As a child, my father had us stay on a family farm that offered bed and board to visitors. I will never forget the little lone calf standing as if frozen in a field, unresponsive to us.
Plants don’t grieve for the loss of loved ones.
From “God’s Dog, A Celebration of the North American Coyote” by Hope Ryden
I could see evidence all about me that a rather large elk herd had recently pastured and bedded in the area. A freshly made trail ran directly across the feeding crater where the dea animal lay. Had it died before or after the herd had departed? And why had the live calf not followed when the others felt the urge to move on? Now, left alone, the audacious fellow stood slim chance of survival. Perhaps that, in part, explained why he so tenaciously defended his lone companion, who lay partially eaten at his side. There is no creature more pathetic than a herd animal who has lost his herd.
Twice the calf walked over to its former companion(?), stretched out his head, and nudged the face of the carcass, as if trying to rouse it to life. HOW LITTLE WE KNOW WHAT ANIMALS FEEL! HOW FATUOUS IS MAN TO ASSUME THAT HE ALONE AMONG ALL CREATURES THAT WALK THE EARTH IS CAPABLE OF EXPERIENCING THE PAIN OF LOSS.
But I was too excited by all that I had witnessed to sink into easy slumber. I had seen and photographed a very young hoofed animal, one who was disadvantaged by separation from his herd, successfully hold his ground and even defend a dead fellow against numerous coyotes, whom he had no difficulty whatsoever intimidating…
Equally exciting to me was the impression I received that the calf I watched had acted out of an attachment for a dead animal and that he was experiencing something like bereavement.