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If Animals Can...

April 3, 2014

It never fails that at any given time on any given day someone has posted something about an animal on Facebook. Like being drawn by a magnet I find myself directing my cursor over the story to ‘read more’ or click to watch amazing videos like the bird using a plastic lid to slide down a snowy roof, or a bird that used bread as bait to catch unsuspecting fish. Then there are the dogs that nurse kittens, or the cat that nursed a fawn. While another showed a lion that killed a baby baboon’s mother actually mothering the orphaned baboon.

Arguably so, not everything is purely instinctive with mammals such as foraging for food upon hatching, or standing up moments after birth. Some animals learn by watching others of their species as in the case of primates using tools to find food, or birds aiming accurately to spit water and stun a tasty insect. Domesticated animals also learn, as proven by the vast number of dogs easily taught dance routines and birds instructed to ask for their dinner.

Although not having the ability to speak, canines can understand a large vocabulary of words (sometimes in the hundreds) upon command. Like Border Collies for instance, which have been shown to be the smartest breed; possibly because of their nature as herding dogs incorporating their need to listen attentively. Owning two Border Collies I will attest to the fact that the female knows words.

Mama cat loves her kittens & the ducklings, too

All I have say is ‘walk’ and she goes to the leashes, after she first jumps around and howls her excitement. Or, if I say ‘ride’ she sits by the car anxiously waiting for me to open the door. It still amazes me to see her respond so effortlessly. Somehow she has made a connection between the word and the action. She also knows toys, which means she’s connected the dots again for the word and the item.

Needless to say, animals are smart, clever and yes, even cognitive as evidenced by videos and stories linking empathy from one animal toward another. Videos abound of female dogs adopting orphan ducks, owls, rabbits, squirrels and even kittens into their own litter all over the internet. Male dogs have also shown compassion for smaller, weaker dogs or pups and will shield, protect and even rescue them without preconceived notions about it being of a different breed. They simply do what is necessary.

Amazingly, in this day of instant access an animal rescuing another animal can reach mainstream viewing in minutes. Is all this immediate attention raising our awareness of animal intelligence and empathy? Because within days of a herd of water buffalo rescuing a baby buffalo from a pride of lions hundreds of thousands, or possibly millions, could have seen the video. Within hours of a dog dragging another dog to safety, which had been hit by a car, the video spans the web. How many viewers watched in awe as a hippo rushed in to rescue an impala from a crocodile? How does this make us feel? What does an incredible story of an animal not caring about another animal’s species, yet only showing concern for its safety and well-being make us think?

Is it possible animals have emotions? Yes, it’s possible. But is that the only thought that’s crossed our mind? Or, do we shrug off the humanity of it saying, “They’re only animals, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Or do they? Surely a cat knows a duck is not a feline, yet will care for orphaned ducklings as its own. And a hippo knows it’s not an impala yet tried to save one’s life.

How often do we see someone in need and unselfishly offer help? How often do we see another human being hurt and reach out in some way? How many times have we walked past another person begging for a bit of food on our way to have lunch with friends? How many times have we heard a story on the news about a family who has lost everything only to change the channel? Sadly, how many times?

Yet, how many times have we shed a tear watching a video about one animal selflessly helping another? How many tears have fallen over an animal’s empathy toward another animal? If animals only see the NEED and not the color, shape or size of the one they are helping then we, as cognitive beings, should be able to do the same. If animals can…why can’t we see past the size, shape or color of another and only see the NEED?

Can you imagine…a litter of ducklings and squirrels and a momma cat who loves them unconditionally?

Smile, someone might need it!



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