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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Relationship Between Dogs and Chimpanzees

Yesterday, it was rather warm out. Bow went and swung on his swing for a while. Then, Leo engaged his attention. They played for a while, and after that, Bow decided to go inside.

I like dogs. I like chimpanzees. And I like watching dogs and chimpanzees play together. Maybe that is why two of my Facebook friends quite independently of each other shared with me a photo article about a baby chimpanzee whose mother died and who was then adopted by a dog. The chimpanzee had a very white face, not like Bow's combination of chocolate and cream, and the dog in the picture had a collar and some puppies of her own. There were pictures of all the puppies and the baby chimp eating out of dog bowls together.

This article was from ViralNova in one case, and from a different site in another, but it was not really clear whose dog or chimp it was, who took the pictures or who wrote the article.

Don't get me wrong. I realize that in many cases dogs do rescue human babies who have been abandoned and if left to their own devices, dogs can nurture a human infant. I have written about this before, here:

One reason to allow stray dogs to continue to roam free is that those babies who were rescued by stray dogs could not have been rescued if not for the dogs' freedom and self-sufficiency. A world without stray dogs is a world in which abandoned babies have less of a chance at rescue.

But what bothers me in the case of the dog who "adopted" a chimpanzee baby in those pictures is that the dog is obviously a pet. She eats out of a dog dish. Someone else feeds her. Someone who is not self-sufficient can't adopt someone else. Both the dog and her puppies as well as the chimp must belong to some human. That's what it looks like.

Since chimpanzees are 97% identical in DNA to humans, it seems odd that the human who owned the dog  did not adopt the chimpanzee after its mother died, leaving the chimpanzee's care to the dog. But then again, did that dog really put a diaper on the chimp baby all by herself? Something in this picture does not compute.

I think it is great when a wolf or an independent dog rescues and adopts a human or a chimpanzee infant. That is a very good thing. But for a human to treat a chimpanzee like a dog, making him eat out of a dog bowl on the floor, when the chimp has hands to hold a spoon and sees the other primates in the household all eating at the table with silverware, does not seem equally kind to me.

What do you think?


  1. Sometimes even cats do not like to eat out of bowls. My mom has one cat who is very particular, and she likes crystal clear water served to her in a cup. She will not drink water out of a cat dish, and if you leave tea unattended, she will drink that.

    1. Hi, Julia. I do not have as much experience with cats as with dogs, but you make a good point. I have heard cats can be very particular.