Two Cases of Animal Empathy

I just had to make note of two events I recently observed.

  • A serviceman had befriended a dog in Afghanistan. The serviceman was killed by enemy fire. The dog was shipped to the serviceman’s home in the U.S. During the funeral service for the soldier, the dog walked down the aisle, walked underneath the casket, and lay down and quietly rested there, sorrowfully I say. As if he knew.
  • A whale in the Pacific Ocean had become entangled in a fishing net. Thrashing made the entanglement lethal for the animal. Some fishermen saw the situation, catastrophic for the whale. So the men got in a boat, motored to the scene, and cut the roping off the whale. The whale was freed, and, in celebration, and as I think, in gratitude, was seen leaping joyfully, full body out of the water, two or three times. I called him the “whoopee-whale”. Was it joy in freedom, or was it a thankfulness message to the benevolent sailors? I say the latter. Whales are not dumb; they are only creatures of their environment. This one found himself in a very, very strange predicament, and experienced a very, very strange release by a very, very strange benefactor, a godsend emancipation. A leaping whale just has to be interpreted, just begs for explanation.

The dog story evoked very strong empathy from everyone who saw it, I am guessing. How could he know? Was it an olfactory clue? What else could it have been?

I pictured that whale, eventually, returning the favor for some distressed human being in the ocean, remembering. Until some Asian fishing boat comes along and harpoons that whale for its blubber-oil.

Then he saw a pod of the largest whales in the ocean and told them to go near the shorline and let those beings there know that we all are still around and thankful for a few good beings to help one of us in distress.

And so it was that the great blue whales made a rare appearance on the Pacific coast the other day, where they are safer from the sharp things that embed themselves in the flesh of whales………..

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. May I suggest a further resource to learn more about empathy and compassion.
    The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.
    [JFD: See: ]

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