Wittgenstein once famously remarked "If a lion could talk, we could not understand him." Nonsense, I say. Animals talk to us all the time. Our dog, for example, has a whole series of whimpers, growls, bodily postures and gestures, each of which means something specific, as we have managed to learn--not very quickly, though, much to his evident frustration.
If he wants to go out, he will jump on the bed and stare out the window. If he wants more food, he will slump by his bowl, nose pointed toward it. He even lies: having had his early evening walk, he will howl and whimper if one of us arrives at the house just after he's returned, as though he'd been forgotten. This used to get him a second walk, until we twigged.
Of course we can understand animals, if we care to. But more important, perhaps, they understand us. Animals, from goldfish on up, are bright, know what's going on, and probably have some useful ideas to contribute about security certificates. We underestimate them, and I am beginning to believe that this gives them an evolutionary advantage. Which brings me to the saga of Boo, the young grizzly bear who had been living an uneventful life in the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden, B.C., until a few weeks ago.
It seems that a female grizzly in heat was wandering around outside the enclosure, and Boo--well, he wasn't "seeking love," as the media kept reporting, he just wanted to get laid, like any teenage male--tunnelled his way out under a fence. He appears to have been successful in his quest, and after three joyous weeks on the prowl was tracked down, tranquillized with a dart and brought home, a course of action that many a worried parent likely considers when the clock strikes one. Boo, you are so grounded.
But matters, alas, did not stop there. The keepers, in their infinite wisdom, decided that his urge to roam could be curbed by--castration. I can hear him now, Wittgenstein be damned. "Hey, what's up with that? That's extreme. Can't you just give me, like, a curfew?" This time, Boo didn't waste time digging a tunnel. Screw that. He went through a 180 kilogram steel door, smashed through two 4-metre-high electric fences, and then climbed over a final 1.2-metre reinforced fence to freedom.
Hey, wouldn't you?