Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mad Monkey

Animal experts are baffled by chimp attack

Over the weekend, a kitten named Sparky climbed on my shoulder, purring, while I was watching a basketball game. Sparky had done this before, the better I believe to watch the TV. But this time Sparky put a claw to my neck & bit my ear. Yeaow! I was shocked & hurt but had the presence of mind to pry Sparky off & drop him gently to the floor. There was no point in blaming the little critter & punishing it. It could never connect cause & effect. Cats are like that. Scritch a grown cat's chin & it loves it; do it again ten minutes later & for no logical reason you get scratched.

A little dog down the block has attacked me three times, on the sidewalk, twice while being walked on a leash, once running loose. The last time, I recognized the nasty thing, tried to walk around it, but the owner didn't pull in the leash, I yelled at the owner. I'm not sure he understood English. That's three strikes. If it succeeds in biting me, I will seriously consider making a police complaint, which would be a first for me not counting backyard dogs barking at night. Generally, dogs find me uninteresting.

I'm not crazy about large, squawking caged birds. . Snakes are o.k. but their owners overstate the individual personalities of reptiles. Snakes are machines.

I have met some pet monkeys, one of them rather large. I didn't like them. Their obvious brain power, the opposable thumbs, surprising strength, & social personalities capable of deviousness & therefore of suspect loyalties & compelled to test established authority. I'm not certain what monkeys think humans are - a different kind of monkey probably, which is true, & because of this they read us - our expressions & body language - in ways other animals cannot. Monkey experts understand how cautious we need to be around monkeys.

When a human establishes an alpha dominance over a pet dog, the dominance is rarely challenged (typically over some food it found you don't want it to eat). Some breeds challenge it more than others, but it isn't difficult to maintain. Dogs observe our relationship with their human alpha "dog," & if it is non-threatening, this usually suffices for the dog, which then is either friendly toward us or ignores us. A few humans become beta dogs to their pet alpha dogs, which might be the case with the owners of the small one that attacks me.

Apes are something else, & chimpanzees are the strangest, most human-like apes. I've been close to "trained" chimps & I don't care for them in that guise. They belong in the forest, working out their social hierarchies, grooming each other, screwing, warring with other chimp groups, making their little tools, suckling their infants, & dancing their rain dances. I don't like them dressed in human clothes, diapered, faking table manners, drinking from stem glasses, smoking cigars, wearing top hats, playing pretend human for our amusement, our living dolls. It is degrading to our humanity & therefore degrading to them. They are not cats or dogs, bred over centuries into beneficial symbiotic relationships. They are not domesticated. They've never served any important day-to-day purpose for us as guards or rodent catchers, nor we for them, except that we have the power to let them roam free, to choose not to exploit them as clown parodies of ourselves, for medical experiments, & as monkey meat.

[Every night for weeks, Letterman was running a brief clip of sneezing monkey. It's a great clip. The monkey is just sitting there, it sneezes, & it looks slightly embarrassed. It probably is embarrassed, because for a monkey as for a human a sneeze is an unexpected moment of vulnerability, attracting attention when it does not want attention. We were superstitious enough about sneezes to believe evil spirits entered us during them. Imagine trying to convince those people that they were actually spraying evil spirits.}

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