in turn became her own show. Now it’s syndicated across the country.

For the most part people have two questions.

“‘Why does my dog do this?’ and ‘How can I stop my dog from doing that?’” she says. “But it’s really about trying to understand something beyond ourselves.”

As the bond our society has with pets strengthens, so do our emotional attachments.

“People feel a loss of their pet almost as strongly as they would the loss of a friend or family member,” McConnell says.

So as veterinary medical technology increases dramatically, so do the lengths we can go to keep our pets alive. McConnell says spending large amounts of money to keep your pets alive may seem outlandish, but if the finances are there, the benefits to your health are probably worth it.

“They boost your immune system,” she says. “They make you happy. Why not pay for it? Pet research is clear. You get a lot of bang for your buck. ”

If You Go

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, dinner at 7 p.m.
Where: Bamboo Cafe, 755 12th Ave. S.
Admission: starting at $150
Information: 325-9328, 659-1055 or www.thebrodyproject.org

“The Power of Pets”
What: lecture by Patricia McConnell
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Moorings Park, 120 Moorings Park Drive
Admission: $50
Information: 325-9328, 659-1055 or www.thebrodyproject.org

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