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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Not a Pet

In my mind, I expect continuity and consistency and lifelong friends and readers. But in almost every area of life, there is a lot of turnover, and new people show up who know nothing about what has come before, kind of like that new Pharaoh who had never heard of Joseph. Not only do people not know the history of their own country or of the world, they also do not pay attention to the history of a blog or a Youtube channel that they happen to stumble upon.

To me, it's as if somebody had come in on page 343 of one of my novels and started asking weird questions about things that were made plain at the beginning of the novel, like who is Jean Laffite. "Is he a pirate? Then how come he keeps saying he's not a pirate? I'm confused." But just as characters in the Old Testament did not always seem to know what was in earlier chapters of the books they were in, people who visit my Youtube videos at random have no idea what some of the earliest videos in the series were about.  Often they are very well meaning, and it does not do to  jump down their throats when they ask innocent questions like "He's very cute. Is he a chimp? Is he your pet? Is he your pet chimp?" No matter how annoying I find that, I need to be nice.

Today, I tried to reorganize things so there is a readily handy playlist about Bow's history.

Whenever somebody asks whether Bow is my "pet", I will just refer them to this playlist, while telling them he is a research subject in a cross-fostering ape language experiment.

The  classification of chimpanzees as belonging in only two possible categories -- wild or pets -- is fraught with misunderstanding. The American Society of Primatology, (ASP) rejected my abstract last year, because they decided that Bow was a "pet", and they have a rule that all abstracts by owners of pet primates are to be rejected, no matter how astute and ground-breaking they are. I was not sure what they meant by "pet", and they refused to elaborate, but I thought it might have been because he was privately owned. Yet they also rejected other abstracts on the same grounds, when the other apes in question were institutionally owned, and the researchers were primatologists in good standing. So what they really seemed to be referring to was the fact the apes in question had been raised in contact with humans.

Not every animal raised in contact with humans is necessarily a pet. For instance, those chickens who keep trespassing on my land are probably not pets, even though they are tame and owned by humans.
They were on my land again this morning, and they seem to be growing bolder.

If I went over and asked the neighbors: "Hey, are those your pet chickens?" they would probably laugh at me. Farm animals are not pets, even though they are domesticated.

In the grand scheme of things, there are many different kinds of relationships between humans and non-humans, and the designation "pet" is only one possibility. There is no reason, however, to take offense at the innocent question of someone who stumbles onto my videos by chance. It's just another opportunity to educate. So there we are!


  1. Aya, I love your approach to what some perceive as annoying. Instead of trying to change other people (what would surely be an annoying path, and one that would also ostracize them), you have chosen to change your approach. Very perceptive and creative on your part! Great idea too to get it all organized so that it flows and makes sense for people.
    One of the reasons I blog is to keep from having to repeat the same things over & over for people that wish to host purple martins, while at the same time, educating them.

    1. Hi, Kathy. Changing my approach is something that I have to do every once in a while, when I notice that results are not as good as they might be. Even in a blog, like yours on purple martins or mine on Bow, there comes a time when there have been so many entries, that we almost need to start creating an index for people who are looking for something in particular. Thankfully, Blogger blogs are fairly internally searchable. But YouTube channels are less so, because YouTube seems to want people to move seamlessly from channel to channel.