Family Thanksgiving included four dogs and one cat, gathered from a couple of homes to be with about 10 of us human Walshes. Maggie, Molly, Shiner, and Zora are the dogs; Mama Cat is the cat. I scritched them all and gave them other kinds of happy attention, because they're all love-bugs. They like the attention. And it's been a while since I've been around that many pets, and I've missed them.
But wanting to connect with them better: I hope for that. Which is possible with pets of your own, and I will get a pet; this must happen. And there's another reason I'm really in the mood to talk to animals: I've been reading Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I'm halfway through Book 2, The Subtle Knife, after powering through Book 1, The Golden Compass. (Which I'd previously been exposed to in 2007 via the decent but frustrating film version,)
Animals are deeply important to that story. His Dark Materials has animals that aren't animals, but are in fact dæmons (oo! Thanks for providing that letter, Internet!) that stay with people for each person's full life, as an intelligent companion. In the world of The Golden Compass, one's soul, in fact, is stored in this outer form. People are protective of their dæmons (as they should be of their souls); it's a great taboo for a person to touch someone else's dæmon. One's dæmon reflects one's personality, and does so more so as a person grows older. (After a certain age, a dæmon's form stays a certain way, looking like one particular animal. Sort of like the adage "After 40, you have the face you deserve.") Even many of the non-dæmon animals are unexpectedly different in Pullman's imagined world: there are intelligent, speech-capable, opposable-thumbed polar bears with their own countries, and even their own battles and body armor. THIS WOULD BE AWESOME. Thought it'd be daunting to negotiate with a bear. (Has Stephen Colbert read these books? I hope he has...)
Animals in our world, of course, ain't dæmons, or capable of talking to us. No biggie; pets and people get along just fine without being able to talk. As long as they are as happy as we can make them, and are allowed to use their own kind of intelligence -- dogs and cats probably have a sense of humor, after all -- then that's best. We connect in different ways. Have been for centuries.
This entry is brought to you by my plans to eventually have a pet again. And this entry is an excuse to link to Saturday Night Live's "Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals":