Integrative Health Blog

Mindfulness and Pets- It's More Important Than You Think

Posted by Dr. Charles Gant on Wed, Jan 20, 2021


I would like to start off this article with a reference from Psychology Today by cardiologist and “Food Shaman” Michael S. Fenster MD,[1] who writes about his dog Freya. The title of his article is The Mindfulness of a Dog: An Attitude of Gratitude, and it is so well-written that it is hard to improve on. Enjoy this reference and how it brings out what you already know about our furry friends.

As if it is not enough to bask in the light and love of Freya, allow me to clarify dog consciousness a little more without wrecking the spirit Dr. Fenster’s lovely article. To get you oriented to the map of your brain – which defines what it is to be human – check out my recent book,[2] Awaken Your Godly Brain. In this book, I clarify the purpose of our four brains, and if I may be so forward to suggest, if you don’t know what your four brains are, you will never know who or what you are. Without the help of our furry pets, many of us might not discover what we are either. The four brains are:

1) The Reptilian Brain

The reptilian and oldest, which drives at least 27 behavioral compulsions, basically everything we do to survive in the world.

2) The Limbic Brain

The second brain to develop is the limbic emotional brain, which I call the “dog” brain, which has at three parts. The oldest adds emotional juice to the fight/flight reptilian brain, and if you have ever seen two dogs fighting, you know what this part of our dog brain does. The next part of “dog brain” to develop is the maternal instinct (Hey guys, you have it too, just not as intense as mom’s), which confers the absolute love between a parent and a child and the nursing of the young.   The third part of the limbic brain to develop, is the dog brain, which reptiles definitely never evolved and nor did more primitive mammals either,[3] confers tenderness, playfulness and caressiveness, and the endearing qualities of our higher mammalian pets.[4] For dogs, it pretty much stops there, but not so in humans.

3) The Monkey Brain

We have a third brain, what I refer to as the “monkey brain,” which confers cognitive functions or thinking, an ability to process and store knowledge. No other mammal has much of this thinking brain, except perhaps dolphins, who are the only mammals whose relative brain size[5] approaches ours.

If my precious friend, my dog Luke, has his leash attached to a pole or a tree, he will inevitably wrap it around the tree and he cannot figure out that he merely has to walk in the opposite direct to free himself from the incumbrance. No dog can figure out the solution to this simple problem because they do not have much of this third brain division, the “monkey brain,” that confers intellect. However, we certainly do, and we can figure out how to analyze the secrets of the cosmos and write symphonies. On the other hand, our intellect can lie despicably and hatch devious plots to manipulate each other and construct superweapons that can destroy ourselves 100 times over. We honor the knowledge of this third brain as the greatest attribute of being human and even (believe it or not!) label our species as Homo Sapiens, the latter term meaning “wisdom.”   Dogs and our pets do not need an intellect because they are already tender, nonmanipulative, playful, caressive and loving creatures.

Why can’t all humans be loving too, a question that has puzzled humanity since the beginning of time?

4) The Fourth Brain- the Pre-frontal Cortex and its Higher Porpoise

The answer is simple. We can be as loving as our pets because we have another 4th brain, a huge portion and fully 1/6th of our entire brain, our prefrontal cortex, and what I refer to in my book as our “higher porpoise,” which transcends and modulates all other parts of our animal brain, our reptilian survival behaviors, our dog-brain emotionality, and our intellectual monkey brain. We need our 4th brain to modulate our potentially destructive analytical monkey-brain, so that we can be as tender, nonmanipulative, playful, caressive, and loving as our pets. Dogs and our mammalian pets do not need a prefrontal cortex because they are already there. A completely distinct faculty of consciousness called “mindfulness” is conferred by our Higher Porpoise” prefrontal cortex[6] but unfortunately it must be developed, trained and practiced in order to be “actualized.” I prefer this term because in our western culture, this term coined by Abraham Maslow, “self-actualized,” comes as close to describing an individual with a working prefrontal cortex as possible. In eastern cultures, it is referred to as enlightened and self-realized, and Islam, Judaism and Christianity have similar terminology such as “bearing witness.” The point is that dogs do not need a “higher porpoise” brain and we do, if we seek to be as tender, nonmanipulative, playful, caressive and loving as they are.

Of course, it would be nice if we possessed higher porpoise wisdom and monkey-brain intellect, the latter being a potential attribute which our pets can never have. They can never teach us how to become good stewards of our planet. They can never take us to habitats in our solar system and beyond to the stars. However, we had better get a handle on our potential for wisdom pretty soon or we will never get there either. Obviously, we will destroy ourselves first with a utter stupid worship of knowledge and the intellect. Sci-Fi stories have emerged, demonstrating that we will always need our pets to remind us of our destructive hubris and that caring for one another and being kind, the actual purpose of our currently relatively dormant prefrontal cortex, is a far greater faculty than any amount of knowledge. Our world’s greatest religious traditions have taught this, but it is slowly being forgotten as we worship and have bitten ever more deeply into the proverbial apple from the Garden of Eden, the apple of knowledge. Now we know that this dichotomy between potentially murderous knowledge and wisdom is hard, cold neurological fact. Just look at the brain scans. Like the bumper sticker with a big pawprint says, “Who Rescued Who?”

Nurture Pets Too

I cannot end this discussion without a “next step.” I refer you to my veterinarian friend’s book, Compassion for Pets. Dr. Geoffrey Broderick is my analogue in the vet world. If we love our pets, and now you can see that they are essential to the survival of Humanity because they are constant reminders of our self-actualized potential to be as loving and compassionate as they are – almost every second of their precious lives – we must stop feeding them cancer- and diabetes-causing garbage, i.e., “animal byproducts,” which are dead pigeons and feces, and processed carbs. Start feeding them organic food, phytonutrients, super foods, and other supplements, just as we do for ourselves and our loved ones. Dr. Broderick and his line of products can be reached at

It may be more important to give our furry friends health and longevity than you may have ever realized. Humanity’s very survival may depend on it.


Free, Guided Mindfulness and Healing Group

Every Sunday evening at 7 PM. 

Everyone is welcome to attend and no experience is necessary!

To join, CALL 712-770-4340 and when prompted, enter the code 566853# (pound)


Dr. Gant functional medicine doctor Wash DCCharles Gant MD, PhD,  is a physician, author and teacher and has practiced Integrative and Functional Medicine for over three decades. He specializes in getting to the root cause of health issues to support healing at the molecular level.  Areas of interest include ADHD, substance use disorders, chronic diseases, metabolic, hormonal and immune disorders, infectious disease, Lyme and co-infections, genetic testing and more. He is an expert in interpretation of functional medicine testing to diagnose precisely what is deficient in each patient, and then replenish those missing, essential items.



[1] Michael S. Fenster, MD, FACC, FSCA&I, PEMBA; known to friends and fans simply as “Chef Dr. Mike,” is The Food Shaman. He is a cardiologist and professional chef. He currently holds faculty cross appointments at The University of Montana College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences as well as The Missoula College Culinary Arts Program of the Department of Business Technology; the only physician in the US so credentialed. He currently serves as the Adjunct Professor of Culinary Medicine at the University of Montana.

[2] Gant C (2020) Awaken Your Godly Brain, Liberty Hill.

[3] Did your hamster ever lick you?

[4] Technical term for this most-highly-evolved part of our limbic or “dog brain,” is called the cingulate division, and it is most highly connected with our later and most highly evolved portion of our human anatomy, the “Godly Brain” or prefrontal cortex.

[5] The ration of brain size to body size is fairly constant in all mammals except for two; humans whose brain size is over 6 times larger than it is supposed to be, and dolphins who posses brains about five times larger than they are supposed to be.

[6] proven on brain imagery studies, such as PET (positron emission tomography), fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and MEG (magnetoencephalogram) studies


Topics: mindfulness, mind-body