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.
I have lived more than half a century. In that time I have felt joy, sadness, anger, anxiety and a myriad of other emotions. Each one of them has left its mark on me in some way. I have suffered cuts and bruises, breaks and sprains. My journey is painted on my soul, on my heart and on my face. It is a badge of honour I wear with pride.
There are scars on my body and laugh lines around my eyes. I have immersed myself in my life and it was one hell of a ride! The truth of the matter is I am not done yet! There are places to go, people to see and actions to take. I’m having the time of my life in the moment I am experiencing right now. When I was a child I always looked forward to what I was hoping would happen. Now from the luxury of distance I look back on my childhood fondly. I grew up in an era when I was allowed to be a child. I played without fear of pedophiles and nuclear bombs. I grew up in blissful ignorance. I didn’t grow up until I had to. I look at children today and I’m so sorry that they seem to be missing the idyllic freedoms I had.
I live with a degenerating disease. Okay that is a fact. I find joy in my life almost every day. That too is a fact. (Yes there are some days when I am really, really not happy.) I think my eyes are too close together, my nose is too big, my hips are . . . . you get the picture. What is more important than all of that is the fact that I like myself. I happen to think that I am a very nice person. Yes I do have a somewhat twisted sense of humour but that is just fine with my friends. I am loyal to those I care about and I care deeply about those that matter. Joy is a word that describes a feeling. Delight, happiness and pleasure also describe feelings that I experience. I take great joy in my friends, my cat, my family, the world in general, with several notable exceptions of course. I will not use the words which would describe about how I feel towards some individuals, it would completely change your impression of me!
The point is I like most of the circumstances of my life. Not all of them. I’ll bet you don’t like everything about your life. I concentrate on the matters that give me pleasure, that give me a sense of fulfillment and I file the rest under pending.
We all know that a beautiful summer day makes us feel good. We all know that a miserable rainy day can make us feel, well, miserable. In my part of the country we have just come through a very bad week in terms of weather. It was hot, hazy and humid! In fact Wednesday was the hottest day with the humidex at 46°C/114.9°F! For those of you who don’t live in a country where you regularly count the humidex it is simply a means by which they calculate how hot the humid air actually feels. And I felt bloody hot!
I have also noticed, over the years, that people’s demeanor is strongly related to what is happening in our weather. I suffer from migraines when the air pressure changes significantly. When it is very cold I find people become short tempered and easily offended. The same is usually true when it is humid and sticky outside. No woman can feel attractive when she is sweating. At least not the women I know. Men however really don’t care. Of course I’m generalizing! There are more than 7 billion people in this world I have no idea how even a fraction of them feel. But I know how I feel.
We have no control over the weather. We think we can predict it, but even then it’s not 100% perfect. And I don’t think we even have 70% control over our own reactions to the weather. We like to think that as Homo sapiens we are in control of our lives and our surroundings. The truth is significantly different! We are creatures that are hostages to our emotions. Men especially don’t like to admit that, but women know the truth. The weather can wreck havoc with our judgment. One grumpy person can ruin the day for any number of people. And they might be grumpy simply because the weather is too hot or too cold or too windy or too calm. We still haven’t learned how to control our emotions and our reactions to others’ emotions.
I once worked a midnight shift at a Police Department. I was a civilian manning the computers. On this particular Friday the 13th there was a full moon. It was the busiest midnight I had ever worked as well as the craziest! Now there are those who say people are not affected by the weather or something as silly as the position of the moon. After working that Friday the 13th I beg to differ! I’m quite sure the statistics will prove that when it’s hot, hazy and humid burglaries are down and domestic assaults are up. It all has to do with the weather.
I am not a scientist and I do not have concrete statistics to back up my beliefs, (I was too lazy to do the research) but I’ll bet there are reports out there that will confirm what I believe. So the next time it’s hot, hazy and humid don’t annoy your neighbor. And have a nice day!
Goslings near the lake one hot afternoon