There’s something so magnificent about these creatures and I think Megan’s painting captures that mystique in the animal’s eyes.
Years ago, I remember reading When Elephants Weep: the Emotional Lives of Animals. Published in 1996, the book became a national bestseller and parts of it stick with me even today, more than two decades later. For instance, when an elephant is injured or sick and dying, the herd forms a circle around it, all of them facing outward, as if to say, We’re with you, we have your back.
Any pet owner will tell you about incidents when their dog or cat or bird does something that underscores the premise of this book: that animals feel the same way humans do. They mourn, feel happiness, disappointment, triumph, sadness, joy. They aren’t living separately from these emotions; they are immersed in their emotions. Feelings are a sea in which they swim, float, drown.
Some years ago when our Golden Retriever, Jessie, was on her last legs, our cat, Powder, curled up next to her and spent that night – Jessie’s last – next to her, cuddling with her, comforting her. And when we left the next day to have Jessie put down, Powder seemed to understand what had happened when we returned.
In the late 1980s, Rob and I led tours for writers to the Amazon between Leticia, Colombia, and Iquitos, Peru. On one of those trips, we pulled in at an Indian village and I traded several tubes of lipstick and insect repellent for this beautiful Amazonian owl tethered to a young man’s shoulder.
The owl spent the next two days perched on a wooden bar on the main deck of our boat, watching all of us, eating the tidbits of fish we fed him. I was fascinated with this owl, talked to him, and made sure that when we arrived at our destination he would be set free on the animal preserve that was part of where we were staying. I remember that one of the writes, a young guy from New York, laughed at my preoccupation with the owl, and told me I was anthropomorphizing.
“It’s just an owl, Trish. It doesn’t feel anything. No soul there. No comprehension of anything other than anticipation of its next meal.”
“Dude, you need to go live in Central Park. Or in the middle of this jungle.”
Elephants, owls, dogs, cats, birds, any creature great or small, possesses an emotional life. And people who tell you otherwise, who dismiss animals as incapable of anything other than their roles as cogs in a food chain, are to be avoided.