By Vicki Hearne
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Additional resources for Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name
The impulse to play fetch is also a pretty good predictor of which of a group of eight-year-old human beings is likely to make a dog trainer. Dogs are domesticated to, and into, us, and we are domesticated to, and into, them. The potential dog trainer, obeying both instinct and myth, picks up a stick and throws it for his or her new puppy. The first time, Fido is fairly likely to bring it all the way back. " So Fido compromises by bringing A Walk with Washoe: How Far Can We Go? 29 the stick to a point just out of reach and dropping it there so that the human, if she wants to play fetch, must accept this modified version and pick up the stick herself.
Sometimes, in the middle of such stories, the relationship breaks down, and the entire world is thrown into confusion through the handler's or someone else's failure to be true to the integrity of the dog. The structure of such stories, though it varies in completeness and sophistication, is remarkably like the structure of Our Mutual Friend, in which, at the very center of the novel, all of London, ·When this chapter appeared in Harper's Magazine, my remarks about human craziness inspired a great deal of angry mail.
Washoe, the first of the chimpanzees to be taught Ameslan, the American Sign Language of the deaf, is not a domestic animal, not one of those animals whose nature or temperament is not only the result of working with human beings but also what makes working with domestic animals possible. She does not have what animal trainers call a working temperament. This book is primarily about animals that do have working temperaments, so Washoe is outside of its subject matter, and one of the reasons I begin outside of my subject is to make a survey of its boundaries, in order to get a better broad view.