By Vicki Hearne
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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. That is also why I am not so much interested in Washoe in particular as I am in Washoe-for-example. What she is an example of is a relationship between human beings and animals. A great many people who have been involved even tangentially with the signing chimps have been troubled (as I have been).
It is language I grieve for. Later I hear from Ken DeCroo, a linguist turned wild-animal trainer who has worked extensively with Washoe, the story of how Moja came to bite one handler's kneecap seriously. I learn from the account that when something unusual happens, chimpanzees, like people, feel an anxious impulse to do something, and that attacking the handler is an option that may readily recommend itself. This is not the sort of story I am accustomed to. Duke and Lassie may start out wild and uncontrollable, but A Walk with Washoe: How Far Can We Go?
The center does not hold, things fall apart. The dog's potential for virtue, and for lapse, is greater than the policeman's for lapsing from human law. A Walk with Washoe: How Far Can We Go? 27 Fortunately the story goes on. A minor character (one of the detectives who is not named in the account I read) delved into Smith's background and had Smith submit to a lie-detection test. The machine, like the dog, said that he was lying, and further investigation revealed that Smith and an accomplice had planned the robbery together.
Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name by Vicki Hearne