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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs 

Sympathy in Birds?

They crowded around the stock tank as I lifted Toffee out, a patch of feathers missing from her neck. All of them were there--Turkey; Lucy and Bobbi, the geese; DeeDee and Scooter, the dogs; the fours ducks; and the two remaining chickens. They seemed to be responding to my cries of protest. Another hawkattack, probably, and Toffee was too heavy for the predator to carry off the prey. Would she have survived if she hadn't fallen into the stock tank?

I'll never know, but I know sympathy when I get it. The dogs offered it with nudges and licks, and Lucy honked quietly as she watched me lift the old chicken from the water. Gwendolyn and Red, the young chickens, were more interested in the treat bucket that I had set down when I discovered the tragedy. Maybe sympathy goes with a slightly larger brain.

I watched awareness spring to life when my Gourami fish grew to be three inches in diameter. A friend once told me that birds don't have an area of their brain devoted to conscience. Does that go along with sympathy, or is curiosity more common in non-human brains? It's hard enough to know what goes on in anyone else's head, much less in heads with beaks or fins attached.

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