By Vicki Hearne
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Extra info for Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name
And since human beings have for all practical purposes no wolfish social skills, the wolf regards the human being as a wild animal, and the wolf is correct. He doesn't trust us, with perfectly good reason. The wolf is not alone in his regard for the commitments talking with humans implies. Even Lucy, the chimpanzee whose (true) story is told in Growing Up Human, turns out on examination not to have learned from her family, the Temerlins, who brought her up as their "child," as much about not biting and toilet training as the family dog.
I began realizing other things as well, such as that in the trainers' world different kinds of animals exist than the ones that I heard and read about in the university. For the trainer there are hot working Airedales, dutiful and reliable German Shepherds, horses with intense, fiery and competitive temperaments, other horses who are irredeemably dishonest. In the universities, there were more or less Cartesian creatures of uncertain pedigree, revised by uncertain interpreters of Freud and Jung, which may be why in the world of letters in general animals are invoked to mark "primitive" and usually unsavory impulses, while in the trainers' world they are more like characters in James Thurber, who insisted that dogs represent "intelligence and repose" in his work.
If the dog is not a hero, then he may sometimes be a Shakespearean fool, ignored in the middle of tragic storms. I'd like to use an example from a "true life" dog story. It concerns Rinnie and his handler, John Judge, who were the pride of the Wichita, Kansas Police Department. Rinnie's nose was foolproof, his heart gallant, brave and dedicated, his mind alert and questioning. One night Chuck Smith, who had the job of collecting supermarket receipts and placing them in the night deposit at the bank, called the police to report that he had been kidnapped in his own car and robbed.