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Introduction What Does It Feel Like to Be a Fox? MY WONDERFUL PARENTS love to recall many stories about my lifelong interest in animals. My father remembers, with a wide smile, that on a ski trip when I was six years old I asked him what a red fox was feeling as he merrily crossed our path as we traversed a frozen lake. When I recently visited my parents in Florida, my father reminded me that I was in awe of the magnificence of the fox’s red coat and white-tipped tail and lost track of where I was skiing. And he well remembers that when I was four years old, I yelled at a man for yelling at his dog—and the man chased my father! These two events etched an indelible impression in my heart and in my head. I wanted to study animals when I grew up. I’ve long been a recreational ethologist, and I’ve been fortunate enough to combine my long-time interest in animal behavior with my professional pursuits . My parents have told me that I always “minded animals,” that I always wanted to know what they were thinking and feeling—“What is it like to be a dog or a cat or a mouse or an ant?” and “What do they feel?” And to this day, learning about the behavior of animals—all animals—has been my passion . When I study coyotes, I am coyote, and when I study Steller’s jays, I am jay. When I study dogs, I am dog. Although I choose not to experience firsthand the odors, the olfactory symphonies, that make up what Paul Auster refers to as a dog’s “nasal paradise” in his book Timbuktu, I have moved “yellow snow” from place to place, much to the astonishment of other hikers. GOOD FORTUNE For more than three decades I have lived in the mountains outside Boulder, Colorado. I willingly share the surrounding land with many animal friends— coyotes, mountain lions, red foxes, porcupines, raccoons, black bears, chipmunks , squirrels, and a wide variety of birds, lizards, and insects, along with many dogs and cats. They have been my teachers and healers, and they keep me humble. They have made it clear to me that they were here first and that I am a transient on their turf. I have almost stumbled into mountain lions and have watched red foxes playing right in front of my office door. Adult bears Parts of this essay are excerpted from Bekoff, M. 2002. Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart. Copyright 2002 by Oxford University Press, Inc., New York. Used by permission of Oxford University Press, Inc. and their young have played outside my kitchen window. I feel very fortunate to have had these and other experiences, and if I need to make changes in how I live to accommodate my friends, it is just fine with me. I love to see them, smell them, listen to the cacophony of sounds they produce, and take them into my heart. The loss of any of these symbols of their presence would be a marked absence in my daily life. Although I have always been interested in animal behavior, I have been formally studying animal behavior and behavioral ecology for the past thirty-odd years and love what I do. What an exciting and adventurous journey it has been! I work in beautiful environs, ponder fascinating questions about mysterious lives of magnificent animals, and gather data to answer them—and, of course, the answers generate many more questions. I have always been curious about a wide variety of questions, such as why dogs play the way they do and whether we can learn about fairness, forgiveness, trust, and morality— wild justice—by studying the details of how individuals “converse”during play and negotiate cooperative playful interactions; why dogs and other animals spend a good deal of time sniffing various parts of others’ bodies and odors that make me cringe; how or if animals know who they are; how animals communicate using sounds that I cannot hear; what the relative contributions of genes (nature) and the environment (nurture) are to various behavioral phenomena. I have also wondered if animals empathize with one another and how animals make complex and rapid choices on the run or on the fly in the amazingly diverse situations in which they find themselves. This curiosity brought me to cognitive ethology, the comparative and evolutionary study of animal minds...


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