Sometimes animals are more human than people

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

An old friend was telling me about taking her 18-month-old grandson to the Asheboro Zoo in North Carolina. She said the giraffe family had a new baby, as did the gorilla family, and they were all enjoying the sunshine of a pleasant spring day.

The mama gorilla was asleep, holding her baby, when the daddy gorilla came out of his entrance and looked around. He left and soon returned with a bundle of hay, which he carried carefully out.

The spectators thought he was being very sweet in bringing hay out for the mama and the baby gorilla. That is until he spread the hay carefully onto the ground and then lay down on it and went to sleep.

Since the mama gorilla was still asleep with the baby she wasn’t disappointed by the daddy’s self interest, but the crowd was.

Their expectations weren’t met.

Of course, this happens a lot when we expect others in the world to behave as we would, even if it is gorillas rather than humans.

Sometimes we overestimate an animal’s ability to reason, and sometimes we underestimate.

Several years ago we had neighbors who were given a puppy from the litter of a dog named Sparky, who lived nearby.

Sparky had entered into a brief relationship with the registered border collie, who was very attentive and appreciative of her beauty.

The litter of resulting puppies were a mixed batch. But one, a miniature of her distinguished award-winning daddy, found a home next door. They named her Bear, because she looked like one. Well, in the fullness of time, more litters appeared. Eventually, Bear grew up and had her own litter of six puppies. This event coincided with the birth of Sparky’s litter of 17 puppies. Yes, 17.

We think this may have been too many for Sparky to provide for.

One morning we heard crying. It was puppy crying and it was coming from underneath a stack of plywood located at the back of the tractor shed. Bear was lying in front of it with her fat puppies, and she was concerned about the crying.

Fowler investigated and found a lone puppy that had wiggled his way underneath the stack and was stuck and hysterical.

When the puppy was rescued, it was clear that he didn’t belong to Bear. We counted her pile of pups and found her six. This new puppy wasn’t one of hers, but one of Sparky’s 17.

Sparky had brought the puppy across the road and left it in Bear’s care because she was like the old woman who lived in a shoe and had so many children she didn’t know what to do.

We weighed our options and decided to contact Sparky’s owner and give him the news. They reclaimed the puppy and eventually found homes for all.

But, I must say, this proved to me that we should never underestimate the initiative and forethought of an intelligent dog. Although she clearly thought she couldn’t provide for all her children, she did carry out a plan to see they were cared for. And who better to take over as foster mother than her own daughter. And Bear was very willing to oblige. She was never so happy as when she had a group of something to be in charge of, and later proved to be just as good a caretaker of kittens as she was of puppies, as she was often found supervising the barn cat’s litter when the cat needed a break. The cat would bring the kittens out of the barn and bundle them into a pile in the grass where Bear would lie. Then, she’d go hunting or exploring until supper time.

Bear would keep the kittens together and wouldn’t leave them until their own mother returned.

Upon reflection I must say that if a dog can learn to love its enemy and care for her children, it would certainly be a better world if we could all do the same.