Monday, August 3, 2009

Mourning: It's Not Just For Humans...

We are in Ann Arbor Michigan at Adena Kling's house. Her two sweet dogs have welcomed our two dogs right into the fold...and as usual, Adena has made us feel totally at HOME.
Photos to come....
We already biked to the farmers market and a few garage sales and have gotten to eat incredible Adena food.

I recently wrote a humane ed lesson on mourning in all species and the last few days have given me ideas that I want to add to it. I have written about mourning elephants and dolphins, but I had nothing on rats and squirrels....until now. A few days ago while staying with Rita and John in Cleveland, she came out to tell us about one of their three rescued rats dying in the night. The two surviving rats collected all the bedding from the upper floors of their rat habitat and brought it to the bottom of the enclosure and buried the rat who had died. When Rita and John tried to get near the body of the dead rat, the other two got angry and did not want his grave disturbed.

A day later when we arrived here in Ann Arbor, Adena told us about the squirrel who had died in her yard. She did not want to bury him in the yard because her dogs might dig him up. So, she wrapped him up and put him in her trash can. No sooner had she done this and one by one the squirrels came and sat quietly next to the trash can looking toward it. She described it in exactly the same way you would describe humans paying their respects as they go past a casket.

What got me started, years ago, thinking about mourning in other species, was the story of a beluga whale. When the beluga lost her baby, researchers took the body to see why the baby had died. The mother beluga pushed a piece of driftwood around in front of her nose for weeks and made moaning sounds.

It is no surprise that I would be working on a humane ed book of animal intelligence material. Once we open our eyes to the rich lives of other beings, we cannot just discount them as things to do as we please to. They stop being a species and start being individuals, they stop being property and start being our extended family.

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