Wednesday, January 11, 2012


A couple of days ago Jo and I watched a man and his dog on the beach. Possibly a mixed breed but mostly resembled an irish setter. Jo is not a dog person since she was ferociously attacked while young by a chihuahua, (a story she doesn't tell often; I laugh so hard), so I was describing the mood of the dog by his actions. He was attentively eyeing the human, and doing those leaps and bounds that say only one thing, let's play!

Dog owners know what the look is like. The dog leaps but stays fairly stationary. Not running away but energetic. Tail wagging and the playfulness cannot be denied by any objective observer. Alert. The dog's interest is up. Hey, sandy beach and water breaking on the it, what fun. I watched him dance for awhile and tried to get Jo to see what I was seeing.

Joy, happiness; however you would like to describe the emotion.

The next day another perfect example of joy comes by. A couple and their very young daughter are strolling the beach. All of a sudden the young one takes off, little legs pumping like the sand pipers that are their company. The father runs with her, not racing but playing. The young one turns and Mom slowly trots in the opposite direction and there she goes, chasing her mother. Then off on her own towards the condos, then spinning around and back to her parents.

The resemblance of happiness between the two species is remarkable, if not almost identical.

I'm pointing this out to Jo, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking about how easily observable the link between life is. Even though emotion as an attribute in animals is still disputed, anyone that has enjoyed the company of another species almost instinctively understands what their pet is feeling. Whether emotion is stimulus-response behavior or not, what difference does it make? Would it not be the same for humans? Would a dog's joy because of stimulus be different that our stimulated joy?

Sometimes I wonder if animal emotion is debated only because of our relationship with food. Maybe we really don't want to know how close to us other species are. Sure, we'll look at it genetically. We'll look at it in regards to evolution. But very few seem to really want to know the answers. As long as we use our cousins as a food source, we really can't humanize them without being aware of our own possible intent to keep them as our slaves.

I observe the emotions that effect animals. Is it that hard to see or am I easily deceived?

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