Part 3 of 3
And there's the fact that the dog (Sophie) knows the difference between a garbage truck and a UPS truck from at least three blocks away, just from the subtly different sounds of the engines. (Not a peep for the garbage truck, but barks her head off for a UPS or FedEx truck, cause hey, package for us, this time for sure, yay!)
Having said all that, it still doesn't matter *that much* how smart a given animal is. I'm not in a "smartness contest" to prove that I'm better than or superior to my pets or any other animal. It just matters to me that we all try to treat each other as best as we can, at all times. And God bless Rainee, she knows how to do me right too. What a wonderful bed buddy she often makes (even if it's not every day). She's quiet; she keeps out of the way ... She's a doll. (Did I mention I was a cat lover?)
Now the tricky part: What about the really low-sentience animals? clams for example? Less "rights" (such as the "right" to be called a non-human person)? Well? and where do we draw the line? How can we know, since we can't *really* know how "smart" *any* animal is? I guess my point is, there's always going to be an element of puzzle/mystery to how much (and what kind of) rights we should grant this or that animal.
The best lame answer I can suggest is this: Err on the side of kindness. Don't smash that spider, for example, if you can stand to just wave and let it march on by. Yes it's a bug in your house, but it does help you by eating other bugs, and spiders certainly have "evolutionary seniority" over humans in that they've been around a lot longer than we have. It's not like the spider's hurting you, amirite? Shoot, I remember the story of some little family's (Midwest?) house that was infested with brown recluses. The people had lived there for many years and had young children, and yet *no one* had ever been bitten (as far as anyone could tell). Spiders (including the very few significantly poisonous ones) don't *live* for the joy of biting humans, despite the creepy way they make us feel. So: be kind to the bugs and the birds, and all forms of life, as much as you reasonably can, and make the best guess you can with respect to ethics and morals.
Side topic: Alas, "saving" spiders by shooing them outdoors doesn't save them at all. They're *actual indoor spiders.* They evolved to thrive in the unique indoor environment (shelter yes, abundant prey no, easily available water hell no). Set that poor spider outside, and it's now exposed to the elements which it's totally unsuited for. It'll probably freeze, or get taken out by some outdoor spider. Who knows. Point is, it won't live very long, and it's death'll probably suck. Smashing the poor fucker would actually be kinder (albeit much more gruesome). And now all you spider lovers out there know the truth about indoor spiders ... and why I say, just let 'em walk on by if you can. (Helping them get out of the tub is no easy task for me, cause they do creep me out and they don't exactly know how to cooperate, but I try to do it anyway.)
Oh oh, and the other thing I wanted to say. This is just my opinon, I know, but I sincerely believe that for lots and lots of non-human animals, "life in captivity" isn't necessarily always bad, sad, and terrible. Notice how most cat advocates beg us not to let our cats outside -- even the cats who'd *like* to go outside. Why? Cause it sucks out there. Yes yes, the beauty of nature and all that, but also the cold, sickness and disease from possums and whatnot, cars for God's sake if you live in the city (or adjacent to any road), and above all, *the chance that they could get lost.* That's right, most cat advocates *want* our cats to stay captive! They know it's good for them! Of course that presumes a home where the cats are treated kindly, fed, watered, given proper medical attention, etc.
Lots and lots of animals starve/freeze/etc. out in the wilds, and that's a fact. Humans have a totally luxurious life in comparison, and some animals probably quite enjoy partaking in that luxury. Ever heard someone say, "Man, that dog has it so easy, I wish I was a dog." Yes they're joking, but there's a bit of truth lodged in there if you asked me.
Dolphin captivity? I don't know. Sounds like it has some good points for the dolphins and some bad -- presuming of course that the dolphins are treated kindly, fed well, given medical attention, etc. ... and maybe, just maybe, some of those dolphins do get a kick out of entertaining their "human captors." They sure seem to me to give off that vibe, but I'll be the first to admit that I don't know any dolphin well enough to have Clue One about how it *really* feels. I just make the best guess I can based on what little (mostly intuitive) info I have, and give at least moral support to whatever sounds like a beneficent (win-win if possible) idea.
Setting the dolphins free? Oh, I suppose that sounds nice enough (even though it exposes them to the dangers of the wilds). Sounds like as good a guess as any; sure, I'll support it. But I don't *know* that (all) dolphins hate "domestic life," so I'm not necessarily all down on those "evil dolphin jailors" either. I'd really need more info before I could take a "strongly-grounded" stance on the matter. If there are *any* ways humans can think of to discern what helps the dolphins the most, then I do favor using those ways and making a sincere effort to treat those dolphins right. Surely others have better insights into the dolphin mind than I, so I'll let them make the judgment call. (Kind of a gimmie that we shouldn't kill dolphins, duh. But what about all those poor tuna fish? Yeah I'll leave that riddle basically unanswered for now.)
Now if you want an *indisputable* example of cruel animal captivity, feast your eyes on human slavery (since all humans, black, white, or whatever, are technically animals). Perhaps the "house slave" is doing well enough, but those poor bastards out there in the cotton fields are definitely getting screwed, and in most cases are probably being treated like shit in virtually every way (short of what's needed to keep them alive so they can keep on working). Shudder!
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"