Carl Safina’s book Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel belongs on every thinking human’s bookshelf. It unfolds gorgeously told tales of elephants, whales, and wolves, with stories of birds and insects woven in for good measure. My favorite take-aways, of course, related to wolves and dogs–I loved having my firm belief in my dogs’ brilliance bolstered by science. In one particularly mesmerizing passage, Carl Safina relates his conversations with Rick McIntyre, who for fifteen years, every day, has followed the wolves of Yellowstone National Park. Rick’s story of one fierce alpha male who loved to wrestle with the pack’s puppies–and then pretend to lose–is telling. To Rick (and to anyone else witnessing such a display of interactive, empathetic engagement), this wolf’s ability to pretend “shows that you understand how your actions are perceived by others. It indicates high intelligence.”
Carl Safina’s book is a must-read for anyone who wonders “if and how” animals think and feel. And for those of us who already know they do, it’s a beautiful comfort to know science is beginning to see the light.