Wednesday, August 11, 2010

He Thinks He's People

"He's mad at me because I didn't take him for a walk this morning," my mother said of her Chihuahua Marty.  I looked to the dog, perplexed.  Marty's face wasn't contorted in any way that would suggest contempt.  He looked like, well, a dog.  His marble eyes were attentively staring up at his owner, most likely wondering if anything on her person was edible.

Mom tends to anthropomorphize animals, expressing whatever inner-dialogue little Marty might have.  A lot of people do it.  They say (usually in a cutesy voice reserved for children and small animals), "Ooh, he's saying, 'Can I have some of that steak?'" or "He wants to go for a walk!"  Given my weakness for cute things, I'm sure even I'm guilty of doing this now and then.  When I do, though, I instantly feel a little silly and my inner-voice mutters, "You can't possibly know that."  I remind myself that animals, though capable of very basic training and recognition, don't have inner turmoil.

Certainly, Marty could have been upset with his owner, but it would be fleeting, and he certainly wasn't capable of logically explaining his anger.  He's not sitting in her lap, seething with anger thinking the doggie equivalent of "Bitch stepped out on me."

Fox news recently ran a story about Al Quaeda potentially training monkeys to shoot Americans (a large portion of my demographic probably saw this on The Colbert Report).  Immediately, it was shot down as bullshit.  It's funny bullshit, for sure - funny enough for an entire episode of Frasier to be based around a theoretical homicidal monkey (and let's not forget George A. Romero's Monkey Shines...but most of you already have).  We anthropomorphize to amuse and, probably, because some of us would go a little insane if there were creatures on this planet that we had absolutely no relationship with beyond the impetus to procreate and protect our spawn.

Sharks are terrifying for that very reason.  As Richard Dreyfuss put it, "All [sharks] do is swim and eat and make little sharks and that's it."

Driving through Oklahoma today, my family and I stopped at a rural gas station just off the highway.  Behind it was a small grazing field cordoned off with barbed wire, where three brown horses stood.  I walked up to the fence.  The horses noticed me instantly and started to approach, one by one.  They put their heads on my shoulders, sniffed me.  I fed them biscuits.  These beautiful creatures were eating out of my hand, sniffing my chest.  I hadn't seen horses upclose for years, but I instantly remembered why I loved them; why I rode them and cared for them when I was young.  And as I stood there, one of them slowly turned around, his backside facing me.

And he raised his right hind leg and let out a series of loud, ripping farts.  Coming from this animal was the kind of sound that class clowns spend their careers trying to master.  The smell was horrendous.  When he was done, a good fifteen seconds later, he turned his head to look at me and walked away.  And I could swear the little bastard was smirking.


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