Today: Jun 17, 2024

Animals have souls, when you least expect it

Photo courtesy | Christopher Hurlbert Hurlbert swimming with a manatee.

Swimming with manatees, spring break and a kiss you’ll always remember

Mackenzie Hurlbert – General Assignment Reporter

I’m just going to say it, and I know some of you will instantly agree with me while others may scoff at me, but I believe animals have souls. They are conscious of their existence, have feelings and emotions, and need attention or communal bonding just as humans do. Why do I say this?

It is not a reason one would quickly guess. It’s not because I am really attached to my dog—though I am.

Dogs are domesticated and therefore easy to brush under the rug as one example of animals with souls. Some may claim we have trained them to be that way or are just imagining and projecting our own ideas onto them, a concept called anthropomorphism. I love my dog and know she has a soul and feelings, but she is not what convinced me that all animals have souls. It was a manatee.

A manatee? Yes, a manatee. And he did it with a kiss. Let me start by explaining the situation. During spring break, my dad and I drove down to Florida so I could swim with one of my favorite animals. Why do I like them so much? They’re chubby, underwater teddy bears. How can you not?!

But anyways, I digress. We took a tour boat out into harbor, near the warm springs that the manatees call home during the winter months. Dressed in a snorkel, goggles and wet suit, I hopped into the water and followed our guide up the narrow channel to the springs where we saw dozens of manatees.

Most were sleeping or eating so we couldn’t touch or disrupt them, and some were with their babies, guiding them and teaching them how to live. But one was especially sociable. He was only a year old, our tour guide said, and he swam up to our group with the spark of curiosity in his eyes.

At first I couldn’t help but be nervous, thinking I might scare him away, but after awhile I found he wasn’t leaving or hiding from the attention. He was loving it. He made the rounds, visiting and eyeing each floating face. We must have looked like weird, gangly manatees to him, but he didn’t care.

When he stopped by me, I tentatively reached out my arm and touched his flipper. I don’t know why or how, but he trapped my hand between his two front flippers and watched my face, looking directly into my eyes. He was studying me and taking in what he saw.

His kind eyes watched mine and then fell to admire my green nail polish. I reached out with my other hand and pressed it against his whiskered cheek. Before he left to visit the next person, he swam close and kissed me right on the snorkel. I actually felt his whiskers brush my cheek.

You probably think I’m weird because I’m projecting my human ideas onto an animal; that it was just coincidence, or that it was all in my head.

Maybe it was, but even the guide called it a “kiss” when we got back on the boat with everyone else, shivering from excitement and the cold air. It was a lot like tunnel-vision, I’m guessing.

In those few amazing minutes, I saw a manatee’s soul in his eyes, and it was kind, loving, and friendly—much friendlier than a lot of people I pass by during my typical day at Southern.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog