In a fairly imaginative mood, the lion began to express his inner longings to his newfound companions: a teenage girl, a small dog, a rather well-organized assembly of rust-gathering tin and a disheveled collection of hay with very low self -esteem. “If I were king of the forest, not queen, not duke, not prince. My regal robes of the forest would be satin, not cotton, not chintz.”
But for all the Cowardly Lion’s bravado and grandiosity, his recently acquired self-confidence, bolstered by an unusual but loyal support group, was short-lived. The great feline’s sense of invincibility quickly vanished at the first scent of danger. It was 1939; the movie was “The Wizard of Oz.” And since that time, the cinematic world has delightfully saturated itself with talking animals, expressing themselves in all sorts of personality manifestations.
We at The Park on Main®, the pet-friendly luxury hotel in Highlands, North Carolina, understand the deep-seated connection between human and pet. Our very own Mr. Pickles, a solid black Scottish terrier, seems to communicate with us rather exuberantly. Although we’re never quite sure exactly what deep thoughts our mascot is striving to convey, we think we have a general idea.
And Mr. Pickles, for his part, seems to have a general understanding of our communication (which we believe is much more elaborate, sophisticated and complex). That’s based on his response to our short queries to him: “Sit, Mr. Pickles! Heel, Mr. Pickles!”
But the bigger question is: Can pets communicate? Will we one day be able to carry on a conversation with our animals?
Speaking Animal Talk Takes Us Out of Our Comfort Zone
Answering those questions may depend on our own willingness to go beyond what some may consider acceptable behavior in polite (human) society.
For example, according to Fact Monster Science, here are typical animal communication styles:
- White-tailed deer show alarm by flicking up their tails.
- Dogs stretch their front legs out in front of them and lower their bodies when they want to play.
- Elephants show affection by entwining their trunks.
- Giraffes press their necks together when they are attracted to each other.
- Gorillas stick out their tongues to show anger.
- Kangaroos thump their hind legs to warn others of danger.
- Prairie dogs bare their teeth and press their mouths together to show whether they are friends or foes.
- Swans entwine their long necks both to fight and to court.
While we may have mastered many of these attributes, the others might be a little more challenging. Entwining our arms to express affection or respect? (OK.) Sticking out our tongues to express anger? (That works.) Thumping our legs together like a kangaroo to warn of imminent danger? (This one might require some work.)
Just short of summoning one Dr. Doolittle, most animal scientists say it’s highly unlikely we as humans will ever be able to carry on a meaningful conversation with our pet (say, over tea and biscuits); even communication with dolphins and chimpanzees have proven to be limited and mostly one-sided.
However, one researcher purports that future software may enable us to hold some semblance of a conversation with our pets. Animal behavior expert Con Slobodchikoff said he’s in the process of developing new technology that will interpret prairie dog calls, adding that he expects researchers in the next ten years to develop artificial intelligence mechanisms that translate dog barks into English, according to The Daily Mail. Can you imagine the stories Mr. Pickles could tell if permitted to speak at liberty?
“I think we have the technology now to be able to develop the devices that are, say, the size of a cellphone, that would allow us to talk to our dogs and cats,” said Slobodchikoff, a Northern Arizona University professor. “So the dog says ‘bark!’ and the device analyzes it and says, ‘I want to eat chicken tonight.’”
“Or the cat can say ‘meow,’ and it can say, ‘You haven’t cleaned my litterbox recently.’”
Or Mr. Pickles might say: “Welcome to The Park on Main®. We’re so glad to see you. Please sign in here!” But until that time, we’ll allow our friendly and beloved The Park on Main® humans to greet you verbally.
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