May they Never Say “So Long”

I watched a Natural World documentary on the rescue of swimmers by dolphins. It was so amazing that I watched it again the next night. The incidents were not all that recent, but I don’t remember reading about them in the news.

Four years ago I was talking with a friend who swam with dolphins. She said she was told by the trainers that dolphins were just curious and did what they were trained to do. Looking back at that email conversation, it seems I had seen the following:

There was something on the news recently about a trainer being attacked by a killer whale, who went berserk and tried to drown him in front of everybody… do killer whales suffer from burnout and breakdowns too?? I would have done the same to some of the folk at the office, given a large pool and a bucket of fish.

My friend said she’d heard that the whale in question was an adolescent, probably wigging out teenager-style.

All of the dolphins in the recent Natural World documentary were wild. They were not performing for fish. Dolphins are obviously no friend of sharks… it could be a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That still points to emotion – a more active emotion than swimming away thinking “thank goodness it wasn’t our turn to get eaten.”

Whatever their aims, it doesn’t seem to me to prove anything when someone points to the fact that dolphins can be aggressive and cruel to humans and each other. Nobody ever said that humans were angels; we still consider ourselves capable of altruism. We recognize that we have personality differences, imbalances, feuds, rivalries, suspicion and so on… why would dolphins be any different? They’re not fairytale creatures; they’re flesh and blood.

While feeling so tired and disillusioned, it’s nice for me to ‘believe’ in something that’s out there, particularly something dwelling in an environment as alien and frightening as the sea. It’s the next best thing to believing in superheroes… no; it’s better than that.

Are we completely on our own here, or are some animals prepared to show kindness?

All the time I was writing this (most especially in the middle of my last sentence), the girl kitten (Delilah) gave me at least three playful, painful, completely unexpected scratches. On thumb, finger, and the inside of my elbow. Apart from Cheeky, she’s the worst kitten for scratches I’ve ever encountered. She’ll land on a bare arm or hand with all her claws digging, or suddenly slash at you as though your finger, hand or foot was a mouse to be slaughtered. No holds barred.

The boy kitten, Samson, is old enough to be gentle. When he’s playing, he just holds your fingers with sheathed paws and touches them with his teeth. That’s what Sharky (my last cat) used to do. Delilah will learn too – most kittens do. When kittens are too fierce with my friend Kristin, she will draw back and say severely: “don’t do that – that’s BARE SKIN.” Cats seem to get the message eventually.

Humans are soft, fragile and defenceless in some situations – they need to be cared for.

Out of interest, I fished out an assortment of links on dolphins, and on animal emotions in general.

Three Dolphins Rescue Tourist from Sharks

Dolphins Rescue Swimmers from 3m Great White

Dolphins and Animal Assisted Therapy

Do Animals Have Emotions?

Animal Emotion: Do We Drug Normal Human Behavior?

Animal Sentience

Farm Animals ‘Need Emotional TLC’

I liked them all, but especially the last article. “Please do not shout at the cows.”

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8 responses

  1. Our sense of superiority is constantly challenged as we find new examples of animals doing things we thought were uniquely human.

  2. I found this very interesting. I like to have my thoughts challenged. The links are good too.
    I seem to bring out the most loving traits in my daughters hamster, Bruce. He will sit with me tucked up and happy all night if let him but he bites her as soon as he sees her. I wonder if animals feel mutual respect perhaps?

  3. “Don’t shout at the cows” – that’s a good one! If I thought it would make the younger folk in the office treat me more kindly, I’d wear a “I’m a Cow” sign around my neck. In the meantime, wish I had a few dolphin to weave around me protectively! Good stuff!

  4. I like the subtle Douglas Adams reference. 🙂

  5. It’s odd that people are surprised when some animals behave like we do. There are even a spcies of bird in asia that have social groups and give each other gifts…who’s to say we humans have it all figured out? I bet animals attacking their handlers do so for malicious handlers…

    For my cat I had to resort to “sock on, sock off” for scratches. When I had a sock on my hand he could go crazy and attack it all he liked. Sock off, he was punished. He picked up on it rather qquickly…and began attacking my feet.
    So it *sort* of worked 🙂

  6. Malicious reasons.
    Sorry…off to get a cup of coffee

  7. Interesting! Tell me, diddums, how did you export your Blogigo? blog to here? I want to transfer my blog from Blogigo and have no idea how if it’s possible. All the best!

  8. I like the thought of dolphins weaving protectively round me too… tempting thought.

    Cats can be very mean with the feet – maybe they think we have no feelings there…

    Hi Drifting, hope to see you in WordPress soon! I found I had to bring my posts across manually; I’ve written a new blog post about it. I don’t think there’s an automatic way of doing it, unless somebody who’s more experienced with the way blogs work knows of a workaround?

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