If anyone says animals don’t communicate, don’t feel, don’t emote, don’t love, lose, experience pain, well, I say he is wrong.
Animals are not so different from us. They have relationships, friends, favorites, loves, likes, mortal enemies. They mourn the loss of their friends and family.
Even our little parrot knew when her friend and companion, Alston, was sick. She mourned her loss so much I bought Little Girl to be her new friend.
Jake, for example, has a mortal enemies list. The dogs on this list are dogs that bullied him when he was a puppy, when he couldn’t fight back. He can see them coming from a mile away. Let’s see… There’s Cody and Timothy (of course most dogs don’t like Timothy because Timothy, bless his evil heart, has a chip on his shoulder due to being named Timothy so he’s pretty much on every dog’s mortal enemies list. Dogs don’t appreciate a three-syllable name. The other dogs snicker when his owner yells out– “Timm-mooooo-theeeee!”) Then there are the dogs whose names we don’t know. I imagine Jake has his own names for them. We know them as big shaggy black dog, killer golden retriever, white dog with gray head. And of course there’s Truman, but he’s just plain meshuggah.
Jake also recognizes his friends, both human and animal. He loves his cat. And he’ll let other cats slide if I say, “That’s one of Ichi’s friends.” He loves his family. He loves the people he knew when he was a puppy – never forgets them. Oscar tells me they ran into Jamie at the park. Jamie was one of his counselors at puppy camp when he was just a little tiny thing. He jumped all over her. People thought he was killing her but he was kissing her. He adores her.
Jake still mourns the loss of his best friend, Daisy. He actually cries when I say her name. He loves Carly and Hector and Kia and Hannah and Ford and Winston. He gets excited when I say, “Your brother is coming and he’s bringing Hastur.”
Even cows make really close friends with other cows. BFFs for life. Horses do too, and they maintain a strict pecking order. Believe it or not, there are dorky horses and there are cool horses. Not only does a horse look dorky to us, he looks dorky to the other horses. Some horses are considered cool by the other horses and everyone in the herd wants to hang with him or her. My mare, Image, was the cool one. The other horses looked up to her. She was the boss mare. Even the biggest geldings deferred to her.
Elephants, whales, dolphins, the great apes — all have big brains and all seem to feel emotion in the way we conceive of human emotion. All these animals exhibit altruistic behavior, some use tools – so neither of those traits distinguish us as human. (Once upon a time the definition of a human being was a species that uses tools. No more. Even crows can use tools.)
Animals make themselves understood via verbal and nonverbal communication. So do we. Perhaps our means of verbal communication is more varied and complex. But the one difference?
The written word.
Does being human mean we write? Or does writing make us human? I suspect it’s the latter that made us modern humans.
I have this theory of the Biblical Garden of Eden. I’ve actually been there- in Northern Israel- Gan Edan- Banias. Seriously the Garden of Eden. Hiked there back when we still had to worry about Syrian landmines and there were no tourists anywhere.
So here’s my theory. I’ve always believed that the Garden of Eden story is our genetic memory. It’s our way of describing what it was like before we were self-aware, before we became fully human. We didn’t know we were naked and we lived in harmony with our environment. Yup. Genetic memory of before the moment we ate that damn quince, persimmon, apple… and we became self-aware. Self-awareness comes at a cost. Ne’s pas?
But the written word… worth every penny.