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Creatures Are My Teachers

by Jay Rainey

February 2024

Oh boy, just what I always wanted — a venue to tell my animal stories! There are so many. There was Little Ducky — a lost, day-old hooded merganser duckling who was clearly an old soul and brilliant. A robin baby named Beedoop showed me how to care for him until he fledged. An infant swallow named Chippikins talked me into stuffing him with mealworms until he could join his flock. A fawn, a llama, and a hawk shared my life for a while. And chickens — boy, do I have chicken stories. They are way more intelligent and more communicative than we know. Some of them created languages and sounds just for m to help me understand their needs. Little-Chicken-Who-Loves-Me insisted on laying her eggs in the house under the telephone. She became jealous if I petted anyone else. Tiny, the house hen, Flabbergastia, Buttplug (don't ask), Clementine the sex-starved turkey, Sam ’n Ella, Gregory Peck — all have stories to tell.


Now that everyone carries a camera with them hither and yon, we see incredible scenes of animal intelligence and compassion. In days of yore, before cell phones, these moments were witnessed but could only circulate by word of mouth to a few people. Now, the world can open YouTube and see for themselves. One video showed a mother raccoon with her young. She climbed a short brick wall, followed by the first baby, then the second; but the third could not make it up. The mama did not leave it behind. She did not run about in a panic. She used her brain. Somehow, she told her other kids, "You hold my feet, and you hold his and lower me down." She grabbed kid three and was pulled back over the wall. I can understand raccoons could make rudimentary sounds and body language to show babies how to survive — "Grunt grunt this is food, grunt grunt this is water" — but the complex communication it took to make this daisy chain is beyond human comprehension. Was there a unique raccoon language? Was it telepathic? Was it a sound only her own kind could hear?



Each month, I will spotlight a creature I have known. There is so much to learn from the non-humans. This is their world, too. Long live Mother Nature.

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