Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show
Photo: Public Domain

We talk with the authors of the New York Times best-selling book “Tamed and Untamed, Close Encounters of the Animal Kind.” We learn about how animals tell time, what they dream about and even hear stories of animals who enjoy a casual drink!

What questions do you have about how animals think, dream and relate? Join the conversation at 800-642-1234, email ideas@wpr.org or post on our Facebook page.

Featured in this Show

  • Ticklish Rats, Playful Octopi And Competitive Lions

    Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and Sy Montgomery have made their livings delving into the mysterious lives and minds of animals, often in surprising ways.

    What does a dog do when we’re not watching, or when he thinks we’re not watching? How about a deer? What makes a bird a bird? How does an octopus, an animal wildly different from humans, think? Does an octopus even have what we humans know as “thoughts”?

    Now, the two naturalists and friends have come together to write “Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind,” a collection of essays, including columns written for The Boston Globe and original pieces.

    “Part of what this book is trying to do is point out just what a glorious place we’re living in, surrounded by all these rich, intricate lives,” Montgomery told WPR’s “The Larry Meiller Show.”

    The lives of animals profiled in “Tamed and Untamed” are indeed as rich, intricate and varied as human lives. Montgomery and Thomas observe a world where rats are funny and clever, octopi are playful and loving, and lions — despite all appearances — are strikingly similar to humans, displaying behaviors like engaging in starting contests.

    Author Vicki Constantine Croke writes in the book’s foreword: “Both Liz and Sy are iconoclasts writing with rare insight and nuance about the many ways we humans have attempted to separate ourselves from nonhuman animals … The two have rigorously poked holes in some widely held but flawed assumptions about human superiority, and they often do it with humor.”

    Take rats, for example. Us humans can think of them as vermin. But they’re actually smart, optimistic, playful — and ticklish. They even make a sound like laughter; we just can’t hear it.

    “All around us there’s these animals with abilities like our own that we overlook, with abilities that we exceed our own that we’re unaware of,” Montgomery said.

    “Tamed and Untamed” gives the same treatment to great white sharks, dogs, cats, slugs, pink dolphins, water bears and other creatures, casting them in a new — and distinctly more human-like — light.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host

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