It's no secret that Oprah loves her animals -- she's got five dogs of her own. But why is it that we are so obsessed with our pets? According to one report, Americans spent upward of $53 billion on their animals last year. During an episode of "Super Soul Sunday" with spiritual thinkers Rev. Ed Bacon, Elizabeth Lesser and Mark Nepo, Oprah asks: "What does it all mean?"
"In the Native American tradition, there are tons of animal stories," Nepo says. When he asked a Native American elder why that was, he was told it's because, "Animals never forget their original instructions, but human beings do."
But in our pet-obsessed culture, are we using our pets as a substitute for human interaction? Rev. Bacon says that substitution is what's called the "shadow side."
"They have this power to teach us what our true self is, what our natural self is," he says. "The shadow side is, we can use our relationship with pets to keep us from the messiness and the pain of tough relationships with other human beings, and it can circumvent or even sabotage an important seminar of life."
Of course, this doesn't mean we should give up our pets. In fact, Rev. Bacon even encourages people to bring their furry friends to church. "We have a St. Francis day every year in which we bless everyone's animals," he says. "And it's as if a person is bringing more of themselves to church, when they come with their pup."
"I think that is the best description of what my animals do for me," Oprah says. "I have five right now. They make you more of yourself."