Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Emotions? Animals? A squirrel playing possum?

I read a blip on the internet yesterday that scientists are now concluding that chimpanzees actually have real emotions and that they found proof of this. This whole idea of animals with feelings has long been dismissed by this group of lab coat wearers, as pure anthropomorphic garbage, and the day dreams of little girls. I have to think these scientists must live in total isolation from any species, other than their own, and I can't really say about their socialization there. They now claim to have found proof of this outrageous claim of emotional animals, by charting distinct rises in cortisol hormones when the female animal, chimps and other critters of higher intelligence was stressed by death, separation from the herd, etc. They said they now believe that the mother animals of higher intelligence actually have feelings, now that they have something to quantify.

Well, duh. Dogs are the very epitome of emotional outpouring. When a dog sees his food bowl, (even ones who aren't named Jack) he doesn't stoically disregard it as having no place of importance in his life. Heck no, the dog dances and twirls, and barks, and his eye light up. Dogs love to frolic, and they show fear, anger, tenderness and nurturing. Of course all animals have emotions, and hormones are the reason.

Hormones rule. Everything. They are the reason we basically exist. If not for them we would have to come with instruction books to just know how to get thru a day, or a life. Hormones, and their changing tides, make us go thru the changes in our lives, breed, live, grow old and die.  They provide us with feelings of love, so we will take care of the ones near to us, anger to fight for what we think of as ours and is worth protecting. They give us guidance in our socialization so that we, all life forms, can live in groups, and be cooperative so that the group survives the problems that arise in our journey thru this incarnation. Anyone who has spent any time getting to know an animal already knows what these scientists are just now figuring out.

When I was a kid my take on animals was very limited, as I was new to them, and I bought what my parents said about dogs not being able to feel, like we elite humans did. So for a long time, dogs were something like a moving stuffed toy to me, by my not knowing how to read or communicate with them, and so they were fairly inanimate things I thought.

Then one night I remember my dad getting angry at our little brown adopted mutt, Hoss, because she had had a wee wee accident in the house. To teach her this was wrong, for some reason that I really couldn't figure out why, his actions were to tell her to come to him and then when she didn't, he would roughly drag her across the floor to him. Then he would move away from the cowering pup and repeat this. The more scared she got the worse she did on the come here command, which of course made him even madder. It really set me back watching this. It was just wrong. The little dog was terrified and the treatment was not equal or relevant to the crime, but however, it did open my eyes to seeing real emotion in a small, and relatively unintelligent, animal. Once that door got opened I then began to learn how understand how they expressed their emotions, their body languages, vocalizations, and actions.

I have seen how animals deal with and judge other animals, of same or different species, based on the initial encounter and what body language was expressed etc. My mare Kitty, is a particularly intelligent horse, is very engaging with humans, and has a very serious like for any horse, dog, or human to show her  they know their manners in how they deal with her. She once kicked a male veterinarian across his vet clinic, because he didn't take the time to introduce himself to her before he went to look at her very sore hind foot, and that was that. She was just not happy with him. Kitty then got on famously with the next vet, a female, who was polite and showed respect for her as another caring being. Kitty would hold her foot without support and with no struggling, every day for a very painful 15 minute lavage and bandaging the vet had to do.

Memphis, the yellow Lab in the shot above, caught this squirrel today, and brought it to the carport where she laid down with it between her legs so I could see her handy work. She would look up at me and do that Lab smile only they can do, then would bend down and carefully rearrange her prize, and then smile back at me again.  She so happy and so proud of what she had down. I think that would also qualify as an emotion and I didn't need a scientist or a translator to know she felt it. Somehow though, I don't this particular squirrel was sharing  this emotion, or any at all by this point.

I suppose the better reason I have dogs and horses is because they do show so much emotion. The jury is still out on cats as to whether they are really life forms, holding or having any feelings, but contempt and stoicism. My critters are funny, sad, hungry, scared, happy, stressed, playful, and so also, at times, am I. That's what makes it fun, and important to be with them, to have these relationships, all because of this shared thing called emotions.

For the growing hordes of Jack-the-food terrorist-'s fan base, behold an update to let all know that the boy has had no more culinary misadventures this week save the chewed off end of the dog food bag resulting in few dropped bits on the floor, and he is on the continued mend from last week's, thankfully. Jack's popularity has increased exponentially with each culinary crisis, and he has even been hailed as a personal hero by one fan. He has not had the pleasure of heading to the barn with us in the morning, or any time yet as his diet is still very restricted and I have no doubt he would be making up for lost calories soon as he got there. He did have a dead mole in his mouth at one point but he dropped it when I screamed at him. I have to admit that his newly svelte figure he is sporting is rather dashing, and it has certainly got to be more comfortable on those tiny legs for him. So life is better for Jack just now and I hope the trend stays a pattern. He is a very happy dog and I am his very happy owner, and friend to him, providing the sneaky little bugger doesn't find something else to eat that hurts him any time soon.

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