THE SURPRISING DEPTH OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN ANIMALS SAVING HUMANS

In a flash out of nowhere, the wolf is mauling Muratbek Bakhtygali. No warning, no growling or any sound at all, the huge, dank beast is on the 70-year-old farmer knocking him down in the courtyard just outside his home in rural West Kazakhstan.

Its becoming a mess fast. Muratbek’s nose is bitten off and he is flailing wildly in a desperate attempt to keep the crazed wolf from ripping out his throat. In shock, not yet understanding just exactly what is happening, the old man is no match for the powerful predator. “So this is how it ends,” he thinks.

Becket Shadmanov

There’s a yelp and the wolf disappears for a moment only to hit the ground immediately a few feet away. Snarling, the wolf gathers itself to finish the attack, but a huge shape waddles in between predator and prey.

Muratbek’s milk cow flipped the attacking wolf off the farmer with her horns and now placidly stands between life and death over the farmer against the fearsome carnivore.

The wolf does what predators do and repeatedly charges the cow attempting to make her bolt. The milk cow doesn’t flinch and holds fast against her primeval fear.

The wolf gives up and runs off attacking three more people in the village until another old farmer, Becket Shadmanov, sees what’s happening and dispatches it with a crowbar. Russians.

Janice (ahem) Wolf is in the back pasture of the animal refuge she operates in Arkansas. Her 11-month-old Watusi calf blocks her way on the path. She pushes on his massive horns to move him out of the way, but with a jerk of its head the bullock sends her sprawling.

From the ground she spots the venomous Copperhead coiled on the path where she would have walked had the young bull not blocked her way.

It’s New Year’s Eve in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Bob lives alone with his aging golden retriever Kelsey. Wearing only long-johns, he steps outside to quickly grab more firewood stacked only a few feet from the door. Bob slips and breaks his neck.

Bob and Kelsey

He cannot move. Shouts for help go unheard. It’s 10:30pm and most people are celebrating. Besides, the nearest house is a quarter-mile away. Nobody is coming, but Kelsey hears Bob’s cries and comes. The air is a crisp 24 degrees Fahrenheit and getting colder.

Kelsey lies on top of Bob to keep him warm, licks his face to keep him awake and barks and barks. By morning Bob’s voice is gone but he is alive and Kelsey is still barking. As the day wears on, Kelsey goes from barking to what Bob describes as “letting out this screeching howl.”

A neighbor hears the howls and finds Bob around 6:30pm New Year’s Day. At McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey, his core temperature is below 70 degrees. Normal body temp is 98.6. Hypothermia begins at 95.

“After the surgery, miraculously, he started to move his extremities with greater strength,” said Neurosurgeon Chaim Colen of McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital. He adds, “I think animals can help and his dog really kept him alive and really helped him, he was very fortunate.”

Domestic animals showing protective proclivities are almost understandable. The connection to their owners makes sense. These upright creatures are just part of the pack or herd. Still, the self-awareness about their own role in a crisis is a sign of advanced programming.

Carl Safina, award-winning environmental author of Beyond Words: How Animals Think and Feel, observes, “Watching animals my whole life I’ve always been struck by how similar to us they are. I’ve always been touched by their bonds and been impressed—occasionally frightened—by their emotions.”

He adds, “Watching animals my whole life I’ve always been struck by how similar to us they are. I’ve always been touched by their bonds and been impressed—occasionally frightened—by their emotions.”

The depth of animal consciousness gets more astounding when wild animals, animals that not only fear but also attack people, demonstrate protective inclinations for their age-old human nemesis.

A twelveyearold girl is taken by a gang of men on her way home from school in rural Ethiopia who plan to sell her into a forced marriage. A week later the kidnappers take her out of their remote hiding place to move her.

Three lions suddenly move in and chase the men off. The huge carnivores stay with the terrified girl, guarding her, until police officers arrive and then they just get up and walk off back into the trees.

One policemen commented, “They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest. Everyone thinks this is some kind of miracle, because normally the lions would attack people.”

Roberts Biggs, 69, is out hiking in the Whiskey Flats area of California. He comes across a mother bear and two cubs in a stream. He watches them play for a few minutes and gets up to leave. Something hits him knocking him back down.

A mountain lion is attacking him. The mother bear is there almost immediately and bites down on the cougar’s neck. The two fight until the big cat can wrestle free and run away. The bear saunters off.

Young Rheal Guindon is out camping with his parents in the Ontario wilderness. From the shore, he watches his parents as they fish out on the lake. The boat tips over. Rheal stands there while his parents drown.

Traumatized and in shock, he begins walking to the nearest town for help. It’s too far away and the sun sets. Darkness settles in like a burial shroud. He can go no further and lies down alone, afraid, and cold.

Understandably, he can’t sleep. So many thoughts. So many tears. In the dark a warm, furry body snuggles up to him. A stray dog, man’s best friend, has found him. Suddenly not so alone and not so cold, he falls asleep.

Waking up the next morning Rheal sees it was not a dog but three wild beavers pressing against him. He stirs and the beavers shuffle off. In town, he tells his story. The beavers are credited with saving his life in the sub-freezing temperatures.

Safina states, “I’ve studied wild animals a lot and I’m always struck by how extremely alert they are and how well they sense what’s going on around them. They’re much more aware, compared to humans. Modern day humans go outside and don’t see, hear or sense very well. Our senses have dulled over thousands of years of civilization and settled living. I think that an animal’s experience of life is much sharper and clearer.”

And so now I think about what it is that pulls me out of my world, the white noise that I find so addictive. I wonder if what I find so engaging is actually isolating me from what is truly important.

One thing I know, I’m returning to a vegetarian diet.

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