One of our director’s dogs goes into the bathroom and closes the door when he needs a little R&R. Once he’s sufficiently relaxed, he opens the door and comes back out. This is a habit he developed all on his own.
While hiking, another of our directors shared water from her water bottle with a dog named Watson. A few days later after a raucous game of fetch, Watson picked up the same water bottle and carried it over to her. Obviously, she gave him a drink.
The other day after taking a poo, adoptable shelter pup Blu ran over and grabbed the poo bags hanging on the fence with his mouth.
Can we prove that these things aren’t just amusing coincidences? No.
But here’s something we know for sure; we humans far underestimate the complexities of our fellow animals.
There has been a flurry of research the past few years demonstrating skills, abilities, and emotions in other species that we once called uniquely ours. Articles about these studies often take the tone of surprise or amazement. Crows use tools. Elephants show empathy. Rats behave altruistically. Dogs demonstrate social bonding. The list goes on and on and we’re reaching the point where these discoveries can no longer be considered novel.
We have never been the only species with complex emotional lives, unique language and communication abilities, even cultural heritage. We may have ignored that fact, often intentionally, but it’s never made it any less true. What’s more, measuring someone’s complexities solely based on our own is a limiting view.
This time of year, many of us are celebrating winter traditions that involve humans seeking to light up the darkness. Our wish is that as we do so, we’ll let go of our focus on otherness. That we’ll realize we’re all fascinatingly different expressions of the same basic bits, not without uniqueness any more than we’re without commonality. That we’ll actively choose empathy and look for the beauty and the extraordinary in all expressions of life. That we’ll follow the light and see where it takes us.