I believe there is more to animals than we think. I believe that animals feel fear, elation, consternation, sorrow, disappointment, exasperation and even anticipation. Having a dog, I am reminded of this daily. But one experience last year, in particular, stands out. I was on a 2-day summer hiatus in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and while taking a walk with my dog, I noticed, on one of the concrete steps leading up to a lofty hotel, a beleaguered young bird, a tiny, grey-feathered fellow with a perpetually bobbing head. Presumably, he had fallen out of his nest. Unable to fly, he hopped around and away from approaching guests of the hotel, busily on the way to their retreat. Knowing very little about the care of birds, I procured a deep box from a corner sports concern, put him in, and drove him, along with my dog, to the nearest veterinarian. When I got there, I really did not know what to say, not fully understanding my intention. What was I going to do with this little guy, take him back home with me, on a 3-hour car trip, with a dog in tow? Once at home, am I going to be able to care for this bird adequately enough? What do I know about caring for birds? As it turned out, I got this advice: The best thing I could do for the bird would be to take him back to where I had first found him and hope that his mother would take on the responsibility of saving her offspring. As I did what was instructed of me and placed him back on the concrete step of the hotel, I observed with a sorrowful, heavy heart, as he looked up to the skies and chirped incessantly, with palpable intention. What was he doing? Was he calling out for his mother? Was he hungry and asking for food? Scared and alone, was he just calling for someone to take him home? Would I be anthropomorphizing this act to feel that this helpless creature was emitting a human-like cry out for help, just like you or I might in times of distress? I eventually had to leave behind this bird, not knowing whatever became of him. But this experience underscored for me, once again, my evolving philosophy: emotions like fear and anguish are very real and mean something to the sentient being that’s experiencing them.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.