Nature writer Richard Conniff had more to say about animals in a blog entry, "The Consolation of Animals," which he wrote for the New York Times on May 27, 2009:
One day a few years ago, I was watching two male cheetahs prowl through the bush, somewhere in the Serengeti. A biologist named Sarah Durant pointed out that both of them were pushing 12 on her belly-fullness scale, where a 14 corresponds roughly to “swallowed a basketball.” And yet they continually stopped to gaze at distant antelopes and wildebeests. “I often think they watch prey the way we watch television,” said Durant, “because it’s comforting and mindless.” It struck me that she was onto something important: Animals are built to watch other animals, and for animals like us, otherwise separated from the natural world, there’s consolation in it. Television is in truth a poor substitute.
One of the pleasures of Dog Park is getting to watch the dogs do their thing—run, tussle, bark, roll around, chase, hunt, hump, fetch, whatever. My favorite time is at the end of the walk, when my dogs are sufficiently tired, and they flop down on the grass to join me in observing everybody else. Conniff is right; Roma and Muzzy don't need television. They've got their own version of American Idol right in front of them. They've got a stage filled with performers, and they serve as the judges. Roma is the cranky British one, of course—caustic and vaguely bored by the whole scene, waiting for something truly worth getting excited about. Muzzy is the new rocker girl judge. She's young and cute but has clear faves and not faves. (Teddy, unfortunately, is Muzzy's Bikini Girl. Sorry, Ted.) Don't ask which judge I am. I just keep the water bowls full.
During the summer, when it's too hot to go to Dog Park before 7 or 7:30 p.m., Park time is prime time. Television is irrelevant when you've got a whole circus with different shows every night. And there's always opportunity for audience participation. As well as suspense. Will Animal Control or the cops or a gun-toting Crazy Guy or that creep with the harmonica show up tonight? How about some bicycle riders or kite flyers or remote control airplane enthusiasts? So put down your remotes, everyone, and head out to the Dog Park for some commercial-free fun. See you there.