Highly recommended documentaries
Next Thursday or so, today being July 3, there are two nature documentaries on Animal Planet cable channel worth watching.
I have no pets. I had a dog at five years old they tell me, and I saw a picture once of me and that German Shepherd, but I don't remember it. Our family had a cat once and I like cats.
Have you heard of Christian the lion? Seen the youtube video? Well they did a one-hour documentary film about Christian called "A Lion Called Christian."
If you don't want to wait, or are curious, or have seen the brief clip on youtube, visit this link then click the video to watch lengthy excerpts from the documentary:
You really get a sense of his personality and incredible playfulness. What you don't see are some important missing details that explain the full story of the reunion.
Coincidentally, on the same day and repeated the following Friday (these programs air regularly, so check your local listings as they say if you miss them), is a documentary about Jessica the hippo. It's interesting to watch her open the door and walk around the house. Enough said.
One regular program on the National Geographic Channel that always amazes me is The Dog Whisperer. He is called out to visit people with troubled pets ranging from aggression to fear to quirky idiosyncrasies. I hate to admit it, but my first thought when I started watching the show on each visit was that dog is toast. And the people often say they were sure their dog was going to be the one that Cesar could not help.
For dogs that are frustrated and not getting enough exercise, Cesar often uses his rollerblades to take the dog for a brisk walk and run and to bond with him. Not only does it wear the dog out a little bit, but, Cesar said, it surprises them that he's faster than them.
I thought to myself skeptically, how does he know they are "surprised"? Then I remembered how easy it is for us to know when a dog is happy by its facial expressions and body movement. And there may be nobody in the world who understands dogs better than Cesar Milan.
But I shouldn't be so amazed at the sociability and bonding between people and animals, especially animals that live in social groups. I once saw a program about dogs that described how the family pet was running alongside their pickup truck and barking furiously during a dust storm along the farm's road. They wondered what was wrong with him. Finally, in desperation, the dog ran ahead of the truck and threw himself in front of it so that they hit him and had to stop. It turned out there was some obstacle in the road or crevice just a few yards ahead that they would have encountered had not old Rusty (I'm just making up a name here) forced them to stop.
So I briefly thought that was an example of a higher intelligence and altruism shown in animals as is often seen when people jump into rivers to save strangers in trouble. But then I realized that we as a species probably favored people who helped their family and neighbors, and this trait could easily be favored over time until it became a common reaction in social species such as people. Compare the way a mama bird will appear to have a broken wing when a predator threatens her young. That behavior must have taken some time to work out until it became instinctive.
Those birds that flew away lived to fly another day. But they didn't have as many offspring.