I believe animals can talk. Sadly, many of us choose not to listen.
Maybe I like to listen, because animals have always been part of my life. As a
kid, I had parakeets and guinea pigs. I did my best to keep my pets happy, but
being a kid usually means having fun with your pets while your parents do the
work. Nevertheless, my parents taught me to respect any form of life and to
fulfill the physical and mental needs of my animals.
Over the years, however, I learned that not everybody respects animals like I
do. Although some people are genuinely interested in the well-being of their pet
and consider it a part of the family, others think of pets as being “just an
animal,” a “thing” lacking emotions and the ability to communicate in our
The animals’ disability to communicate is a common misconception. The other day,
for example, the community service coordinator at my school told me “Animals
can’t talk,” suggesting community service dealing with humans rather than
animals. His remark made me think: Is this misconception the reason why we treat
animals with so much disrespect? We dress dogs in pink tutus and put matching
nail polish on their claws, flush live fish down the toilet, stuff hamsters in
cages as big as a matchbox, or cut off a dog’s ear.
The dog in the pink tutu will not ask “Are you serious?” The hamster will not
complain about its tight cage nor will the fish comment on the inside of our
toilet bowl, none of which is to say that hamster, fish, and dog don’t protest
in their own language. Hamsters hiss, throw themselves on their back, or bite
when in distress. Fish will loose their bright color and swim frantic circles in
the toilet bowl. Expecting to be dressed up, the dog’s ears probably droop to
the floor. He may try to hide under the bed but surrender with a deep sigh when
his owner just doesn’t give up. After all, worse things could happen to him.
Just look at the one-eared dog that yelped in pain and bewilderment when his ear
was cut off.
I have seen abused dogs hitting the ground in fear at the sight of a belt. At
the shelter, new dogs are so intimidated by their surroundings that they crawl
out of the cage on their bellies, shaking uncontrollably. Others are hyperactive,
tearing up toys and blankets in their cage, jumping out of joy when I finally
take them for a walk. Some dogs are calm – not afraid, not hyperactive – but
cautious, because people have betrayed their trust too often.
Animals do talk, but it is us who often don’t understand communication more
subtle than human spoken language. When a dog looks at me with sad, brown eyes,
these eyes alone tell me his story. No need for words. I believe animals can
talk, and I hope I will always be able to listen.