Animals may be vulnerable, but they need not be passive or possessed only by instinct. They have a wide range of feelings, and they can behave in altruistic ways. In the chapter on animal intelligence in my book “The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them,” I run through a wide range of stories that show different kinds of animals demonstrating intentionality, altruism and even heroism.
Lisa J. Godfrey for The HSUS
Our Animal Rescue Team began search and rescue
efforts immediately after Hurricane Sandy.
On this blog in recent weeks, you’ve read about heroic first responders, mainly HSUS staff doing search and rescue in New Jersey and New York in the wake of Sandy’s destruction. But today, I celebrate an unusual first responder — a Labrador retriever named Midnight, a Katrina refugee born in 2005, who distinguished himself as a hero for some of the less well-heeled residents of Greenwich Village.
According to a New York Times story, Midnight had rightfully gained a reputation as a self-employed, self-starting errand dog who carried home prescriptions and groceries for musician Riley Fitzsimmons, in what became a familiar sight in the neighborhood. When Sandy left lower Manhattan in darkness and without power, Midnight carried bottles of water up pitch-black stairwells to the residents of the Westbeth, which has been a haunt for artists for decades.
Animals need not be heroic to warrant our compassion. But remarkable examples of intelligence, intuition and self-sacrifice are a wake-up call to all of us that animals are more than automatons or instruments for our selfish desires. They are worthy of our respect, and generally, they do so much for us as individuals and as a society. We would be poor without them in our lives. I know the residents of the Westbeth got a vivid reminder of that principle after Sandy hit.