Matters of the Heart … and Head

Beautiful Joe: A Theatrical Portrait of a Scientific Truth


You’ll often hear dog owners say that their pet is a source of comfort and compassion. Many claim that their dogs understand them on an emotional level and can empathize with them in times of need. 

A new study has proven that dogs have a connection with humans unlike any other pet.  Dogs, like humans, are able to detect emotion in one’s voice; thus, they understand when we are happy or sad.  After conducting an MRI experiment comparing the activity of a dog’s brain vs a human brain, scientists found that both responded to sound clips of human anguish and joy. Moreover, it was the same part of the brain that was stimulated.  Consequently, research argues that dogs have an authentic sensitivity to strong human emotions and can feel as well as express empathy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhy do dogs have this ability over other animals?  One theory is that dogs and humans have been allies for over 30,000 years.  Humans first welcomed dogs into their communities for protection against other wild animals and our canines have guarded us ever since.  As such, we have grown and evolved together in a way that no two other species have. 

Dogs are not only have a highly evolved emotional intelligence sensing human need, they are now being used to sniff out cancer.  Scientists have found that a dog’s sense of smell is so sophisticate that they can detect the health of an human being by sniffing the subject’s breath. Researchers explain that the surface of a cancer cell emits certain biomarkers as it grows, and these can be detected by dogs in the breath and urine of cancer patients.  

Despite the incredible devotion of a dog to his fellow man, animal abuse is still a problem in all parts of the world including Canada.  Not too long ago, Robert Fawcett of British Columbia, pleaded guilty to killing at least 56 sled dogs and was given no jail sentence. Approximately 6-8 million dogs are brought to the Humane Society each year; of which, 3-4 million are euthanized.  

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Ghandi

Beautiful Joe is a thoughtful and sincere portrait of a dog’s heart and head exploring the dark and light of this incredible animal’s relationship with his best friend. 

Beautiful Joe is an adaptation for the stage by Michael O’Brien. Presented by the Grey-Bruce Arts Collective in association with the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society.  Performances are at Meaford Hall, May 14 to 17.  Tickets are $25 for Adults, $10 students.  Tickets are available through the Meaford Hall box office at 1-877-538-0463 or

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