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We recently had to put our 13-year-old dog, Kahu, to sleep. He had been part of our family his whole life and was a source of fun, companionship, love, and loyalty that whole time. My grieving makes me think of the valuable lessons we learn from animals if we are lucky enough to hold them close in our lives.

Humans living with an animal in their home become open to how that animal thinks and behaves, what they value and prioritize, how they show love and affection, how they learn and adapt, and how an animal can communicate without the use of human words. Humans who live with and observe animals know that animals can function quite well without the trappings that humans need in their lives. To understand them, we use both mental and emotional perceptions, a seeing and knowing beyond what one can put into words. The animals in our lives gift us with unconditional love and loyalty. We let them into our homes and hearts. It is mutually beneficial.

When we observe wild animals, as we do while birding, we get only brief glimpses of their lives. Live cams, such as those on Audubon’s Explore (, allow us to enter the lives of animals and learn from observing their day-to-day struggles and triumphs. People who watch the animal cams are amazed and engaged with wildlife in ways never before possible. Will experiences like these give humans a better perspective for making decisions about the habitat needs of wildlife? Can we learn to think beyond our economic-centered decision criteria and allow animals and habitat to be valued for their own intrinsic right to life? Animals are resourceful and can adapt if given the basic needs of clean air, water, food, shelter, and breeding habitat.

The millions of YouTube videos of animals doing things that entertain us show how engaging we find animals. Humans seek out and relish watching animals and use them for entertainment. Why then do humans ignore the needs of wild animals we share the Earth with? Their survival is an important cog in the balance of life. Humans need to actually think and feel good about the choices they make regarding wildlife. Habitat needed for animal species is the same as our own needs, yet we ignore and separate ourselves from the living earth around us.

By watching and living with animals are we learning anything?

If animals could speak, what would they have to say about the way humans live on this Earth?