If you haven't watched it yet, this video shows the sickening moment of a dog getting hit and run over by several cars on a highway. Although not one single person stops to help this poor dog, another dog, who I can only assume was its traveling buddy, dashes over to the badly injured pooch and at great peril to himself, with tons of dispassionate steel hurtling by, proceeds to drag his friend to the side of the highway and out of harms way.
The bravery of this dog cannot be underestimated. We know what cars are, but to a dog, they are alien, incomprehensible and terrifying especially when they are headed right towards you. For this dog to run directly towards dozens of speeding automobiles, it took will, courage and determination. But aren't these solely human characteristics? So what exactly made this heroic dog do what he did? Aren't animals just animals?
We've heard many stories of dogs protecting children or saving a family member from some sort of danger. But how do we explain the dog's motivation to do so? And what should we make of animals that behave in extraordinary ways towards other species like the crow that adopts a baby kitten and protects and watches over her? Or the lioness who chooses to befriend a baby antelope rather than feed upon him? These animals seem to be displaying distinctively human attributes of compassion, kindness and well, humanity.
Many animals mate for life, nurture and care for their young, create bonds with other animals and people, and have as strong a desire to survive as we do. We can build bombs, cut down entire forests at will, go shopping, create mountains of garbage, sing karaoke, and run in place for hours on a treadmill but I'm not so sure that the things we do, our activities, our choices and the lives we lead are necessarily more significant or essential than an animal's. In point of fact, the animals often make contributions that equal our own. They pull carts and lead the blind, they carry us on their backs and protect us (often from each other), they warm us and worry us. We are partners on this planet.
I don't mean to dismiss or demean the amazing and beautiful things us humans have accomplished. We make art, music and poetry. We can heal the sick and cure diseases. We can explore, learn, and grow emotionally and spiritually. But we have to admit, we can be devilishly destructive too. For every wonderful thing we do, we often do an equally terrible thing. Out of fear, out of greed, out of jealousy. And we all pay the price. The animals are often unwilling participants in our human drama, but just because we can lord it over the animal kingdom doesn't mean we should.
So the next time we think, so what? It's just a dog. Please remember the scruffy little hero in this video, risking life and limb because he cared about his friend. What other explanation is there for what we can witness with our own eyes? Is it possible to honor, respect and appreciate the lives of animals like we do (or should) our own?
Someone in the comments section where this poignant video was first posted (on HuffPost) quoted Byron's musings of his own dog. I think it is apropos for most of the magnificent creatures whom we share this planet with!
"Beauty without vanity, strength without violence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices."