Saturday, January 15, 2011

Do Animals Have Feelings?

     My hubby and I have different opinions on this one... He prefers the scientific explanation that animals have instincts, not feelings.  But, I think they have feelings very similar to our human ones. Fortunately, this isn't a terribly pressing matter in our household, and we can agree to disagree without much discussion.

"I'd do anything to please you... even wear this tiara..."
 Maybe because I am sensitive - both to my own feelings and those of others - I am also sensitive to the animals' feelings...  I love it when Moxie literally jumps for joy at the sight of my Jeep coming around the bend towards home... She runs to meet me, knowing that I'll open the door and let her "drive" up the curving driveway, both of us grinning all the way.   I love it when CassPurr comes into the office, quietly sits next to me, and bats at my arm - pulling it downward, as if to say, "Pet me -I'm lonely."  And I love it that without fail all the chickens start talking like crazy when they hear my voice.  The Peeps literally jump straight up and down at the sight of me.  Am I projecting my feelings onto them?  No, I don't think so... Believe me, I don't run down the driveway or bat anyone's arm.  And I certainly don't jump up and down! (Okay... on the last one I'd be willing to make an exception if someone sent me a check for a million dollars... or even a thousand.)

Cassie always walks toward the camera,resulting in photos like this!
      The animals have personalities, too.  When I was a little girl, we had a cat who would stand in the corner and pout if we laughed at her - it clearly embarrassed her and hurt her feelings.  On the other hand, CassPurr loves to be a clown and acts crazier and crazier the more we laugh at him.  I must admit Cassie is the only cat I've ever seen with this personality trait.  I had an old tom cat years ago who was so social,  he not only had to be a part of every occasion, he had to be the center of it!  And he grinned like a Chesshire cat - I kid you not.  Cats have a way, too, of sensing humans' feelings.  They know when you're sad or sick, and they are cuddly and comforting... Back when I had four cats, they were a pretty good family, but they had bouts of jealousy.  They could frown and shoot each other a dirty look...especially over attention from me. They played "king of the hill" on the ladder, and it cracked me up so much that sometimes I left the ladder up for days just so I could watch the competition. It warmed my heart when I'd come home from work to find those four little faces looking out the glass-paned front door, eager to say hello to their person.  They also would gather in a litle semi-circle all around the piano bench when I played music each morning.   They especially liked the slower music, and would settle down with a dreamy look in their eyes...Occasionally one would try to play along, resulting in frowns from the rest of the "audience".

"I'm worried..."

      I'm not an expert on dogs, but I know our Moxie.  She has got to be the most affectionate critter I've ever met.  (Thankfully, she doesn't lick - I can't stand that!)  But, she shows her affection by being our constant shadow... Moshe and I are together a lot, but when we are in separate rooms, she parks herself midway between the two of us.  If he is in the office and I am in the kitchen, she stays in the adjoining hallway until one of us moves.  Apparently she doesn't want to give either of us preferential treatment. Yesterday  Moshe and I cleaned house.  I scrubbed the kitchen while he vacuumed.  In order to vacuum, Moshe picked up Moxie's dog beds - one in the office and one in the bedroom - and moved them.  Meanwhile, I was cleaning everything in the kitchen, so I put her bowl and the pet waterer in the sink to wash 'em.   Moxie sat in the doorway entering the kitchen,  looking dejected and worried.  I told Moshe I thought she was afraid that we were sending her away to live somewhere alse.  No amount of talking or petting would console her, but once the beds and the bowl were back in place, she went back to her usual happy self.

  Beau is another example.  Beau is the stray dog we have adopted... sort of.  He sleeps under the front porch in a nest of hay.  He is great friends with Moxie; they run and leap and play together in an expression of pure joy.  We feed him morning and evening.  He will follow me out to the chicken coops and almost touch my hand, but if Moshe is with me, he follows further away.  Twice he came up and licked my hand when I called him, but mostly he won't get closer than a few feet away.  Somebody must have really mistreated Beau, and I can only hope that someday he will realize that we won't.  I've known people like that, too.. People who have been so hurt that they cannot and will not allow anyone to get too close to them.  Whether you're a person or an animal, it's a sad way to deal with emotional pain, isn't it?

My daughter was always a really good kid... Easy to live with, easy to bring up, and a good student.  I can only remember her getting in trouble at school a couple times.  Once for having a pea-shooting contest with her straw in the cafeteria. (That  STILL cracks me up! My sweet little Melody participating in a pea-shooting contest!!!)  The other time it was for arguing with her teacher... She had written an essay in which she described her cat, "Ozzie", as a person.  The teacher corrected her, saying, "Cats aren't people; they're animals." Melody said something like, "Well, maybe YOUR cats are animals, but OUR cats are people."

My crazy pre-computer cut and paste wedding photo; Ozzie is thegrey cat with the sweatshirt on; I am the bride...

    I  really couldn't scold her much for arguing with her teacher about that, now could I?  And, by the way, by the time Ozzie passed away, Melody was in highschool,  and Ozzie was so well-known in out little town that the entire tenth grade mourned his loss.  Seems to me that if an animal can invoke that much feeling in us, then we must be invoking feelings in them, too.
     Not a scientific study, I must admit.  But even so I maintain that animals have emotions.

Shalom  Y'all -

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