People have always been fascinated with animals. We like to imagine what they think or wonder if they are able to develop emotional attachments to their owners or familiar places. Problems arise when people assume that animals think like people or when people do not know enough about the characteristics of a certain species. It is often said that modern people have evolved too far in order to understand nature or to survive in it. A friend just told me about a child that does not understand to back away from a dog that growls. Then I read an article which explained that urban people develop allergies because they live so detached from microbes and bacteria.
Most questions that my sons present me have something to do with animals. Do spiders eat ants? Where do fish sleep? Why do birds sing? They collect insects and draw butterflies and most of the time when they are playing they pretend to be animals. My younger son even wants to believe that the opening in his underwear is for the tail that will grow on him when he’s older, and when he takes off a layer of clothing he says that his skin is shedding. We grown-ups like to think that we bond with our pets in an emotional level. A friend of mine has a rabbit that likes to climb up on her chest to take a nap when she’s lying on a sofa watching TV. Another friend of mine has a dog that nods in agreement and shakes her head in disagreement. Most of us have experienced the care taking of a worried retriever who comes to fetch everyone back to shore from a swimming trip, or gets anxious when kids are acting too wildly.
We don’t have any pets in our family at the moment. Instead we live so close to nature that we have a chance to enjoy observing the lives of the animals that are free. With two small boys in the family it is a challenge to make them realize that we need to leave the frogs and ladybugs alone, let them go about their business and eat the snails and insects that would otherwise eat our vegetables and destroy our garden. There are two wild cats that like to pass through our property every now and then, one of them likes to sleep on a large stone in our yard. Then there are a handful of pheasants that seem to think that our yard is theirs, and many smaller birds have nests very close to our house. Just the other day one of the small newborn birds had fallen off the nest and to figure out what to do with it was a huge experience for my sons. To realize that nature does not like us people to interfere and to understand that all creatures – big and small – need to be treated with respect.