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  • Writer's pictureMarika

Lost Loves Reunited (Uncanny Animals) with Dr. Richard Sugg

Richard Sugg stands in front of a large door with an ornate knocker
Dr. Richard Sugg

There's a unique sense of wonder that engulfs us when we encounter stories of lost pets undertaking extraordinary journeys to reunite with their owners. A cat traversing across cities, a dog crossing over mountains, these tales keep us enamored, leaving us questioning: how is this possible? To unravel this mystery, we turn to Richard Sugg, an animal researcher, and expert on strange subject matters.

In conversation with Marika, Richard enumerates inscrutable animal journeys, explores the concept of a 'sixth sense', and underscores the emotional resonance such stories carry, resonating an innate animal-human connection.

Extraordinary Animal Homings

Richard recounts multiple real-world instances of animals that, against all odds, managed to return to their owners. The story of Bobby, a Collie-cross dog that purportedly traveled a staggering distance of 2,500 to 3,000 miles back to his owners after being lost, depicts an extraordinary bond of love between a dog and its owners.

These instances compel us to question our conventional understanding of animal cognition and navigation.

A Bull Terrier staring loving up

Crossing the Bounds of Science

Richard goes beyond routine animal navigation and introduces us to some astounding cases that push the boundaries of our understanding. He talks about James Brown, a military man from World War I whose Irish Terrier, named Prince, managed to find him without ever having been to the location, indicating a potential bind beyond physical familiarity.

Applying this idea to other instances, like the Persian cat named Sugar that found its owners, now relocated to an entirely different state, Richard concludes that it's less about finding a physical home and more about an emotional homing impulse directed towards specific people. As he puts it succinctly, "They are not going back home. They're going to find their owner."

What Does This All Signify About Animals: The Untold Connection

If animals indeed showcase a 'sixth sense' we may underestimate their capacity to perceive the world. As Richard puts it, our pets perhaps have this ability to "reconnect ourselves to our distant past."

Rewinding to a heartwarming reminiscence, Richard recalls Pat, a charismatic dog of his mother's childhood. During moments of somber reflection with his aging mother, memories of Pat aroused lost youth and the ineffable happiness of a bygone era. Integrating past and present, Pat served as a bridge, facilitating a reunion of seemingly divided parts of her life. A testament to the power animals possess to connect, heal and inspire us.

The Agency of Animals

In essence, our pets' extraordinary navigational abilities often result from their profound sense of attachment, offering a counter-narrative to their perceived subordination. Richard's work articulates this shift perfectly, positioning animals as autonomous beings that constantly redefine our understanding of their capabilities. And while we may be far from discerning the precise science behind these phenomena, these stories continue to enhance our bond with animals, fostering a more compassionate understanding of their world.

This concept was beautifully articulated in the concluding part of Richard's conversation, through the touching lens of Michael Bentine's "The Doormarked Summer". In the book, the protagonist experiences a moment of unparalleled connection with nature, enabled by a common language of love and recognition. Just as Bentine's character, Eddie, summoning the creatures of the forest, our pets too call us, reaching across the gulf of silence to remind us that we are, indeed, more interconnected than we realize.

Show Notes:

Valentine's Special! Transcript

Dr. Richard Sugg, a connoisseur of animal narratives, joins us to unravel the mystery of dogs' navigational prowess in an exploration of the extraordinary capabilities of our four-legged friends, we delve into historical and modern-day research on animal homing instincts.

Guest: Richard Sugg (PhD) is the author of 16 books, including Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires (2011), a collection of 19th century animal stories, A Singing Mouse at Buckingham Palace (2017), Fairies: A Dangerous History (2018), The Real Vampires (2023) and Talking Dirty: A History of Disgust from Jesus Christ to Boris Johnson (2023). I am currently working on, Uncanny Animals: the Epic Homing Adventures of Dogs & Cats and a collection of historic and modern dog stories to commemorate the Feb 2024 centenary of Bobbie the Wonder Dog: Around the World in 180 Dogs. 'Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?'

The cover of The Wilderness World of John Muir

@DrSugg IG drrichardsugg

Book Recommendations: The Wilderness World of John Muir ed by Edwin Way Teale and The Door Marked Summer by Michael Bentine

Other Valentine's Episodes:

(This blog post was based on an AI generated script and edited by me for accuracy and additional information)

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