Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What Do Animals Want?

Once, at an animal sanctuary, I met a very engaging lion. (That is him in the picture.) One thing this lion loved was to have his shoulders scratched. But the people who had been around him cautioned, watch out, he will turn and snarl at you. And sure enough, he did. But he did more than that. He also made a motion with his head, a significant motion. He was trying to tell people with this head motion that he felt nervous when people stood up close to him.

Now, conventional wisdom is that you should never get down at eye level with a lion. My own wisdom is that you need to pay attention to each animal as an individual and never assume one rule applies to everyone. So, I squatted down as I scratched his shoulders. And he never once turned and snarled at me.

This lion also had quite a reputation for spraying people. And sure enough, when I was paying attention to one of his lionesses, he assumed the position. I jumped up out of the way in time and I looked at him square in the eye. And he looked at me square in the eye and I will tell you his look was apologetic. He never tried his spraying trick with me again during the many happy hours I spent with him and his two lionesses.

I don't know how most people look at animals or what they see when they do. I believe that what the animal is hoping for is that you will see another person behind their eyes. If you can connect with them person to person, you will have a friend.

All the animals at that sanctuary were adults, and some had had hard lives when they were younger. Some of them had been hardened to never expect a one-to-one connection with a human. What made my lion friend special was that he was still open to trying, and receptive when he met someone who was also trying.

Those who saw just an animal, and not a personality, needed an umbrella.


  1. Thank you for the thought-provoking post. Isn't it so true that often animals, like people, just want to be heard?


  2. That's exactly what I think.

    And thank you for the comment. I consider that a compliment of the highest order.