Temple Grandin, writing with Catherine Johnson, in Animals in Translation offers a different window into what animals might be saying if they could speak and we could understand.
Temple Grandin is a scientific student of animal behavior whose prescriptions have become the standard for large scale animal farming in the United States -- she credits being autistic with helping her make sense of what she observes in animal behavior. Here's how she explains:
Grandin has a lot to tell us. Anyone at all interested in animal behavior will be interested in this book, though she seems to me more attuned to dogs and large animals than the critters I see more of in my life that is, domestic cats. Don't I wish I knw what they were thinking. And Grandin sure can make us think. Consider this:
Grandin is so insightful and refreshing for a quality of observation well-exemplified in that passage: she treats human and animal behavior as very similar -- and equal -- mysteries. It's a stance that yields some very thought provoking moments. For example, she tries to answer the human question: are animals as smart as people?
Grandin starts with the observation that humans think smarts equate with language. But there are people who grow to adulthood and function without language -- they are born deaf and live in places where they have no exposure to the language of signs. So she plumbs accounts of the human language-less.
There's a picture: most humans as creatures who constantly filter and organize an onrushing flood of signals, largely unconsciously and apparently effortlessly. I sometimes wonder whether, because we can, we are predisposed to multiply the layers of complexity and and number of stimuli until we either train our faculties to deal with them or our brains and societies frizzle in the attempt. Temple Grandin makes me think about things like that.