Can animals show love?

Ask any pet owner and they will tell you unequivocally, yes! Ask many behavioural scientists and they will say absolutely not! Who is right? The short answer? Both!

How can that be? Easy: perception. Now anyone who reads my blog a lot knows that I am a big believer in perception. How we perceive something is based on our background. When I was sick many years ago my dog curled up on my bed. She never left me. She would occasionally nip out for a potty break or to grab something to eat but she was always beside me while I healed. Why? In my world she was showing concern.

When I would train young animals, dogs in our family, I would always start out with food. It is a great motivator. But eventually I moved away from that and would only give praises. My animals were well trained. I never doubted that if I called for them to come, they would and there would be no food at the end. I even had one dog that ran loose on our walks but if she saw a person she would immediately run back to me and walk at my side. Once the person was out of sight and I gave her a nod she’d take off again. I never once doubted her. Was it love?

I’m not a scientist, I’m just a woman that loves words and I loved my animals. I believe they loved me. Perhaps we are anthropomorphizing by using the word ‘love’ but that’s all we have. We may not be able to express what the animals are actually feeling in their terms, all we can do is use ours.

The scientists are probably right it isn’t love. It’s more. Watch a documentary of elephants sometime. I did. In one, a very young elephant had gotten stuck in a mud hole. The mother acted in a manner to which we would refer to as being frantic. Think of a human mother with a child stuck down a manhole. The Park Rangers we’re eventually able to get the little one out and reunited with its mother. Again the reaction is one that you would equate to a human situation. I’m not lying. I was in tears.

Whales have been released from nets and there are videos of them racing to freedom and then returning to stop in front of the group that rescued them. Gratitude? There are examples of this all over the world. There are videos of it. The only way I can explain it is through emotion. How very human of me.

18 thoughts on “Can animals show love?

  1. dweezer19

    If they don’t love us, which I feel their devotion is both scientific and emotional, much like a human being whne you get real about it. They need one another, sometimes us, and learn to feel something for us. But I have no doubt that in many species the love they have for their own is absolute. Check out an old post in my archives I think called A Mother’s Love or Mother’s Day/Squirrel Love. That was an amazing experience for me!

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  2. Murphy's Law

    No wonder you were so happy the other day with what you wrote for today’s post!! Wonderful post Pam. Couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve had cats/dogs all my life, and never had one I didn’t love or that I thought didn’t love me in return.

    I’ve seen that video, or a similar one, and it was impossible not to cry. Another one where an elephant died and how the others mourned. Or the dog whose human died and he went every day to the nearby cemetery and slept on the grave.

    My perception is love. Pure, simple, powerful love.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

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  3. scifihammy

    This is a great post that really makes you think.
    I’m with you in believing that many animals have the capacity to feel strong emotions (There was no doubting the look of joy on LM’s face when I returned after being away a month.)
    If we interpret these emotions through human eyes, that’s OK too. 🙂

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  4. ghostmmnc

    There have been so many documented examples of pets who pine over the loss of their humans. I’ve also seen animals grieving over the loss of their mate. Our own pets get very depressed when we are away for long, even if we have someone coming in to care for them while we’re gone. Then when we get back, they are so excited and happy. We’re family and we love each other.

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