Furry Teachers

I was transferring my 2004 journal into a digital format and came across a passage that’s whimsical at first, but poignant upon further reflection.

If animals are born in another country, do they speak/understand that language?  If so, do they get very confused when some foreigner tries speaking to them in another language?  Or do they really just understand things based on the tones of your voice?  Are they more closely connected with the unspoken communication and energy of the Universe?

Also, if you had a pet and moved with it to another country, would your pet go crazy trying to learn a new language?  Take dogs for example . . . would an American dog understand the barking of a French or Chinese dog?  Would each be able to sense or smell that the other is a foreigner?  Do they have the same intolerances about foreign animals as some of us do about foreign people, or do they just sniff each others’ butts and welcome each other like brothers?

I chuckled at myself for the scribbles I came up with that early May morning, but it does make me think about animals and their ability to understand and accept their role in the Universe.  When there’s danger afoot in the woods, all the woodland inhabitants become very still.  I’ve heard the same thing happens with animals right before an earthquake, tornado, or violent storm.

Many humans think we’re the utmost of the world, simply because we use our minds and talk, and build huge machines and dwellings.  However, our minds often get us into a lot of trouble.  Does a female cat worry that she won’t be respected after the local tomcat makes use of her?  Do dogs ask themselves why they’re barking at the mailman, or “what’s the point?” after they’ve fetched and retrieved the tennis ball for the umpteenth time?  Does a lioness get flack from others in her pride for chowing down on a gazelle?  The answer to all of these, of course, is no.

Now, I’ve no doubt that animals do think about things (in their own way), but they don’t appear to be ruled by the noise that goes on in the minds of we humans.  Sure, some animals will pine for loved ones that have passed, or wait longingly for their “master” to come home, but I doubt they obsess about things like we are prone to do.  I have nothing but respect for our furry friends, and think there’s much to learn from them.

I love the independence & confidence of cats.  They’re happy to show you love (some more than others), but they’re just as fine sitting by themselves.  I know some would say that’s arrogance, but I think they’re more assured than cocky.  It’s almost like they’re saying “I’m here, and if you don’t like it that’s your problem, not mine”.

Dogs are just bundles of nearly unending acceptance and love.  I wouldn’t want to own a dog because of all the work that’s involved with having one, but I love to experience the wild frenzy of energy when I see one on the street and they’re so excited to meet me.

When I see birds floating in one place during a strong wind, I can’t help but feel the absolute joy and elation they must get from being so high up and feeling the air blow through their feathers.  To be able to soar up there, like they do . . . *sigh*

And how AWESOME would it be to be so tuned in to the Universe, that you could sense the danger long before it came?  We’d be able to bypass accidents on the highway, or shop at a different convenience store, and avoid being shot by someone robbing the place.  I think we do that now, to certain extents, but we might not know why we’ve taken that different route.

Anyway, back to the possible language barrier of animals in foreign lands.  We humans may have made up different words for a meow, bark or roar – depending on the country and language – but I’m guessing that a meow, bark or roar sound the same to each animal.  Still, it’d be fun to test that theory out.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kaye George
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 10:18:30

    Great essay, as usual! But, dogs DO understand human language. A neighbor had a German shepherd that had been trained in Germany and responded only to commands in that language. Sometimes police dogs are taught commands in other languages so that just anyone won’t be able to give them a command counter to the one the trainer gives them.

    And I’m with you, loved owning the dogs we did and miss them dearly, but they are SO much work.


  2. Kaye George
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 10:25:09

    Our last Golden knew the word “walk” and we couldn’t say it without her anticipating a walk, getting all excited, bouncing up and down eagerly, etc. So we started to spell it. I swear she learned that too, so we talked about perambulating. I think she may have read my mind, though. But she definitely reacted to both *walk* and *w-a-l-k*. Smart dog!


  3. Susan Schreyer
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 11:13:47

    I know horses understand the actual word as well as the tone of voice & then manner in which it is said. For example, if I have a horse that was trained to voice command by a German I can get a “close enough” response to the English command if I use a similar manner to say it. I’ve had horses I’ve used to teach lesson with get so savvy to the spoken word that they’ll even understand location and a series of instructions included in a sentence. They’ll even learn to spell! I’ve had to resort to things like “count to ten, to yourself, then transition to trot and do a twenty minus five meter circle”!! What a challenge!


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 10, 2011 @ 11:52:13

      Thanks for responding, Susan! I really do love hearing stories of how the animals learn & adapt to us, & they seem to do it with less fuss than one might think. 🙂


  4. Dana
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 11:48:12

    Heh. Sometimes I wish my cats would think a little bit more about what they’re doing before doing it when it comes to certain naughty behaviors, but I love them for what they are despite the messes they make…


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 10, 2011 @ 11:50:11

      Yeah, being a cat person I totally understand how you’re willing to forgive them nearly anything. Course, I’m sure the same is true for dog/bird/reptile/etc people.

      Thanks for stopping by, Dana!


  5. Dolly Chamberlin
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 15:39:32

    I was just watching the Wild Kratt’s, where they were showing how an octopus figured out how to unscrew the top of a jar, & obtain a clam that had been placed inside the jar. Domestic or not, I agree there is a LOT more to animals than what we see on the surface.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 10, 2011 @ 15:43:23

      Also very cool! I know I’ve seen the video where a cat figured out how to unscrew the cap to a jar holding its food, but never heard of the octopus doing the same.

      Thanks for stopping by today, mom. 😀


  6. E. B. Davis
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 07:35:08

    I too think that there is more to animal intelligence than humans credit. We are so egotistical. I won’t eat pork because I’ve come to understand how intelligent pigs are. But on sensing danger and going a different route, we’ve become collective souls and have amassed collective intelligence on that issue. GPS will alert us to road construction or accidents and re-route us via satellite. Nice blog, Alyx!


  7. Alyx Morgan
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 08:34:42

    Thanks, E.B. Yes, I can totally understand why some vegetarians choose not to eat meat. But I also highly respect the way Native Americans (& some others) honor their food by thanking it before eating it. It’s the arrogance, or indifference, that bothers me most.

    Thanks for stopping by today.


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