It’s been a great couple of weeks for critters on the Internet. I’m an animal lover, a declaration I offer with neither pride nor embarrassment. Pictures of kittens make me smile. (Yes, you CAN HAS cheezburger!) Puppies elicit oohs of delight. I can’t help it. But although I’m not covert about it, I have my limits. I don’t send chain emails with pictures of a faun being nuzzled by a Golden Retriever, just for example. And the video that crossed my screen yesterday, of an orangutan playing with a black lab — well, never mind. You’re going to have to find that one on your own.

All of that said, I couldn’t help but notice that in the last several days, in the wake of the rebroadcast of our program with Katy Payne about elephants and whales, my casual online browsing has turned up some exceptional opportunities to ogle or listen to, or learn about, animals. First, there was the reappearance of Shiba Inu puppy cam (also above). Those of you who remember the first puppycam know that watching these puppies nurse, nest, and stumble about their pen is an occupation that — if unchecked — can take up hours of one’s life.

On the wilder side of things, Lilly the Black Bear achieved the animal kingdom’s equivalent of Lady Gaga’s meteoric rise to fame by giving birth to her cub with thousands of people watching. And to offer a trifecta of pleasures, I also listened to an amazing story of human interaction with a whale on Radiolab this week. They take up a question SOF is very interested in pursuing in our own way: what is the meaning of the human-animal bond?

RubyIn all of these cases, from the most domestic to the most wild, it’s still not clear what mammalian response, possibly encoded in my DNA , makes the encounter so deeply affecting. Nor will I likely ever fully understand why being greeted by my dog Ruby offers such consistent, daily joy.

We’ve asked this question before, but we’re still curious: who would you most like to talk to about the human-animal bond?  What do you think is happening when we love animals? Just another form of human dominance at the top of the food chain? Or something more?

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Katy Payne mentioned she wished she could ask whales if there's something akin to what we call "faith" in their culture. I'm not sure the question is so hard: for example, there's something so "akin to faith" in how dogs view us that it's a literary trop, from Stephen Collins Foster's "Faithful Dog Tray" to Jack London's "White Fang" ("We are their gods").

Perhaps David Abram might have something fascinating to say about non-verbal communication with nature and the human need for such other-than-human interaction.

Of course, there's always E.O. Wilson and his biophilia hypothesis, too.

Brad Kessler has a beautiful and moving nonfiction book about his experience caring for goats.
Animals-pets as sacred partners for sure.