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Just for pretends

It's honestly something I never even thought about before we got Konan.  But I've seen him do it a couple times now.  He has an imagination.  He'll take one of his toys and pretend that it's either a playmate or prey or something.  He tosses it up in the air and barks at it.  He shies away from it as though it's posing a threat to him.  He attacks it.  It's quite entertaining to watch, and it taught me that animals do indeed have an imagination.  This is not a strictly human quality.

So, I decided to read about it.  Apparently they've done lots of studies about this.  A chimpanzee who has an imaginary pulltoy that gets stuck from time to time as she's pulling it behind her.  A gorilla who nurses her dolls and mediates pretend fights between them.  It's quite fascinating.

It leads me to ask other questions of the nature "What else do we have in common with animals?"  Do animals have a sense of humor?  Apparently gorillas do because that article mentions a gorilla pretending that she's a bird and that her caregiver is also a bird and then laughing when she finally admits it's not true.  What do animals dream about?  Apparently rats dream about the mazes they're forced to run through while they're awake.

It is quite apparent that animals are capable of empathy, just the same as humans are.  The other day, I was sitting on the ground not far from Konan and let out a dog whimper.  He looked at me with sincere concern, then gently trotted over and licked me reassuringly.  He cheered me up.  It was absolutely adorable.

In fact, it is apparent to me that sometimes animals can be more empathetic and moral than humans.  My dog feels bad for me when I'm sad, and he tries to cheer me up.  And indeed many humans do this with animals--with their own pets or with other animals that they might be interacting with.  However, many humans do not feel empathy toward animals.  For example, elephant trainers in the circus are very cruel to the elephants, whipping them and stabbing them if they do not perform as expected.  Bulls in the rodeo are prodded in the testicles to make them extra angry and wild while the cowboys try to ride them.

Having a pet (even though it's only been one week so far) has taught me much about myself and about humanity.  I think that as a species, we can learn much about how to be better by interacting more meaningfully with animals.  Observe them.  Note their behavior.  Feel empathy for them.  Understand them.

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