A “Rogue” Killer Whale?

Animals as Pets?  Do we ever really know what they are thinking?

Do we really ever know what is going on in an animal’s mind?  Some people believe that they do, but when they are wrong, disastrous consequences can result.  Sometimes. Many of these same people would tell you, before the fact, that the risks are worth it.

Unidentified trainer with Killer Whale

This subject has come up a number of times recently, both in my life and in the news from across the world.   Just recently, a seasoned trainer at Florida’s SeaWorld was killed by a killer whale that she had worked with for years.  She was very fond of the whale; there are many photos of her hugging the whale, playing, and working with the whale.  She obviously loved her job, and felt strongly about the whale conservation efforts that Seaworld claims to promote. Witnesses to the mauling have said that the whale seemed angry just before the attack, and concluded that the whale was stressed by being kept in a small tank with little to do.  Essentially, they theorized that the whale “lost it.”  Since then, however, I’ve heard statements made by whale trainers who theorize that the whale was simply playing; that the trainer has been in the water shortly before the incident, playing with the whale.  When she got out of the water, the whale might have wanted to continue to play, and grabbed her pony tail and thrashed her about without any understanding that he was causing her death.  This same whale has been involved in at least two previous deaths.

So can we tell what an animal is thinking?

We have a dog. His name is Winston. He’s a handsome boy – a part time model. His photo is my avatar on this site.  He’s a classic blue tick tri-colored  beagle; an “untrained” beagle I am want to say.  Honestly, he is not a very smart dog, at least in the human world.  Maybe he’s a regular genius in dog world, but I can’t see it!  But he’s the sweetest dog in the world, and has never even come close to biting or hurting either of my daughters.

Anna teaching Winston to swim

Which was unexpected, since literally every other dog my youngest daughter, Anna, has been around has ending up biting her, and in no small way.  A short list includes: Delivering Girl Scout cookies to a neighbor; put finger in fence, bit!  The dog ended up having to be quarantined for a week. What a way to meet our neighbor!  Then, fostering a rescue dog; hugged and kissed him; bit herin the face. Luckily, no stitches needed, but we had to give the dog back after 6 days!  That was the end of the fostering experiment.  Last, a 161-pound herding dog lay resting in the yard of the motor home in the next parking spot; Anna went to look at the dog; the owner came out to put a leash on the dog; it lunged at Anna and bit her thigh through three layers of clothing.  The owners took off, rather than assure us that the dog had had its rabies vaccine. Anna had to go through a very painful series of rabies shots. So why did these dogs bite but Winston doesn’t?  Are we doing something different, or is it Winston?  Can we ever really tell what an animal is thinking?

Anna and friend with new leased horse.

Horses. We recently leased a thoroughbred who is brilliant and confident in the ring; he will give you exactly what you want and more if you know how to ask, but bucks like a deranged madman if you are an inconsistent rider.  He is the perfect angel when his girlfriend is nearby, letting you pet and groom him in any way you like. Darn near purrs!  But put him in the cross ties without one or two of his herd nearby and he gets so rattled that he rears and neighs and strains until he breaks any restraint to get away and run back to his herd. Is he scared? Frustrated?  I certainly don’t know.

We’ve had offers from a local horse whisperer to give us a “reading.”  I don’t know that I trust it enough to pay for it, and I have my doubts, largely because it is basically unverifiable.  But, in this case, I just may give it a try because if it keeps my daughter more safe, then why not?  I am not in tune with horses.  My daughter loves them and is confident around them, and seems to know when to get close and when to back away.  So isn’t it possible that some people are simply more in tune with some animals?

Animals and people.  On the whole, pets are wonderful.  They’ve saved lives, extended lives, and improved the quality of lives. But some animals in each species are unpredictable, and can bite you or scare you or, in the most extreme cases when one is overly confident in their ability to “read” an animal, even kill you.  Please, let’s not forget that animals are not really people.  Let’s not humanize our pets, our riding companions, or the animals in the zoos or aquatic parks. It could turn out very badly.

by Sherry Jarrell

One thought on “A “Rogue” Killer Whale?

  1. I am a part-time pet training instructor at a major retail pet store. Regarding the incidents your poor daughter has had with dogs, I’d recommend getting a free 1/2 hour consult with a trainer to understand some of the behaviors–although not intended as threatening–by your daughter were perceived as threatening to the dogs. It’s a good way to keep safe around dogs to understand how dogs see things, and the trainers are glad to help.


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