Do animals “feel”?

Eddy Miller delivering the milk...

Blackie on her rounds.Β  (Found at Mira Images)

They say that animals don’t “feel”.

Meet Blackie. At least that’s what we called her, as kids. It may even have been her real name, it’s been so long I’m no longer sure.

That’s Eddy Miller on his rounds with her. Hadn’t thought about Blackie for many years, despite the large part she played in my childhood, so imagine my surprise, if not joy, at stumbling on this image of her online!

She had been doing the job so long that she needed nothing more than the sound of empty bottles being loaded and she would walk, just as far as would be required to drop off the number of bottles in a crate, and stop, waiting patiently for the next chinking cue.

She knew every kid on the street, which ones would offer a rub, and which ones were most likely to harbour the kind of tidbit that horses probably shouldn’t indulge in, yet, not wanting to appear rude, would accept graciously. Despite a wonderfully, easy-going disposition she was no angel: many a prize rose met its demise when Eddy wasn’t watching, causing all sorts of ruckus when caught in the act.

In 1983 a new ruling was brought into force regarding the pasteurisation of milk. The equipment required was too expensive for Eddy to even consider investing in. At one stroke of a mandarin’s pen, an era ended and Blackie was out of a job.

Not that you could tell her that. First day of her “retirement”, crack of dawn, she was at her usual place expecting to be harnessed up. And the next day. And the next…

Whatever passes for confusion in horses, turned to whatever passes for depression. She so missed her routine, that within a few days she had stopped eating; and a few weeks after her forced retirement she was dead.

It is, of course, considered fanciful to believe that animals have the same feelings as humans. Yet, are not humans merely animals?

As a child I came to believe that Blackie died of a broken heart. Nothing I have learned in the years since have suggested a more plausible alternative.





About Running Elk

My given native name, Running Elk, was bestowed in 2008 as I took my first steps as a fully fledged Medicine Man of the Zuni tradition. A most unlikely candidate for the role, my journey as a healer began some four years prior. The detour onto the shamanic way was most unexpected, yet has been one of the most rewarding challenges to date.
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41 Responses to Do animals “feel”?

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    A double tragedy, both for Blackie and for those who persist in denying the emotions of our fellow creatures.

  2. noelleg44 says:

    I agree, Sue. Animals are very sensitive – we had a dog that spent hours looking for his buddy, after he died, and was depressed for a long time. What a sad story.

    • Running Elk says:

      Poor puppy. We have a friend who’s dog looks for her buddy every time she is at the vet for checkups, as that was the last place they saw each other. Our fellow creatures are so much more emotionally aware than society allows itself to imagine.

      • Agree with all the comments. So sad! In some ways, animals are MORE sensitive than we humans who feel so superior!! Thanks for posting this piece. The more we can spread the word, the better. xx Ellen

      • Running Elk says:

        I believe they are, Ellen. Attuned to even the slightest nuance of mood; unlike our human companions who seem more than happy to trample over us to get what they want out of the interaction… no wait, is that cats? πŸ˜‰

  3. davidprosser says:

    Animals feel, absolutely no doubt. Just watch a dog start wagging his tail when his owner approaches.

  4. It is just another inconvenient truth we have allowed ourselves to deny. Think of the upheaval involved if this truth were accepted and acted upon…

  5. Repeat comment from the reblog that led me here:
    Use the search box on my blog for “Jaak Panksepp,” father of affective neuroscience, who has some pretty good research supporting his assertion that ALL mammals feel. [“Is Activation β€œSeeking System” Dependent?” has the best info, btw.]
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

  6. alienorajt says:

    Hugely moving. I entirely agree. We tell ourselves that we are imagining the emotional responses animals so clearly show, and think ourselves so clever as a result. For so-called higher creatures, we sure miss the obvious on too many occasions. Reblogging. xxx

    • Running Elk says:

      It certainly feels like the most terrible of betrayals. Can only imagine if we had not become so isolated from nature that we’d (possibly) have retained a much more sensible relationship with our fellow creatures. xx

  7. alienorajt says:

    Reblogged this on Chronicles of an Orange-Haired Woman! and commented:
    This moved me enormously and is something I have always felt myself.

  8. jenanita01 says:

    Every living thing with a brain can think and feel, and not so sure about trees and plants either!

  9. What a heart-breaking story, but lovely in its pathos.

  10. Very interesting article! πŸ™‚
    (I’m a vegetarian, largely because i see that animals feel, much like we do.)
    When i take Tweetie (one of our parrots) out to exercise (as i do every day), i always ask her how she is doing. She always says one of three things: “Pretty good!”, “Better!”, or “I don’t know.”
    We never taught her any of those answers. Inevitably, if i talk to her earlier in the day about meditation and going beyond thinking and thought… her answer will be “I don’t know.”

  11. This is so sad. But I definitely agree, humans hold themselves as something greater than animals, but we really are just animals. It’s upsetting that no one realized what was happening and at least walked her on her daily routine just to make her feel better.

  12. Pingback: Castlerigg – spectacle and speculation | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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